By: Susana Guzman
Every year, the English Youth Group of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, ICHTHUS, has their end of the year retreat. This year, because of the craziness of life, they moved it a week later and saw it as an opportunity to make it a New Year, New You retreat. The team of four leaders sat down with their mentors and discussed the retreat, the needs, the why, and the how. The group consists of high school aged and college aged students, mostly of Filipino descent but slowly growing into a multicultural group of English and Spanish speaking youth and young adults, as they extended the invitation to some friends from Saint Francis of Rome Parish, who they met in their pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2011. This retreat was going to be a way of showing these members that they are not alone in the struggles of their life and that they have someone they can count on to help them. As leaders, we have to inspire these youth to follow their God given paths. The needs of the group were quite easy to figure out: direction. As students, they needed direction for life, for prayer, for daily activities and most of all for their vocation. They needed to reroute, as with the GPS, they needed a guide to redirect them to the right path.
Friday, January 4, 2013. Arriving at the Teresian Association Center, the retreat is to start at 5pm… but when do things ever go as planned? Its 7pm before everyone finally arrives; bad turns cause everyone to land at the wrong address- talk about needing directions! The air is light, people are happy; everyone gets to know each other with icebreakers and activities. Dinner is served and the retreat is off to a slow but great start. Reflections on who they were, who they are and who they will be will be the basis of this retreat. We begin with a reflection from Vicki, our mentor, on the idea of who we were and how it has changed us for better or worse into who we are. The experiences that we lived have made an impact on our lives. This led into the first activity of the Broken Mirrors. The broken mirror came from the IALC idea - I Am Lovable and Capable. We asked each participant to ‘chip’ a piece from their mirror by writing on it a negative experience or a bad habit, a part of them they didn’t like. We shared a part of the broken mirror in our evening worship with the Blessed Sacrament.
Saturday, January 5, 2013. The next morning, we start with our morning prayer where we can see everything we were really shows us who we are today. For the next section of who I will be, we have a guest speaker, Carmen Aguinaco, who speaks to us about our vocation. Showing us that there are multiple paths that we could take but that only we knew what path was the one God had instilled in us before we were even born. We might all make plans but God will always be sure to reroute us to the right path and might even have others guiding us along the way. With this, we wanted each person to find a quote, from the many that were lining the walls of the house, that called to them and that they felt was the path they were to take to find their true vocation and to answer God’s call.
The reason for this annual retreat is for the group to have the chance to look back at the year that has come to an end and to reflect on it so that the new year is a year closer to God and closer to the people He has given each one of us. As we walked up to the closing reflection and prayer in the chapel, we took with us our quotes, our mirrors and our thoughts. We discussed in pairs one thing in our mirror we did not like about ourselves or our lives and the other person showed us how that has made us grow, or has made us better people for it. We shared the quote as a group, the quote that marked the new beginning for some, or a push into the right direction, and for others an inspiration to hang on for we are not alone in our struggles. To prove this, the leaders were asked to give a short testimony of their relationship with God. Each member went up and told the group about how they found their path, and how God, working through others, helped them to that path.
Overall the retreat was a success. We know that the path we walk is not clear or easy to take, but we also know that God is right there with us along the way and He will continue to guide us even if we need to reroute from time to time.