A harvest of joy

By Elisabeth Román

Young people at the St. Anthony Claret Parish in Fresno, California don’t have to worry about making plans for their Saturday nights. That’s because every Saturday dozens of them gather in the church hall to celebrate, sing, dance, listen to music performed by a live band, pray, reflect, and share.

They belong to Grupo Recolección (Recollection), a Spanish youth group that, under the coordination of Teresa Romo and the leadership of parish priest, Claretian Father Gabriel Ruiz, seems more like a large family. It brings together young people who once were lost, had grown apart from God and the church, and have migrated to this country, often alone, seeking a better life and opportunities.

“Even if it’s Christmas, New Year’s, or any holiday, we meet every Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.,” Romo said. “For some of our young people, the group is the only family they have because they left behind their loved ones in their native countries to come here to work, in search of opportunities and ways of helping their families back home.”

The group consists of young people ages 18 and older. While the majority of the members were born in Mexico, others come from several Latin American countries. Many are young migrant farmworkers who have no relatives in the Fresno area and Recollection provides them with an important sense of family and friends. They share a spirit of solidarity, unity, enthusiasm, and service.

“Recollection is about gathering all the fruits that God has given us. It is a return to basics for those who have been lost along the way. Recollection brings you back to reality, to becoming a better person,” Romo explains. Members of the youth group also participate in other ministries in the parish. Recollection youth groups have spread to other parishes throughout the Diocese of Fresno.

Twice a year, the group gathers in retreats where new members are welcomed by spending the weekend in their own personal encounters with the Lord. Once they have completed the retreat, new members are welcomed into the youth group. Many members of the youth group have made the decision to follow their call to a religious vocation, while some professionals in the community have also gotten their start and inspiration in Recollection. The group raises funds by selling churros and making handmade rosaries for sale.

“The joy of sharing the word, reflecting, helping those in need, and spending time with others as a family is what brings many young people to the group. We are blessed in many ways”, Romo says.

Your Turn
How do you spend your free time? Could sharing with other youth in your parish help you overcome moments of frustration?


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