Not all of our youth group was able to make it to CYC (mainly due to short notice as we're newly formed), but eight teens were able to attend, which was great! We had six young men, and two young women, along with myself, Fr. Gus, and a male parent that came along as a chaperone. We may have been a small group, but we made the most of our time this weekend. I expected to serve only in helping create an atmosphere in which they could be challenged and embraced by God, but I wasn't expecting to also be challenged and embraced deeply by Him. It was amazing.
The only way to quench that deep thirst is through a relationship with God, our Father and Creator. The one that molded us with love and care, made us uniquely beautiful, and who cares about what happens to us. So much so that he sent His only Son to live amongst all of us lonely and broken people. For those same people who then nailed Him upon a Cross. He suffered - and ultimately conquered - death for the sins of every single one of us. He would have died on that Cross for only ONE of us. That's how much we matter. That's how much we're loved.
This is something all humans experience, but our youth yearn for it so deeply, and are at the same time facing fresh challenges and disguised 'fixes' to fill that thirst. With so many other external pressures and temptations from the world - ones that will never fully fill their deepest need - we need to make a strong effort to make the love of God known to them. Friday night was meant to be an invitation to the teens to feel deeply loved, and to open their hearts to Jesus. To let Him heal them.
"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." - 1 John 4:8
Our Friday evening ended with us taking our teens out for some ice cream and conversation. Since Fr. Gus was involved in organizing CYC and also was still doing Stations and Masses back at our three parishes, he wasn't able to spend a lot of time with our youth group for much of the weekend. This excursion afterward was the perfect opportunity for him to get to spend time with the teens too. Saturday morning we were back at Gonzaga Prep bright and early before 9am. The teens (and adults) were tired from being out late the night before and getting up early, but the teens all pushed through and still made the most of the retreat. I witnessed them being challenged, stepping out of comfort zones, and even finding joy. They each expressed it in different ways, but it was there, and it was truly inspiring.
We left the concert early to take the teens to get frozen yogurt with Fr. Gus, and ended up playing a competitive game of Apples-to-Apples with them. It was a great way to bond more with the teens, and it involved A LOT of laughter. Nobody wanted to leave and stop the game, but we eventually had to leave to let them close-up the shop. The car was even rocking with the music from The Thirsting on the way home, since I bought their CDs. This opened up even more discussion about the retreat, and the hopes for the future in the youth group. At the end of this day, I truly felt like our brand new youth group was starting to bond together around our Faith, and it is humbling and incredible to be part of it. I'd say that was a successful day!
I've witnessed the Sacraments transform hearts this weekend, and I am in awe. I didn't just watch others be transformed, but I was transformed and healed myself. I'm open and willing to see what God has in store for me as a youth minister, and what He has in store for this youth group. I'm so grateful we were able to attend CYC and bond at this retreat. It did great things for all of us, and we're all (including the teens) already looking forward to the Steubenville Northwest Youth Conference in July, and CYC next year!
Thank you to the teens, the parents, Fr. Gus, our male chaperone Mike Lavoie, the entire team behind CYC, and the whole parish community that kept us all in their prayers this weekend. We appreciate all of you!
St. Anne's Youth Group Coordinator