Venice | Youth from five different parishes opened their hearts to the loving word of God for two days, and left a Lenten retreat inspired and motivated to spread the Good News.
In what is becoming a regular opportunity for young people in the Diocese of Venice to grow spiritually, high school youth participated in a retreat lead by members of NET Ministries (National Evangelization Team based in Minnesota) March 29-31 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice.
The NET team retreat was an intense 48 hours for the teens who often approach the time as something they have to do but leave changed in their faith forever.
A young lady from Epiphany Cathedral explained how the weekend surprised her with how deep she looked at herself and her relationship with Christ. This powerful self-examination evoked tears and smiles, sometimes at the same time. “It was an emotional rollercoaster that put me in a place I need to be: closer to the Lord.”
For many of the participants, the weekend was a complete break from their regular lives, putting the chaos of life aside – including technology – to focus on finding the healing love of Christ. What they found often surprised them.
“I was really nervous about spending so much time talking and learning about God and Christ and everything,” said a young man from St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers. “I really came to understand my place in the world and how I am supposed to live my life with Jesus at my side.”
During the retreat, the young women and men were separated and then those groups were split off into smaller teams led by NET members. This was done to create a comfortable atmosphere for everyone while allowing each teen to get a full and enriching experience.
Overall, the youth were given basic prayer tools while encouraging each of them to become more active in their faith life.
Throughout the weekend, the NET members performed a variety of dramas (skits), which demonstrated real-world situations as well as life lessons on how to deal with others the way Jesus calls us to live and act. The smaller groups competed in educational games, which tested their knowledge of the faith in a fun and interesting way.
A highlight for everyone was during the second evening which, included eucharistic adoration and the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation. Several admitted to crying in the presence of the Lord and then later when they were able to remove the weight of their sins through confession.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for the group March 31, Laetare Sunday, the mid-point of the Lenten Season, and said it is a time to review how they are doing during so far on the spiritual journey and to look forward with a greater greater determination to try to live up to the Lenten commitments that they made on Ash Wednesday.
The Bishop reminded the young women and men that they should continually change each time they encounter Christ. Whether it is in the Mass, through confession, or through living their lives as a reflection of the Light of the Lord in the world, they must be changed.
Citing the Gospel reading of the day, the parable of the prodigal son from the Gospel of Luke, Bishop Dewane told the young men and women to put themselves into the story and do as the young son did, no matter how far one strays, to always return home to the Lord and say they were wrong so as to receive God’s mercy.
“Take responsibility of who you are, or are not, for the Lord,” Bishop Dewane continued.
The retreat concluded after more than 48 hours of non-stop spiritual activity, when the young women and men were given the opportunity to stand up and reflect on their experiences with the whole group about how they personally grew in a deeper and stronger connection with Christ.
The parishes represented at the NET retreat were, St. Katharine Drexel in Cape Coral; Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch; Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Osprey; St. Cecilia in Fort Myers; and Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.