Venice Diocese Council of Catholic Women (VDCCW) Past-President Iris Gomez directs young ladies during a CCW Juniors retreat Aug. 10 at Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid. (PHOTO BY BOB REDDY)

CCW Juniors gather for retreat

Lake Placid  |  A group of young ladies received important last-minute lessons as they prepared to return to school – how to defend their faith and what the Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women is all about.

A CCW Juniors Convocation took place Aug. 9-10, at Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid. Organized by Iris Gomez, diocesan council Past-President of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula, girls from four different parishes spent time together before they had to return to school on Aug. 12.

“I want these girls to learn about how to defend their faith in the real world,” Gomez explained. 

This is important, Gomez added, because when the young ladies are in school, or out with friends, they don’t have anyone physically standing beside them to explain why they are Catholic and what being Catholic is all about. 

“We want them to grow in strength and confidence while being comforted by the companionship of the Lord,” Gomez concluded.

The girls, from St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, Sacred Heart Parish in Bradenton, Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park, and St. Michael Parish, took part in a variety of activities. These tasks were sometimes a lot of fun, but very serious, with each helping them to understand the love the Lord has for them as women of God. 

To help achieve this, Gomez and the chaperones stressed the importance of prayer, particularly of the rosary. After each prayer session, the girls would gather in smaller groups for talks. 

One young lady from St. Michael Parish said she had fun during the convocation and felt confident that when she returned to high school, she would be a stronger woman who was not shy about her faith. “I never really talked about being Catholic to people who didn’t know I was already,” she said. “I am proud to wear my cross necklace and carry a rosary with me. It is part of who I am.”

This feeling was shared by many of the other girls who appreciated the frank talks that they rarely have about faith. The first activities of the convocation included a living rosary, sharing a meal together, pep talks, campfire, a movie with popcorn, and the recitation of evening prayers. 

When they arose in the morning, they participated in Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrated by Fathers Juan Carlos Sack and Timothy Van Zee. This was followed by more talks and small group gatherings.

Following their lunch, the girls had some fun, by putting permanent stickers on T-shirts. Many of the girls chose “faith” or a heart that represented the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The group also took part in a service project, ironing on stickers to baby onesies and bibs. These would later be distributed to needy moms throughout Hardee County.

The young ladies from St. Michael Parish also did a skit on the story of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a religious sister who lived a humble life to whom Jesus appeared. She was canonized by St. John Paul II in 2000, who at that time declared the Second Sunday of Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, a celebration of the mercy of Jesus as reminded us by St. Faustina.

The final activity of the retreat was to spend some quality time in quiet and prayer with the Lord through the participation in Eucharistic Adoration.

When their convocation was completed, they returned home, ready and energized for a great school year while keeping Jesus first.

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