The words “dodgeball” and “Eucharistic adoration” aren’t often used in the same breath. That changed, however, when a group of teens and preteens shared their recollections of a recent youth activity at their parish.
On two separate nights during Lent, 34 young people from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Auburn fasted from sleep. The girls’ sleep fast was held March 11-12 and the boys’ sleep fast was held March 18-19. Each sleep fast began at 8 p.m. Friday evening at Auburn’s Champions for Life Sports Center and ended at 8 a.m. Saturday morning at the St. Francis Parish Hall.
The parish hosted the first pair of sleep fasts last year, said Ann Fallon, coordinator of the girls’ sleep fast. The fasts are open to all children and teens in the Auburn area who are between the ages of 10 and 16, she said. During the fasts, participants take part in sports, games, Eucharistic adoration and faith-related activities while making a Lenten sacrifice of abstaining from sleep for one night.
Each sleep fast began with several hours of sporting activities at Champions for Life Sports Center. After burning off all their excess energy, both groups traveled across town to the parish center.
Once there, the girls participated in several ice-breaking activities before praying the rosary together in the chapel, said Jennifer Jones, one of the girls’ chaperones. Jennifer, 18, chaperoned the sleep fast last year and decided to help out again because a number of her family members were there.
For the rest of the night, the girls took turns praying in pairs before the Blessed Sacrament while the rest of the girls played games, munched on snack food and worked on art projects. The girls also took a multiple-choice Bible quiz created by the chaperones, said Maria Faiola, 12.
Jennifer and the other two chaperones kept the girls so busy that no one fell asleep all night, Fallon said.
“I left them at about 11, and when I came back at 6 in the morning they were still full of energy,” she said. “They had a good time. Nobody slept. They were up all night.”
Maria, who is one of Jennifer’s cousins, said her favorite part of the night was spending time in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament.
Both Maria and Allie Shaw, another of Jennifer’s cousins, attended the sleep fast last year and had so much fun they decided to do it again this year.
Allie, 16, also appreciated the emphasis the sleep fast placed on Eucharistic adoration, something she thinks most teens don’t pay a lot of attention to.
“I think we kind of showed them you can have fun and still pray,” she said.
It’s important for girls to have access to events like this, Jennifer said.
“It’s nice to get together with girls their own age,” she said. “It’s just nice to let the girls ‚Ä¶ learn about their faith and let them share how they feel about their faith.”
The itinerary for the boys’ sleep fast was similar to that of the girls’. After returning from Champions for Life Sports Center the participants watched “Miracle,” a 2004 movie about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The boys and their chaperones discussed the movie afterwards, said Bryan Shaw.
“We had to find the virtues that were in the movie,” said Bryan, 14. Bryan and the other participants also took turns praying before the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night. The boys also listened to and answered questions about Bible passages, talked and played games. Bryan, who attended last year’s event, said he enjoyed hanging out with his friends at the sleep fast.
“It’s nice, and it helps you out with your faith,” he said.