When 14-year-old Katrina Hossenlopp agreed to attend a Jan. 12 retreat lead by Bishop Matthew H. Clark, she did so because she thought the event sounded like fun and she wanted to meet the bishop. She had no idea the retreat would help her take the first steps in developing a much deeper relationship with Jesus.
“I realized I really have a lot of work to do in my relationship with God,” said Katrina, a member of Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Parish.
Katrina was one of about 30 people who visited St. John of Rochester Parish in Fairport for the retreat, which was recorded and recently distributed to parishes on DVD for use during the diocese’s Spirit Alive! spiritual renewal. The three-year renewal was launched during Lent, and its first year focuses on deepening relationships with Jesus.
A high-school freshman, Katrina was one of the youngest people at the retreat, but it was important for her age group to be represented, said Barb Legere, youth-ministry director for Blessed Sacrament, St. Boniface and St. Mary parishes in Rochester.
“If the retreat is for our diocese, then it should be made up of representatives from the diocese. Young people are a vital and important part of that, so they should be equally represented in the proportion that they exist,” Legere said.
During his retreat, Bishop Clark talked about welcoming all people, developing a thirst for the Eucharist, making time for prayer and opening oneself to spiritual renewal. In the segment dealing with daily prayer, Bishop Clark shared tips to help people make prayer a part of their daily lives, Katrina said.
“He gave us 10 things, and I don’t do all of them, but I do some almost every day,” she said. “He told us to revisit the prayers that you learned as a child, because as a child you don’t think about them. Some of the prayers that I learned when I was really young (have now taken) on more meaning to me.”
Katrina knows it will take a lot of effort to follow all the bishop’s suggestions, but said she feels the reward — growing closer to God — is well worth it.
“Bishop Clark says there’s something empty in your heart — he calls it restlessness — and until you really find God and you’re happy, you always feel restlessness, always know that there’s a little bit there that you could improve,” Katrina said.
Legere was so impressed by the insights and knowledge Katrina took away from the retreat that she asked Katrina to lead a small discussion group when Blessed Sacrament parishioners gathered in mid-March to watch the retreat themselves. This gathering was held on the night the middle-school youth group typically meets, so Legere asked the youth-group members to host the event and take part in the resulting discussions.
“They showed up and were very good, hospitable hosts and collaborated well with the adults. It was an interesting and dynamic mix of young and old,” Legere said.
After viewing the DVD, participants discussed the retreat and looked at how much time they currently devote to God each day, Katrina said.
“We all kind of found out that we could do better for God,” she said.
Legere said she was surprised to see the adults and teens often had similar answers to the questions, proving that spiritual renewal is not just for adults. In fact, this year’s theme of developing a deeper relationship with Jesus echoes what she tries to promote to teens in her junior- and senior-high youth groups, she said.
“The main theme of adolescence is getting to know Jesus as a brother and a friend. Any time you’re going to use that theme, I’m going to double up on that,” Legere remarked.
Indeed, parishes should be watching for ways to incorporate the themes of Spirit Alive! into their regular programming, said Mercy Sister Laurie Orman, coordinator of catechist and family formation with the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. This way, parishioners will be able to benefit from the spiritual renewal without having to make time in their busy schedules for another commitment. This can be especially important for families whose time is already stretched thin, she said.
Although families today often are very busy, Sister Orman said she believes they are still longing to deepen their relationships with Jesus and looking to their parishes for ways to do that. Through praying and sharing Scripture together, families can help each other deepen those relationships, she added.
“I think that when someone has a deeper relationship with Jesus, they want to share that with those that they live with, and it can help them mend relationships within their family,” Sister Orman said. “I think that when people share together in prayer and share what the Scriptures mean to them it does bring them closer as a family and as a community.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about involving teens and families in Spirit Alive! visit www.rochesterspiritalive.org.