Retreat program expands offerings - Catholic Courier

Retreat program expands offerings

This past March, Jaimie Wall took part in a first-ever diocesan retreat offering called “IMPACT” — and found out just why it was so named.

“It stayed deep the whole entire retreat,” recalled Jaimie, 15, from St. Mary’s Parish in Bath. “It definitely affected me in numerous ways.”

IMPACT is among an increasingly diverse set of spiritual offerings through the diocesan Department of Youth Ministry. Most events for the 2005-06 school year have yet to take place, and openings exist for all remaining dates.

Among the best-known of these activities are the “Awakening Faith” and “Encountering Christ” high-school retreats. Held simultaneously, they will take place Feb. 10-12 at Camp Stella Maris in Livonia, as well as April 7-9 at the Salvation Army Camp near Penn Yan. Awakening Faith, for grades 9-10, and Encountering Christ, for grades 11-12, feature inspirational witness talks, small-group sharing and a reconciliation service. One change of note: The closing Sunday Mass has been moved forward by a few hours, beginning at 11 a.m. According to Sue Versluys, diocesan interim coordinator of youth ministry, this will allow teens to spend most of Sunday with their families.

The next IMPACT retreat, open to teens in grades 10-12, will take place March 11-12 at Salvation Army Camp. IMPACT is held overnight, whereas Awakening Faith and Encountering Christ involve two-night stays. Still, Jaimie said, IMPACT can leave you just as fulfilled.

“It goes deeper in a shorter time,” he said, also noting he was impressed that IMPACT staff members “talk to you as an adult.” Jaimie added that by attending IMPACT and an Awakening Faith retreat last school year, he began taking ownership of his faith rather than simply going along with what he’d been taught.

“It was probably one of the starts of me maturing, fully believing more,” he said.

Versluys described Awakening Faith and Encountering Christ as being “geared toward providing an opportunity for personal conversion and bringing it back to the people in their communities.” On the other hand, she said IMPACT “has more to do with a personal relationship with God, with the focus on community being more secondary. It challenges the kids more on a spiritual level, and we explore what it really means to be Catholic.”

IMPACT is one of several diocesan youth events to have been launched in recent years. Another is “The Flame” — the continuation of a one-day mini-retreat program for grades 6-8 that began in 2003. These will take place Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Holy Cross Church in Charlotte, Monroe County; and March 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Anthony Church in Groton, Tompkins County. The first “Flame” for 2005-06 was held Oct. 8.

A further example of diversity was the Urban Youth Retreat held Dec. 9-11 in Rochester. That annual gathering was begun in 2001.

“I think people are ready for some change. If we don’t adapt to our society and the needs of the people, we’re not doing our job,” Versluys said, adding that the diocese is striving harder to assist participants at youth events who struggle with such issues as suicidal tendencies, eating disorders and substance abuse.

Also still to come are two traditional diocesan-wide gatherings: the Junior High Rally, to be held April 29 from 1 to 8:30 p.m. at New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls; and the Diocesan Youth Convention, set for Aug. 5-6 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Rochester. Jaimie, for one, enjoys the current menu of activities: He plans to serve as a peer leader at Awakening Faith and also will make a return visit to IMPACT.

“I want to attend as many retreats as I can,” he stated.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For registration information on diocesan youth events, visit, e-mail Mary Greenblatt at, or call 585/328-3210 or 800/388-7177, ext. 1279.

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