Teen retreat unites Elmira parishes - Catholic Courier

Teen retreat unites Elmira parishes

Some Elmira-area parishes have fairly active youth-ministry programs; for others, the ministry is limited or nonexistent. However, such comparisons were irrelevant on April 2-3, when all parishes united for the “Cool to Be Catholic” retreat at Elmira’s Correctional Officers Clubhouse.

Each local parish was represented at this first-time event. Participation came from 44 youths as well as several adult chaperons and other volunteers. Two pastors Father Jeremiah Moynihan from Elmira’s Our Lady of Lourdes and Father Christopher Linsler from St. Mary Our Mother in Horseheads also made appearances.

The retreat began at 5 p.m. Friday, kicking off some fun icebreakers. Laura Spaulding, 16, planned an icebreaker involving a bowl of M&Ms. “You could take as many as you wanted, but for each one you had to say something about yourself,” she said.

Next up was a Living Stations of the Cross presentation by the Our Lady of Lourdes youth group, followed by skits from the Elmira College Christian Fellowship Group. Later that evening, teen participants gave witness talks. Laura, who belongs to St. Mary Our Mother and attends youth group at Our Lady of Lourdes, stressed in her talk the importance of devoting time for your faith “how to find God in your busy life, because I know it’s very easy to get caught up in your schedule and not think about it,” she explained.

Another witness was given by Stephanie Beemer, 17, from Elmira’s St. Anthony/St. Patrick. She made a presentation along with her best friend -Elise Malanga of New Jersey – on the virtues of Mass, eucharistic adoration, rosary and confession.

“We thought that having a group of teenagers together, they needed that,” said Stephanie, noting that these forms of worship may not be practiced as frequently by young people as they once were.

Saturday morning featured the reading of a poem, “What Would You Do If Christ Came to Your House Today?” which asked, in part: “Would you be glad to have him meet your closest friends/Or would you hope they’d stay away until his visit ends?/Would you be glad to have him stay, forever and on/Or would you sigh with great relief when he at last was gone?”

Another Saturday highlight was a question-and-answer session regarding various “sticking points” about the Catholic faith. Rosemary Anthony, youth minister at Our Lady of Lourdes, was impressed by the teens’ rapport with Father Moynihan during this segment. “They were amazingly open and mature,” she said.

The retreat wrapped up at noon Saturday, completing an event that had involved more than four months of preparation by the planning committee.
“This was the first time I’ve networked with the other parishes. We had months of meetings and it was wonderful,” Anthony stated.

“I think it’s nice to get the different youth ministers working together as a team,” added Bonnie Collins, youth minister at Elmira’s St. Mary Southside. “You learn a lot from each other when you throw a bunch of ideas around. Hopefully we can work together more often.”

Participating teens also seemed to enjoy the multiparish approach. “It opens you up to seeing other people’s view of the faith. You get new ideas on how you view it,” said Sam Piegdon, 16, from St. Mary Southside.

“I met a lot of people I didn’t know before, people I could relate to,” said Stephanie, who, along with Laura, comprised the planning committee’s two teen representatives.

“I would go again if they have another one,” added Philip Kibbe, 15, from Elmira’s Ss. Peter and Paul.

Laura said this opportunity was especially important for parishes that don’t have a youth-ministry program. “It’s really nice to expand and give them the same kind of benefit,” she remarked.

Anthony and Collins said the parishes might consider holding another teen retreat, and Collins also ventured the possibility of taking a bus load of Elmira teens to a diocesan retreat.

“The future of our church is in their hands. In order for them to be empowered, they need to network,” Anthony said.

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