Having just returned from a week in the Berkshires with over 200 teens, I can confirm that the Holy Spirit is very active in Western Massachusetts. Pope Francis and Fr. Savage are often heard using the words “meeting people where they are.”
Well, last week, a large number of teens were visiting Lakeside in Pittsfield, MA at a program which has a long history with our parish. This program was designed to meet teens exactly where they are. C.A.M.P.S, or the Christ As My Personal Savior event has now been running for 34 years! The founders are still actively involved. Fr. Savage himself went on many CAMPS retreats during those years.
As someone who is always looking for doorways which lead to the Holy Spirit, I can certainly now appreciate why Fr. Jim is such a supporter of these type of retreats. During the course of the week, the teens and staff encountered an early morning optional swim (7:00am, and not optional at all), morning prayer by the lakeside, competitive games in and out of the water, oodles of singing and worship, evening Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Speakers were flown in from around the states. A Disney theme followed the week. (I bet you didn’t know there are at least six scriptural references in Toy Story!) A veritable feast for the body and soul.
A few weeks ago, another retreat experience was made by many other teens from St. E’s at the Catholic Heart Work Camp in CT. Again, a wonderful experience, this time of serving others in need with campers providing physical help. This program also has a large component of daily prayer, worship and the Eucharist, linking our need to serve with our spiritual welfare. Thank you for all the teens attending, parents who funded them and the volunteers from the parish who donated their week to this important cause. (Mike Angotti, Jared Blake and Bobby Hillis).
We can see the satisfaction, peace and joy on the faces of those who have met our Lord through these retreats. Retreats which offer an opportunity for both renewal and conversion. The use of retreats, special time away to consider our relationship with God in a community, is one of the most nourishing gifts we can offer to ourselves and to others. Perhaps now is the time to consider a retreat for yourself. Maybe you have never encountered one. If not, please add it to your bucket list! It might be one of the most important gifts you can give.
Think about it as going on vacation with God. You will come back refreshed.
He does give us a guarantee which He paid for with his life.
Before Morning Swim Photograph © 2017 Michael J. Cunningham
Michael Cunningham is Director of Faith Formation for St. Eulalia Parish