Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A youth retreat (of the working kind)

This past Friday and Saturday, we had a workshop for leaders of youth groups and communities in the parish of Dulce Nombre. I had asked Sister Nancy Meyerhofer and the other Franciscan sisters (Sisters Erika and Mary Beth) in La Entrada, Copán, to help, since they have more experience than I do in this. They, in fact, did most of the work.

We began with 13 young people (on Friday the 13th) from five different communities. I was a little disappointed in the turn-out since there are about 10 place where there are youth organized in communities or groups. In two places, the parents didn’t give the young people permission to attend since it was an overnight event. In one place, only one came because others had to sign up for classes that begin in February. In one case, they had planned an event for Saturday already. I had, in fact, spoken to almost all the groups and was a bit disappointed. But Sister Nancy reminded me that these young people were here for a reason (that only God knows).

The workshop went wonderfully, even though the participation was less than I’d hoped.

The young people were participative and even sang with gusto the four new songs Nancy and Erika taught them. One – Jóvenes, Cristos jóvenes – became a sort of theme song of the group. 
Jóvenes, Cristos jóvenes,Necesita el mundo de hoy.Jóvenes, Cristos jóvenes,
Que devuelvan la fe en el amor. Todays’ world needs young people,
young Christs,
Who give back faith in love.
They participated in the many ice-breakers we taught them and in the activity we had to learn the parts of the Mass. And there were several times they were out playing on the soccer field.

But what really impressed me was their response to the various prayer experiences offered.

Several – centering prayer and Ignatian contemplation – involved periods of silence of up to twenty minutes. The silence was tangible. In a culture where there is often much noise and talking, it was a real blessing to find young people open to silence.

Another prayer experience involved using a dry branch and then finding ways to bring life to the branch. The young people gathered live branches, flowers, leaves, water, earth, and more to bring it to life. I felt as if this is what was happening among us those two days.

We ended at 11 am on Saturday with lunch. Before that, they did a thorough clean-up of the hall we used. I was proud to see their efforts.

After lunch, I took the sisters to the main highway so they could get a bus to La Entrada. Several of the young people lived on a road off the road to the highway and asked for a ride in the back of the truck. Of course, there were more than the legal limit for riders in the bed of the truck.

As I left them off, I noticed an old woman carrying a large load of firewood. That is a common sight here. Looking back in the mirror, I saw one of the guys take the wood from her to carry it for her. The sisters looked back longer and noted that the woman was not going where the group was, but the young man took it anyway. I feel blessed to have seen this simple act of solidarity.

We are planning to have a parish youth encounter on February 12 on the parish grounds. I hope we can get more youth to come. We’ll be planning this in the next meeting of leaders at the end of this month.

It was a good activity – though only a beginning. But I feel grateful for the meeting. I am especially grateful to the sisters who came and shared their wisdom and experience.

No comments: