Other than life in the womb, there is perhaps no stage of development more under siege in today’s spiritual landscape than the teenage and young adult years.
Cultural pressures and deceptive worldviews press in on every side. But for the 300 young people gathered at a Metairie Hotel Jan. 6-8, freedom was not another empty promise, but the gift of God available to all who accept him.
The annual Holy Spirit Retreat for Teens and Young Adults sponsored by Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans met under the theme, “Loved.” The weekend retreat featured a host of speakers, including St. Scholastica Academy theology teacher Colin MacIver.
God’s infinite love
MacIver reminded the youth that God does not require his children to “do” anything in order to be loved. Emphasizing the words of 1 John 4:19, MacIver powerfully pronounced that God loves us “first.”
“What struck me about this retreat was how God’s love is so much more powerful than our sin and so much more powerful than any evil,” said Archbishop Chapelle senior Amanda Seoane. “He loves us so much that he’s going to give us the grace we need if we only let him.”
Confessions were available throughout the weekend and walls were lined with teens flocking to the sacrament. In addition, prayer teams were available to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts.
Adoration with peer group
One prominent gift manifested was the gift of healing. Saturday night featured a eucharistic procession and adoration where the youth were encouraged to bring their hurt and brokenness to God. Before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, scores of youth encountered the powerful healing and freedom that God alone can give.
Finding Saturday night’s eucharistic adoration “awesome,” Mount Carmel Academy senior Sophie Johnson said: “It was so inspirational to see everyone, especially my closest friends, worshiping God so sincerely. You could just tell that everyone was giving their hearts to God and surrendering to his love.”
Many feel vocational tug
Johnson and her friends heard talks by speakers from around the area, including Audrey Seghers, Leslie Bertucci, Timmy McCaffery, Casey Sprehe, Laine Bodin and Joshua Johnson. St. Mary’s Academy theology teacher Matt Bourgeois emceed, and Brad Doyle led the weekend’s music ministry.
At the close of Sunday’s Mass, those considering the possibility of a religious vocation or priesthood were invited to come forward and receive prayer from Father Steve Bruno, director of the archdiocesan vocations office, and the six seminarians on hand.
Fifty young people came forward for prayer, an encouraging witness that today’s youth are not afraid to consider sacrifice when the path to fulfillment is laid bare.
“It was amazing,” Seoane said. “ So many people were going to confession. So many people were letting God’s love in and you could see their smiling faces and see their hearts full of joy. That was the most amazing thing to me.”
Though the difficulties and false verdicts facing today’s youth are not few, those on CCRNO’s 2012 January Retreat found the power and truth of a God who promises never to leave them. As the faces beaming with joy bore witness, the Gospel is no empty undertaking. Indeed, God is stronger than every obstacle, and, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).
CCRNO sponsors this retreat annually on the first weekend of January and will host a workshop for teens March 23-24 at their Conference.
Alex Lorio is a volunteer youth minister for CCRNO.