28 Aug 2011
“But then [God’s word] becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” (Jeremiah 20:9) In the name …
Today is Youth Sunday throughout our church denomination. After Mass we will accept your donations for the Youth Fund of the church, which help us run events such as the just completed Youth Retreat up at 4-H Camp Howe. And I know that Hurricane Irene is on our minds at this time, but let us not forget that this Sunday’s hurricane comes on the heels of last Sunday’s tornado warnings, a tornado warning issued while we were just beginning our Youth Retreat in the woods of Goshen. You may remember the rains and winds from our church barbecue last week … which reminds me of a story. I’m standing by Alice Maiewski. Don Sadowski comes by, wanting to give Alice his 50/50 tickets so that she can check them for him since he’s leaving. He trusts Alice to be honest. I’m standing right next to her in my collar. I say to the both of them, “Hey, why not me?” Alice got to keep the tickets anyway. I’m thinking this is just an isolated event. Then I go up to the Retreat. One of the first sessions we hold at the Retreat is an opening skit that Mrs. Gnat writes. She gets her characters all lined up before we even arrive. She even e-mailed me, mentioning this angel character that she needed. I’m thinking as I’m reading the e-mail, “Oh that’s nice. She thinks of me as an angel.” Then I get to the end of the e-mail and she’s not asking me to play the angel. She’s asking me to send her Mary Tudryn’s e-mail address so that she can ask her!
On our first night at Retreat we play a fun movie to help us transition into our stay together. This year it was Home Alone. I’ve seen that movie tens of times, but I still laugh out loud when those two thieves try to break into the Home-Alone-kid’s house. I’m in the back laughing and Brandi and Alyssa keep turning around with a look on their faces that says, “That’s not my priest.” Monday dawns to a much nicer day weather-wise, and well it should, because Monday was the day of my session, which is really the highlight of the entire week for all those kids. And only as a coincidence my topic was God’s prophets in the Old and New Testaments, and one of the verses I actually used was the same one we’ve read today from Jeremiah: “But then [God’s word] becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” There is a power to God’s revelation that we tend to forget or ignore, and hopefully through events like our Retreats we can remind these young people of the power of believing and professing that faith.
Tuesday was an exciting day. In my cabin of 8 to 12 year olds we have three chaperones: myself and two great guys from Westfield. We do our best. We’re getting the boys up for our Prayer Service. Some rise earlier than others and then leave the cabin to go play four-square at the center of camp, while others relish every last minute of sleep they can get. So the three of us chaperones make sure that the cabin is empty and that our kids are off to the Service. I get down there and Mary asks me where her son Braeden is. “Down here somewhere,” I tell her, but we can’t find him. We first send a cabin-mate back to check, nobody there. We sent a chaperone back, nobody there. Then finally we find Braeden rolled up into a tiny little ball in his top bunk, almost invisible, still sound asleep. We never saw him and he never heard us. The three of us chaperones had lost a kid, and Mary kept reminding me that her husband, Braeden’s dad, signs my pay checks.
Later that afternoon we’re sitting outside and the dumpster truck shows up. Fr. Sen. Soltysiak yells over to the driver to throw away my yellow car too. The driver says O.K. and then starts heading over to my car, lines up those big steel arms to lift her up, and then stops. Everybody had a great laugh except for this little kid Zachary who was so depressed that my car didn’t actually get tossed.
Wednesday we went bowling. Last year Fr. Sens. Soltysiak and Krusienski and I played against each other in miniature golf. I came in last and that fact made it into God’s Field for every-body in the church to read. This year we go bowling and I win against these same priests twice, but now there’s no God’s Field being published so the story ends with us. I wonder if that’s God’s way of punishing me for losing a kid. In the afternoon I was the captain of the loosing kickball team. As they’re getting their picture taken while making “w” signs for winners, I’m behind them, unknown to them, and giving them the thumbs-down gesture. That made it into the photo on the sly and I thought that was funny, but when I got a copy of the picture I noticed that behind me, and unknown to me, Erin Tudryn is giving me bunny ears. I thought I was the one being sneaky, but she was even sneakier.
That night all of the cabins put on their skits about the Retreat theme of No Excuses. Even Bp. and Mrs. Gnat got into it. Theirs was funny. Bishop was whining about excuses for not coming to the next Retreat, and Mrs. Gnat kept coming up with answers, and in the process taking jabs at a lot of us simultaneously. It was really funny. But their last line turned serious. They mentioned that after retiring they will be 400 miles away next August and that it will not be possible for them to be with us at Camp Howe, but nearly breaking-down they both said that next year even if they can’t be with us in person, they will keep us all in their prayers as they remember us.
The whole time we were at Retreat we gathered in the rec hall, and on the wall was painted a quote from President Roosevelt: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” Events such as our Youth Retreat help us to do just that. We can teach them about their faith, but maybe even more importantly we can give them a community of faith to rely upon and in which to grow. May all of our efforts for our youth come together to help us help God so that we can build our youth for the future. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo