26 Aug 2012
“‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’” (Joshua 24:15) In the name …
Today is Youth Sunday in all of our National Catholic Parishes. As summer vacations are quickly coming to an end and a brand new academic year approaches, we are asked to say special prayers during the Mass for the young people of our churches and communities. And after Mass we are encouraged to contribute to the Youth Fund of the church. These donations help us to offer programs like this summer’s Youth Convocation in Niagara Falls and the Youth Retreat that we just completed this past Thursday at 4-H Camp Howe in Goshen.
Last week ten of us from the parish and three visitors entered the wilds of the DAR State Forrest to attend this year’s Retreat, and unlike last year, I lost no one this time, not even Braeden. Once again this year I was a chaperone for one of the cabins of younger boys. This is always an experience. At this age, one of our jobs is to make sure that the kids take showers after running around all day and swimming in the lake because if they don’t you know it! One night I’m asking one of the boys if he’s got everything he needs to go next door to take his shower: You have your shampoo, your soap, your towel? Everything is check except for the towel. He looks on the cabin floor around his bed and there’s this damp, balled-up blue thing. He shakes it open, says “Yup that’s mine,” and casually walks out the door to get clean. But in the woods this is better than nothing. This becomes our new normal.
Monday started off with a procession of hierarchs. Fr. Stanley Bilinski is a newly elected bishop who will be Consecrated in September for the Western Diocese. He attended as the National Youth Chaplain, and he actually took over Fr. Sen. Soltysiak’s place in the line-up. Then the very next session was offered by our own bishop, Bp. Paul Sobiechowski. Two bishops in a row and right on Monday morning. The kids almost didn’t want to go to free time after that.
Then that evening Brian Foley came up to the Retreat with two other officers. They are assigned to Berkshire County’s State Police Drug Unit. When I met up with Brian I was so happy to see that there was no drug-sniffing dog with them because last time they planted the drugs on me and had the dog do his thing. No dog, but they did have this guy named Tod, a mountain of a man that they use for muscle. So once again, guess on whom they call to play a drug suspect resisting arrest? And exactly at the moment that they call me forward, I mean exactly like it couldn’t have been planned better, Sharon calls me on the cell phone. All she’s hearing on the other end is, “Put down the phone sir! Put down the phone!” Then the man-mountain does some move on me, my arm is behind my back, I’m on the floor and in a couple of seconds I have handcuffs on. There will definitely be pictures of that on the diocesan website before too long. So after this horrific ordeal I call back Sharon to calm her down that everything is all right. Her response when I call back was, “I just figured it was something to do with Retreat.” I’m being arrested and handcuffed and she just chalked it up to normal Retreat activity! See what I mean about our new normal out in the woods.
Tuesday morning was my session and it really goes without saying, It was the best. On Wednesday morning Fr. Sen. Krusienski played St. Paul for us. He was dressed up in robes and wearing a beard, plus he had a real sword. He would come up to kids as St. Paul with this real, metal sword and ask them how they were helping to grow the church just like he did. I’ll bet that any 8 year old who was on the other end of that real sword will never forget his session. Later that day we took a bus ride over to the Hadley Rock Gym on Route 9. Lots of fun. Great place. And again there are pictures of all this going up on our diocesan website for anyone who wants to see. We’ve got some pretty good climbers among our kids, but I also have to give credit to Bp. Paul and Fr. Rob Nemkovich – they sat on the one and only couch in the whole place with the greatest of skill. As with all great athletes, they made it look easy.
Wednesday evening brought on the great cabin skit competition. The older girls cabin did a skit in which Fr. Calvo accidently burns down his church and runs off screaming and jumps into his yellow car to drive away. There was no humour in that story at all. [*Were they going to use last Sunday’s sermon about Romney and Obama? Was I going to get a call over from the bishop?*] The older boys did a very funny skit on our Retreat week together. At one point Eric Nemkovich is asked about our time at camp. He says, “Hold on, let me check our Retreat schedule.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a folded piece of paper. Opening up what he thought was his schedule, he says instead, “Oh this isn’t my schedule. It’s my picture of Amanda Calvo down at the waterfront.” I yelled back from the audience, “Hey, that’s my little girl.”
But the one that really was the best, even though we don’t hold a contest and name winners, was the one by the younger girls. God calls to one of the girls to build His church. She starts to make one of straw. Out comes mean ol’ Jordan Lashway who says it’s so easy to destroy that church and tears right through it. God calls again. This time the church is made of sticks. Again, mean ol’ Jordan smashes it to smithereens. A third time God calls. This time the church is built by one girl calling another girl to come and join. They hold hands and call a third, then a fourth, and so on. They’re all linked together in this chain of hand-holding, building the church person by person, invitation by invitation, and this time mean ol’ Jordan can’t crash through the church. The message comes across loud and clear that the church is not built of stuff, but of people. And I thought that summarized perfectly our whole Retreat them of the church as A House Not Made with Hands. If the kids went home even with that one message, then the Retreat was a success.
These Retreats are a wonderful chance for our young people to get to know one another and their church better. It’s a perfect chance for us to get across the message that Jesus can and should be an important part of their lives. And it’s all done in combination with a lot of fun. I count down to Thursday. Every morning I wake up and ask my cabin kids, “Is it Thursday yet?”, but these kids count down the days until they can see each other again. That was the whole reason why kids from our parish gave birth to the winter gathering every Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28th. I would encourage all of the other children and teenagers of the parish who do not attend, to seriously consider going next year on our 40th anniversary. Church truly is a house not made with hands. It’s a choice of faith, just like Joshua and his family had to make as we read about in today’s Lesson. May our prayer this Youth Sunday be that our church and community families may choose to make faith a real part of their lives and that Holy Name will be there to help them do so. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo