25 Aug 2013
“‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate …’” (Luke 13:24) In the name …
Today is Youth Sunday throughout our church denomination. Summer is coming to a close and the new school year is right around the corner. During Mass we include special prayers that the young people of our church and community may stay on the straight and narrow path and pass through the narrow gate that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel. We will also accept your special donations after Mass this morning for the church’s Youth Fund. These collections help the church to keep costs for National Youth Convocation and Youth Retreats as low as we can.
And speaking of Youth Retreats, I have survived another one. This year marked the 40th anniversary of our annual youth gatherings. Based on the anniversary, the general theme of the Retreat was Through the Years, which is the title of the official hymn of our church. We used the hymn’s seven stanzas as the basis of our seven sessions. But before I get into those, I left our barbecue and got up to Goshen right at 5:30pm this past Sunday. I’m coming down the access road and just as I enter the camp Bp. Paul is walking from his car on one side of the road to his cabin on the other. I laid on my horn. Gave the bishop a bit of a start, but as I explained to him I actually saved his life. Could have run him over otherwise, but instead stopped just in the nick of time. That’s how my five days with three different bishops began from the very first moment.
Fr. Sen. Rob had put together a wonderful PowerPoint presentation as the main event of our Alumni Night activities. We had extended an invitation to past participants to come back for the evening and about 25 or 30 of them did. It was great to see old friends, but depressing to see how old they have grown over these 40 years. My first Retreat as a member of the clergy was in 1982 when I was a first year Seminarian. I think that may also have been the year that I had my first contact with Holy Name through a very young Jeff Kostiuk. When I was a young priest, the kids would play a lot of pranks. With those kids back in Camp, sure enough, I go back to my cabin and my bed with sleeping bag and pillow was waiting for me up in the rafters.
Monday morning began with Mass and included three sessions: the first by Fr. Sen. Soltysiak, the second by our Prime Bishop and the third by Fr. Gitner. Mass and those three sessions added up to about three hours give or take. The rest of the day was devoted to activities, games and free time. I try to get this across to our young people because worship and learning are extremely important in our Retreat program, but just as important is providing our kids with an opportunity to have fun with each other. Camp Howe is rustic, but beautiful. Kids were skateboarding, playing basketball, swimming, boating, doing arts and crafts, archery, wall climbing, doing the high ropes, and maybe most exciting of all playing the simple little game of four-square. The kids at camp really enjoy just seeing each other and horsing around. The kids who attend refer to our Retreat as Jesus Camp. They know it’s about our faith, but it’s also about them having a good time together. As soon as we leave they’re already tweeting each other, and they continue to stay in touch Through the Years. I hope I can someday get all of our kids to attend and share in this Retreat community. We’d have a ball.
This is probably a good time to say Thanks to Mary Tudryn who is our female chaperone from the parish. I spend five days with the kids and then I sleep for five days. Mary goes to Retreat and now this week she starts teaching kids in elementary school for a year. There was the one year that I supposedly lost a very young Braeden Tudryn. We won’t revisit that story, but because of that I have to clarify something. I had both Braeden and Caleb Graves in my cabin. When you see Caleb and his cast, I just want to let you know that the cast is from football practice and that it had nothing at all to do with me. Nothing.
But I also have to throw in this story about our cabin. We watched Jesus Christ Superstar as our movie at Retreat. I had never seen it before and I thought it was pretty good. I especially liked Mary Magdalene’s song I Don’t Know How to Love Him. The melody got stuck in my head. I wake up on Tuesday morning and at Retreat I’m loud, obnoxious really. I start singing in the cabin to wake the boys up. Guess what song I’m singing? Mary Magdalene’s song! Then I start to hear myself and I say to myself, “What in the world are you doing Randy?”
On Tuesday morning I gave my session. I spoke about the fact that our church emerged as an expression against the abuse of the poor and the outcast, and that it remains our responsibility to work on their behalf still today. All of our SOCL families and members of the Society of Brotherly Love have received information from me about October’s CROP Walk. I hope we can come together to help the ones who have barely anything. It’s what we need to be doing as church. It’s what we have to do to really be church.
That evening Bp. Paul gave his session and Fr. Sen. Krusienski led our candlelight service beneath a beautiful full-moon sky. That was also the night of the second half of Jesus Christ Superstar, the part where Jesus is crucified. The little kid beside me got scared and started to cry so I walked her out and we got a cup of hot cocoa. Years ago I had to drive her accident prone mother to Cooley Dickinson on more than one occasion when she was a kid at Retreat. How the girl I drove to the hospital now has a daughter of her own at Retreat is beyond me because I haven’t got any older.
Wednesday we took off for Central Rock Gym in Hadley, which is a rock climbing center. Lillian Graves is a part of one of their climbing teams. She was like a monkey over there. Hanging upside down, speed climbing. “Come on Father, do this.” Yeah, not a chance. That evening each cabin had to do a skit on anything to do with Retreat. Some of them took shots at the clergy, but I really liked when the older girls mimicked the older boys and the way they dressed and acted, including our own Erin Tudryn who played Justin Bieber – whoever that is.
On Thursday we announced the winner of our Jason Fairclough Award. Jason was a friend of mine from Scranton who died in a car accident heading home from our Retreat back in 2003, ten years ago. He was a great person and the award acknowledges both him and the recipient who embodies his spirit of kindness and compassion. This year’s participant was, honestly, a bit to handle in years past, but he has grown and matured wonderfully. I like to think that church and retreats are part of that process of change. I think a lived faith can make a huge difference in a person’s life, especially a young person’s life. And that’s why I hope you will join me in praying this Youth Sunday for our young people that church may matter to them, that our School of Christian Living will be successful, that our new catechism classes will be meaningful, and that next Summer when the church offers the Youth Convocation and the Retreat that we can talk every young person into giving them a chance. May this be our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo