28 Aug 2016
“… and the people there were observing [Jesus] carefully.” (Luke 14:1) In the name …
On the last Sunday of August, parishes throughout the denomination observe Youth Sunday. As summer comes slowly to an end and as another school year approaches, we remember our young people in both prayer and program. We ask Jesus to protect our children and youth, while at the same time we encourage parents to help make church a consistent part of their lives. And after Mass this morning, we will accept a special collection for the church’s Youth Fund. Our donations help us to provide programs such as the Youth Retreat, which was held this past week. If you’re on the parish email list, I hope you’ve had a chance to read the Retreat newsletter that went out on Friday and to take a look at all the pictures.
The Retreat was held again at 4-H Camp Howe in Goshen. We are the closest parish. It’s only about a half hour drive from here to there. This means I am able to stay for most of the Chicken Barbecue and then drive off into the woods. Even though the Retreats are separated by 51 weeks, when I turn my car down that access road to Camp Howe, it feels like I was just there. Some kids have a count-down clock on their phones waiting for Retreat 2017. They’re all excited about going back down that access road. I’m not sure that’s what I’m experiencing when I first hit that tree-line and Retreat starts all over again, but it’s not about me. It’s about the kids. And they seem to love it.
So it’s the first night in the woods and it’s a wet one. It poured out last Sunday. Someone chose a movie about a little girl who had a terminal illness and then was saved by a miracle. Good message, but not a light, fun movie. Allie was a bit upset by the suffering so we instead watched some spiders weaving their web out on the deck. I’m thinking to myself: This isn’t going to be good. Her first night. It’s dark and wet and now scary. But both Allie and Kami made friends, played games, horsed around in their cabin, and if I didn’t sit with them at their meals, I wouldn’t have seen them. They were all over the place. And for two petite young ladies, you should see the food they eat. I like to eat with the kids because there’s usually more left for me at the table, but the girls I sat with this year had to keep going back up to the kitchen for refills. And no, if you saw the newsletter, I did not eat that tray of 30 corn dogs.
On Monday I offered the first session of Retreat. They like to start with the best obviously. The topic was reverence for creation. It started with my session in the rec hall, but finished with Bill Girardi’s nature hike. And I want to thank Bill for coming up that morning. They had just cleared the road of a downed tree from the previous night’s storm when he arrived. He walked us through the woods pointing out different things of interest that many of us would never have seen otherwise. And you know that old proverbial question of does a bear poop in the woods. Well, they do, and you can’t miss it when they do, because their do-do is huge. Thanks, Mr. Girardi, for pointing that out.
Tuesday was Kami’s 9th birthday. We all sang to her in the cafeteria and she got a birthday congo bar with candles. Her family came up that night to see her and sometimes that can make the younger kids a bit home sick. Not Kami. That evening the church’s fraternal payed I think almost $300 for an ice cream outing down into Williamsburg at a little roadside ice cream stand where we all lined-up in single file for our treat. I sure would hate to arrive the minute after we did. Kami drove down from Camp with her family and Allie. On the way back, again when I was worried she may be a bit homesick, she and the other girls sang all these songs from Frozen. I can’t get kids to memorize an answer to a single catechism question, but they can all sing Frozen like they were part of the movie.
On Wednesday we traveled over to the Mountain Coaster at Berkshire East. I promised my first ride to Zachery from Central Falls. I owed that to him. I overheard his mom, who I have known since she was a kid at Retreat, tell him that he had to take a physical to play basketball when they got back home. I mentioned to the kid that this means he should get his appendix out because he’ll play better. He didn’t believe me so he asked a couple of older kids who were there who heard this whole thing and they backed me up: Never played better until it was out. I was lighter on my feet. We didn’t let that go on for too long, but for the rest of the Retreat I asked him how his appendix was.
He wanted to get back at me by going down the mountain at full speed, but that wasn’t going to happen because Fr. Sen. Soltysiak was two cars in front of us. It was a sight to behold. He had the brakes on the entire way down the mountain. When the cars sense that they are within 80’ of each other the car behind slams on the brakes automatically and you come to a jarring stop. On one of those forced stops Zach and I were in the middle of a banked curve and we’re hanging on our side until Fr. Joe got moving. The people at the bottom were wondering what had happened on the mountain because for the longest time no one came down. Then, finally, Fr. Joe arrived and behind him this long backlog of cars waiting for him to finish. We paid for three rides. Fr. Joe walked away from his car after the first ride and ripped the band off his hand yelling never more.
You may remember me telling you about Melanie trying to kill me last year on the ride. I was pulling the brake back and she was forcing me to release instead. So this year I went down with her friend Payton. I explained that Melanie had tried to kill me: “Oh no Father. I’m not like her. I want to go nice and slow.” So off we went. Had a nice conversation on the relaxing ride up the mountain and then it was like Jekyll and Hyde. She too began forcing my hand down to go as fast as we could. I was screaming like a little girl. And by the way, the two little girls from our church, fearless. Loved it. Erin went down the mountain. Didn’t see her, but I knew who she was with. Erin found a boyfriend at Convo and the two of them were always together. As I told them, young love turns my stomach. Yuch. Maybe you saw the time-lapse photo of the word Reverence at the top of the Retreat newsletter. They do that by waving flashlights in the dark. Well, they did one for Erin, and put her and her boyfriend inside a big heart. Yuch. Her mother Mary handled it all very well. But Mary handles all of this very well, much, much better than I. On Thursday, the last day of camp, I’m singing. Mary yells over to me, “Only 360 more days to camp Father.”
But it is a good experience and one that I hope and pray every year that more of our youth would take advantage of. I know by late summer they’re getting bored, and Retreat has so much to do instead. I know that some school programs begin before school opens. But there were kids there who play in school bands, cheerlead and play sports. They managed. We’re so close that Mary even went home so that Braeden could get to football practice. What I’m saying is that where there’s a will there’s a way. This is worth the effort. And on this Youth Sunday, I thank Mary, Erin, Allie and Kami for going with me to Retreat. And I ask the rest of you to talk to them about Retreat. Find out how much fun it is, and let’s get a good bunch of us to go next year.
And lastly, today I send out the School of Christian Living letter to our young families. Let’s try and make our Christian ed program a priority this year. Let’s teach our kids and do stuff with them around the church. It’s good for the church, and it’s good for them too. In today’s Gospel we heard that people were watching Jesus closely to see if His actions matched His words. School of Christian Living isn’t catechism. It’s about how to practice and live our faith, and the way we live our faith is the best testimony about our faith. That Jesus may inspire our youth and our youth programs, for this we pray in His name this Youth Sunday. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo