By: Vania Dienzo
A few months ago, a brother in Youth Apostles reached out to the Women Youth Apostles to see if we had any availability to help at the various confirmation retreats and workcamps in the upcoming spring and summer months. With my sister Tiffany’s encouragement, I signed up to be a cabin leader for the first All Saints Girls Confirmation Retreat March 24-25, hoping to get better ideas on activities and structure for my own confirmation students as a catechist. I had never been on this particular retreat before or even had a retreat for my own Confirmation formation so I didn’t know exactly what to expect that weekend. Although I was anxious going into it, I am now very grateful I was able to attend the retreat and to serve alongside four of my Women Youth Apostle sisters.
It had been a while since I’d done relational ministry outside of my own parish in Maryland so I was nervous to meet new middle school teens, have 10 of those teens in my particular care and in my small group, and to also give one of the retreat talks. God showed me that I really didn’t need to be nervous! Though my group wasn’t very open at the start, as we progressed through the meals and activities the girls would share more and we could talk more and more easily over the short period of time we had on retreat.
Unsurprisingly, the Holy Spirit was a major theme in the retreat! One of the main activities is a scavenger hunt, where teens rotate through various stations, each representing a gift of the Holy Spirit the 8th graders could expect to receive in a new way at Confirmation. I led the station on Knowledge. I could tell the girls already knew so much about the life of Jesus and were open to learning more about the Faith through our discussion. When it came to time for my talk on Saturday afternoon titled “Our Sin and God’s Mercy”, I still was nervous, but right before my talk I prayed to the Holy Spirit to remember my notes so I could share with the girls about one of my my favorite parables about the Father’s mercy, The Prodigal Son, and my own experiences. When I talked, I only needed to check my notes a few times. I could see the girls were listening intently and one of the girls even volunteered bravely for a short demo. I would consider all this the work of the Holy Spirit stirring up my own gifts!
The rest of the retreat was inspiring and moving, even from my perspective as a leader. To hear more questions on sin, see all the retreatants go to the sacrament of Reconciliation willingly and then kneel in Adoration was beautiful. It was also a great joy to pray a rosary with students leading decades and talk about our Blessed Mother on the Feast of the Annunciation.
Another moving part for me was when Rob, the All Saints Director of Youth Ministry, talked to the entire group about community and being involved in different ministries in high school. He led some of the girls through a trust exercise, and I began to tear up when they successfully executed it because it was scary but awesome! I was even more impacted when the high school assistant leaders shared their experiences in CLC (a Catholic Life Community that two of my sisters lead with two other adult leaders), Theater Ministry, Youth Group, etc. They were all wonderful examples of the fruit our ministries can bear and how community is important in our faith lives.
Overall, the retreat was a great experience led by the Holy Spirit. It was beautiful to witness young girls learn, pray and interact with each other in our beautiful Catholic Faith. It was also amazing to serve alongside my Women Youth Apostle sisters who are all so naturally great in leading, speaking and getting to know the girls. I felt very blessed by God to be there with all of them. This retreat definitely reminded me of how much I love our Faith and how much I love sharing it with young people. As a first time confirmation Catechist at my parish, I have more ideas now on how next year’s retreat and class activities can be like. I would recommend catechists and youth ministry volunteers stretch themselves to try out retreats like this one, to discover their gifts and to see how the Holy Spirit might use these to reach the hearts of young people.