Closer to God

Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2005
Closer to God
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Life Teen Retreat Brings Young People Together

FAIRMOUNT — Over 100 teens from parishes throughout the diocese gathered for a retreat held at Holy Family Church in Syracuse on Jan. 14 through Jan. 16. Sister Mary Eileen Jewell, PVMI, of St. John the Baptist Parish in Rome, led the retreat. She is the LIFETEEN/ Youth Minister at St. John the Baptist Church. The purpose of the retreat was to provide another weekend retreat opportunity for the teens six months after the Steubenville High School Youth Conference that was held in Attleboro, Mass. After attending the Steubenville conference, Carly Montroy, a parishioner of Holy Family Church in Syracuse, decided to attend the LIFE TEEN retreat. “When I went to Steubenville last July, it was a lot of fun, and I figured this retreat would be fun too,” said Montroy. “I’ve really enjoyed mingling with the youth from other parishes.”

The teens came together to learn how to develop their own personal style of prayer and to strengthen their faith through participation in skits, singing, prayers, games, testimonies and a Passion dramatization. Shelly Terzolo, Interim Youth Minister at Holy Family, was present and she explained that at the retreat, the youth were exposed to many kinds of prayer, including the use of Scripture, the Rosary and meditation. She added that the theme of the retreat, “Thirsty for Living Water”, means that we are thirsty for a relationship with and God is thirsty for a relationship with His people .

LIFE TEEN is an international program designed to lead teens closer to Christ by providing resources and training that encourage vibrant Eucharistic celebrations and opportunities for teens to grow in their faith. Weekly LIFE TEEN Masses are a resource that is designed to enable teens to experience the depths of God’s love through the Word, the teen community and the Eucharist. All teens are welcome to enjoy the Mass as a family in order to experience more intimately the Eucharistic celebration. Following the Mass, the pastor, youth minister and core members lead the teens deeper into their Catholic faith in the LIFE Night experience. These two resources are offered weekly at Holy Family Church in Syracuse, St. Matthew’s Church in East Syracuse, St. Mary’s Church in Cleveland and St. John the Baptist Church in Rome. Teens grow as a faith community, increasing in the understanding of what it means to be young and Catholic in today’s world.

Father (now Monsignor) Dale Fushek founded LIFE TEEN in 1985 in Mesa, Ariz. Father Dale was concerned about the numbers of teens who were receiving the sacraments, but not continuing in the faith. The teens he worked with at the time were telling him that they did not feel welcomed in church. Many of the presentations at the retreat were staged in the gym of Holy Family School. The stage was decorated with multi-colored Christmas lights and held a large waterfall prop. The four scenes of the skit that were performed throughout the weekend culminated at the waterfall prop. The skit involved being stranded in the desert and searching for water, praying for God’s help. The characters in the skit finally received God’s help when they reached the waterfall.

Brittany Harvey, a parishioner of St. John the Baptist Church in Rome, was an actress in the skit. She likes to use her talents to help others in their faith journey. She has been a LIFE TEEN member for one and a half years. “I love coming to the retreats,” said Brittany. “It brings me closer to God and strengthens my faith.” The retreat continued with Father Richard Prior, pastor of Holy Family Church, speaking to the teens about the importance of having their hearts and minds open to listen to God after asking Him for his guidance. Father Prior assured the teens that God will respond if they pray. Sister Mary Eileen then explained how to meditate using Scripture. She emphasized the importance of scheduling time for prayer. “Your relationship with God will deepen,” said Sister Mary Eileen. “Your life will get better. There’s no better friend than the Lord.”

Eleven teens from Holy Family Church performed a very moving dramatization of the Passion of the Christ movie. Santino Lauricella, a parishioner of St. John the Baptist Church in Rome, said that the Passion of the Christ play was his favorite part of the retreat. “It’s powerful, like the movie,” remarked Santino.

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