The spiritual energy of youth can be a powerful thing to witness. This Spring, it was alive and well at Seton Hall University.
The day began with a spirited talk by Michael Shea, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry and Retreats at Paramus Catholic. The purpose of the retreat, Shea announced, was to discover God and to have fun through the skills of teens committed to the quest for God, meaning and joy. Demonstrating Paramus Catholic's unique ministerial philosophy of letting students talk to students, he then introduced Patti Corbo, senior captain of the student team he assembled.
As Corbo introduced her fellow team leaders, the theme from Rocky filled the room, creating a powerful concoction of sound and energy that infused the rest of the day's activities. She then explained the retreat's logo, a track of footsteps between a cloud-hidden sun and the earth, symbolizing our journey toward and search for God.
The morning's main event was a series of skits on Jesus' parables. Known to many as “The Everything Skit,” this moving performance conveyed God's nurturing love for a soul and the destructive forces that try to destroy her spirit and tempt her away from Him. But God's love breaks through and whisks her from their clutches back into His loving embrace. This powerful compilation of themes in the parables of The Sower and The Prodigal Son moved many in the audience who recognized its message within their own lives.
Compelling witness talks followed. The first, given by student Matt Kyle, equated teenage spiritual confusion and redemption with the ups and downs of driving. “It's hard, in our weakest moments, when we experience pain and sorrow, to believe that God is always there,” Kyle said, “but He is, ready to take the pain away and to drive us in the right direction.” Corbo spoke next, raising the question of where one can find God. She urged, “Talk the talk and walk the walk, knowing God is always there to watch you, to guide you, through the darkest of your days and the brightest of them, too. And when you fall, remember He's right there to help you back up.”
In the afternoon, the team screened clips from such popular films as The Dark Knight, Romero and Superman, which reinforced the principles that action defines character, that redemption is available to all, that real heroes are needed in the Church and that we all must answer the call to heroism by being sensitive to the needs of our neighbors. A clip of a Liberty Mutual advertisement also was used to demonstrate how responsible neighborliness can transform lives.
Greg Glazov, Coordinator of the Institute's Great Spiritual Books program, considered the retreat a great success. “It was certainly a presentation that I would have liked to have shared with my own teenage children,” said Glazov. “Much thanks must be expressed to the Institute staff, especially to Matt Higgins, Graduate Assistant, and to Andy Saunders, Coordinator of Programs, for their unstinting organizing efforts that ensured the retreat's success.” He added that the event could pave the way for additional partnerships with Paramus Catholic.
Shea enthusiastically agreed with Glazov. “Seton Hall is a venue where there are no barriers or rivalries, where all of our students can come together and worship and be proud to be Catholic,” Shea said. “I would love to host future events at the University so that our students can see that faith is something they can take with them as they transition from high school to college and beyond, so that they know that no matter where they are, which path they follow or what calling they pursue, there's a place for them.”
Added Corbo: “Days after the retreat, when we were all back in school, you could still feel the buzz and energy from the students. They were genuinely excited, and they're already looking forward to doing something like this again.”