Paramus Catholic Youth Reflect on Finding God During Retreat at Seton Hall University
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ (06/29/2009)(readMedia)-- The spiritual energy of youth can be a powerful thing to witness. On May 9, 2009, it was alive and well at Seton Hall University.
That day, 50 teenage youth - hailing primarily from Paramus Catholic High School - along with 13 student leaders visited the Seton Hall campus for "Where Is God?," the first high school retreat prepared by the Institute for Christian Spirituality and Paramus Catholic's youth ministry team. Stemming from Paramus Catholic's association with the Institute's high school advisory board, the retreat featured music, theatrical mimes of the parables, faith sharing and the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.
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."
About the Institute for Christian Spirituality
Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology started the Institute for Christian Spirituality in order to provide a center where those already in ministry, or those considering a vocation to ministry, may obtain a solid foundation in their faith, learn effective skills in pastoral ministry and leadership and be given tools for discernment and spiritual growth.
Taking its charge from 2 Timothy 1:6, "I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God within you....," all four of the Institute's "Making Connections" initiatives are designed to call, inspire, train and sustain excellent pastoral ministry.
About Seton Hall University
For over 150 years, Seton Hall University has been a catalyst for leadership, developing the whole student - mind, heart and spirit. Seton Hall combines the resources of a large university with the personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Its attractive suburban campus is only 14 miles by train, bus or car to New York City, with the wealth of employment, internship, cultural and entertainment opportunities the city offers. Seton Hall is a Catholic university that embraces students of all races and religions, challenging each to better the world through integrity, compassion and a commitment to serving others. For more information, see www.shu.edu
About Paramus Catholic High School
Founded in 1965 by Archbishop Thomas A. Boland, for its first 30 years, Paramus Catholic encompassed separate boys' and girls' schools under the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station. The schools were unified in 1995. Since l998, the school has experienced a decade of sustained growth. Enrollment has increased from 838 to a projected 1,575 for September 2009. This has brought PC to the position of the largest private school in New Jersey and one of about 10 of the largest Catholic schools in the United States. Recent incoming classes of 400 have been selected from a pool averaging over l,700 applicants per year. The student body comes from about 120 different towns throughout northeastern New Jersey and Rockland County, New York. There are 124 course offerings, including 18 of Advanced Placement level. The school features a very active campus ministry program including vibrant retreat, community service and worship programs.