“Be who God created you to be, and you will set the world on Fire!!!” –St. Catherine of Siena
As we drove into St. Patrick Retreat Center in the Catskills of Upstate New York, I could see the flags blowing in the wind, the welcome sign hanging proudly, and all the religious sisters and brothers gathered to welcome all who arrived. The 2018 Youth Festival had begun.
I was coming from Philadelphia with a small group from our parish of St. Veronica and St. Hugh. The youth are from the city and have never known life outside of it, so seeing all of the religious, all of the youth and the grass and open field, was a very different experience for them. At first, they did not know how to react.
We began the evening with some sports outside, and then all the youth from each group gathered together and prayed Evening Prayer with the religious, finishing up with dinner afterwards. It was beautiful to see so many young people from all parts of the United States: Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC, Canada, and even Texas and California! They all came to the festival full of energy and openness to grow in love of Jesus Christ.
The next day began with morning grayer, which left an impact especially for my group of youth, because generally they do not have the opportunity to begin their day with prayer. Hopefully, this will be a help for them to form a new habit of prayer. Throughout the weekend, there were times for games and sports and also there were moments of formative talks. One of the talks was given by Fr. Rodrigo who served in Syria for the last 7 years. He told us about the mission and persecution there. He encouraged us all to pray hard for the Christians there and to pray for world peace. A chastity talk was given by Greg Sterns and all of the youth were fully engaged, and many were moved by his words.
Later in the afternoon, we participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of our Catholic Faith, and then there was a Rosary procession with everyone following behind the statue of our Blessed Mother. After the Rosary there was time for Eucharistic Adoration and confessions. This moment was definitely a beautiful grace from God. We recall Jesus’ words: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30) A lot of these youth come from difficult situations at home and at school; many do not have united families, in their neighborhoods there are shootings, robberies, and drugs. Often they do not know what true love is. But at this moment they are given the opportunity to kneel in front of Love Himself. Of course I do not know what they were saying to Him, but I firmly believe that He was showering His love upon each one of His little children. After Benediction, we watched an entertaining video made by the seminarians and ended the night with a bonfire.
We finished the youth festival the next day with another talk by Greg Sterns on to the topic of abortion, followed by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Then we all packed up our bags and began departing. Some of my youth said that they did not want to leave, and they wanted to come back next year. This was a clear sign to me that God was working in their souls over the weekend. As missionaries and Religious, we must plant the seed and water it, knowing that God is the One who makes it grow.
There were hopefully many seeds panted at this youth festival. With much prayer and sacrifice, we have to water them, asking God to make these seeds bear fruit. Let us give thanks for the many benefits we have received and continue to pray for the purity and sanctification of all young people!
In His Holy Name,
Sr. Mary Faithful Virgin
SSVM Missionary, St. Veronica’s Parish