From July 10-12, twenty-six young men gathered for a retreat called CRUX (Latin for “cross”) which focused on the theme of Christian discipleship in the Gospel, “Come Follow Me!” The young men will soon return to school in 6th-8th grades, and they came together from many different cities across our diocese including Lafayette, Kokomo, Monticello, Frankfort, Zionsville, Carmel and Fishers.
The retreat was sponsored by the Office for Vocations, and it was planned by seminarian Matthew Spencer from Lafayette. For the last few years, planning the CRUX retreat has been the responsibility of one or two seminarians who coordinate some of the remote preparations along with the Vocations Director during the school year and then focus intensely on the immediate plans as their summer pastoral assignment.
The seminarian in charge of planning the retreat gets significant administrative experience which adds to the formative skills needed for priestly ministry in parish life. It is also a great experience for a good number of other seminarians who help to transform the plans into a reality through the retreat. This year I joined eight of our seminarians to assist them during the retreat by celebrating Masses, hearing confessions, leading opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration, visiting with the young men and playing in many of their activities.
This year the retreat was held at Oakbrook Valley Camp about nine miles west of Kokomo, a sprawling facility of 60 acres along the Wildcat Creek. This facility was a great discovery for us during the planning stage for the retreat, and it held even more potential than we were able to utilize.
During the retreat, in addition to times of prayer and learning about the lives of the saints, the young men had great opportunities to engage in many other activities. In four teams (named after St. Sebastian, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Tarcisius and Blessed John Paul II) the young men enjoyed many rounds of dodge ball, an archery competition and an ultimate capture the flag war that included building forts out of straw bales. To cool off they were able to play in the Wildcat Creek which, despite the current drought, actually had a good amount of water in it!
As a special motivational speaker, they were privileged to have a visit and presentation from Major Jim Calabro of the Kokomo Police Department who is a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Kokomo. He shared the story of his life with the young men, about the struggles that he had while he was growing up, some of the ways that he lost his way in life, and especially about how he turned his life around with God’s help. He is now second in command on the Kokomo Police Force, and his faith is well-founded. He is an active parishioner at St. Patrick Parish, and in many ways he can be a motivating example for all of us!
Though we were only together less than 48 hours, the CRUX retreat brought much opportunity for these young men to grow personally and collectively in their faith, their fraternity and their experience of adventure! They met new friends, prayed for each other and their families and friends, and they listened to the Gospel message from the witness of the seminarians.
CRUX is just as beneficial for the seminarians who assisted with planning and executing it. They are able to witness to their own faith and their own story of responding to Jesus’ call to discipleship. They get practical experience to grow in their skills of leadership, pastoral ministry, organization, conflict resolution, planning and communication. It is an important component of how our seminarians are preparing for priestly ministry in our parishes. We hope that their presence and service might also be a small seed that God plants in the hearts of the young men who attend CRUX. Maybe in a few years one of those young men will return to CRUX as a seminarian and continue to pass on what has been handed down to them. May God’s will be done.