August 4, 2013
Focus on faith, fellowship at two retreats for young men
By Caroline B. Mooney (The Catholic Moment)
RUSSIAVILLE — Back-to-back retreats held at a 60-acre camp offered young men a chance for spiritual growth and fraternal bonding with each other, seminarians, priests and deacons of the diocese.
“I thought it was fun being out here in nature — God’s creation,” said Gabe Klinker, 12, of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Lafayette.
“I really wanted to come renew my relationship with Christ. It was cool to have Mass in the amphitheater and when we processed with the monstrance outside in nature, it was very peaceful and calm. It was still so I could just focus on God with no distractions.”
Oakbrook Valley Camp in rural Kokomo was home to 80 sixth- through eighth-grade boys from 18 parishes for the fourth annual CRUX retreat July 16-18, and 45 high school-age JOUST retreatants from July 19-21. The young men slept under a tent, went canoeing, hiking, learned archery and played football, ultimate Frisbee and dodge ball. They spent time in prayer and attended Mass and reconciliation.
CRUX (Latin for cross), was open to all young men, while the JOUST retreat was open to members of the Knights of the Holy Temple, which has chapters at eight parishes. The Knights, which began in the diocese in 1999, serve Mass and work in their parishes and communities.
Father David Hasser, diocesan director of vocations, said the retreats give the vocations office a way to establish contact and a real presence with young men.
“This is a great way to plant seeds,” he said. “The retreats are not all about vocations to the priesthood – it’s about young men becoming who they were created to be. We talk about the heroes God calls them to be and help them reach for God’s grace through sacraments and prayer.
“JOUST is the premier event for the Knights of the Holy Temple, allowing members to meet young men from other chapters,” Father Hasser said. “Although the chapters are autonomous, they are all following the same path. Their fraternal bonding is fruitful, especially as they graduate high school. Often they end up together at college and have their spiritual and human support amidst the challenges of college life.”
“We are trying to instill in these young men an opportunity to encounter Christ in a real way,” said seminarian Derek Aaron, retreat coordinator. “The main goal was to have them seek to be good, holy Catholic gentleman by being immersed in God’s creation and the sacraments.”
At CRUX, boys were randomly placed in groups in order to meet other boys and to encounter and have a God experience on their own. Each group wrote full value contracts after discussing what they could strive for and how they could better themselves.
Each CRUX group was named for a different male saint. Members learned about their patron and then made a flag, which was carried at all times as a standard to show pride in their Christian identity.
CRUX and JOUST offered Eucharistic adoration and Eucharistic processions. Young men prayed the Stations of the Cross in the woods, picking out logs to carry on their shoulders to bear the wood of the cross.
“They don’t pick little twigs – they pick hefty logs,” Aaron said. “These boys want to become men, and by becoming men they strive for greatness. When they strive for greatness in activities, we want to parallel how we can strive for greatness in a relationship with our Lord.
“Each activity was a chance to grow spiritually,” he said. “For instance, in archery, we tried to instill good form, how to aim for and focus on a target. Afterward, we would reflect on the activity, relating it to our spiritual life. With archery, we related a bull’s eye to keeping your eye on Christ. If your aim is off, it is like not paying attention to your actions and that can lead to sin.”
“The boys at CRUX can find their Christian identity and know that God loves them and will be always there when you need help,” said Miles Newkirk, a seminarian leader from St. Maria Goretti, Westfield.
“The point of the retreat is to help them grow in relationship with Christ,” said seminarian Jimmy O’Connor, from St. Joan of Arc, Kokomo. “I really hope we connected with the boys and made that happen. We also want them to have a good time and meet some new people. Ultimately, though, we want to show them the next step.”
“Everyone is so nice, and you can go further in your faith here,” said Drew Fitzgerald, 12, of St. Patrick Parish, Kokomo. “I came here and instantly loved it. And last year, no one could hit me in dodge ball.”
Jonah Lyons, 13, of St. Maria Goretti Parish, Westfield, said he enjoyed “meeting new people who share your faith, and it’s fun to hang out with the seminarians.”
Conner Knipp, 12, from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Carmel, enjoyed hiking, being outdoors and looked forward to canoeing. “It’s a very faith-filled atmosphere with Mass every night and our group prayers every day,” he said.
At the JOUST retreat, Aaron said, “We ask God to guide the young men to what he wants for them, not what they want for themselves. They adhere to an honor code that states they are always conscience of who they are as Catholic gentlemen and of the example they set for others. We must never underestimate the power we have as witnesses to Jesus Christ.”
Each JOUST chapter has male parishioners who serve as chaperones or “confreres”, and mentor the young men.
Tom Lingafelter is a confrere at St. Alphonsus, Zionsville.
“These young men are the best,” he said. “They are what you want your next generation to be. To watch the kids work together spiritually is wonderful.”
“These kids are so much more spiritual than I was than I was at their age — all I thought about was cars and girls,” said Jim Spitznogle, a confrere from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. “It’s great to see how faithful the young men are. One group was playing ultimate Frisbee and they stopped for a spontaneous rosary – all their own idea. This is a great group of guys and has been a lot of fun.”
Ian Finley, 17, a high school junior from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Carmel, said he really enjoyed meeting guys from other Knights chapters and hanging out together.
“One of the best parts was a game of ultimate Frisbee that lasted until 11:30 p.m.,” he said. “Afterward, praying the rosary together was powerful.”
“This is a family that we can’t get anywhere else,” said Chris Ellington, 16, a junior from St. Maria Goretti. “We all become actual brothers , non-blood, but still brothers in the connection we can get. We have a lot of time where we’re allowed to be ourselves, and I don’t get that time anywhere else. This retreat has helped me in every aspect of my life, including my faith life.”
“The best thing about being a Knight is serving Mass, seeing and understanding what is going on during Mass,” said Mitch Witt, 15, a sophomore from St. Mary Cathedral, Lafayette. “At JOUST, we have great male bonding and pure fun. It’s been a great experience.”
“I think it’s fun seeing all the buys from other chapters here,” said Jacob Fox, 15, a high school freshman from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Carmel. “It’s cool to be around guys who share the same faith and meet a lot of seminarians.”