April 29, 2022

Retreat gives young adults the opportunity to embrace the greatest longings of life

Young adults from the archdiocese show their joy—and their jumping ability—during a spontaneous moment at the archdiocesan young adult retreat on April 3, a weekend retreat that took place at the Mount Saint Francis Center for Spirituality in southern Indiana. The group includes Brendan White, left, Anna Jirgal, Emily Burnham, Taylor Morrone, Matt Morrone and Emily Mastronicola. (Submitted photo)

Young adults from the archdiocese show their joy—and their jumping ability—during a spontaneous moment at the archdiocesan young adult retreat on April 3, a weekend retreat that took place at the Mount Saint Francis Center for Spirituality in southern Indiana. The group includes Brendan White, left, Anna Jirgal, Emily Burnham, Taylor Morrone, Matt Morrone and Emily Mastronicola. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Amazing moments happened during that weekend.

A young woman was moved to tears because for the first time in her life she heard God speak to her so clearly.

A first-time expectant mother who had endured constant nausea for the first 22 weeks of her pregnancy asked for physical healing from God—and hasn’t been sick since then, a period of a month.

Another woman listened to her young adult peers talk about the wounds in their lives, the confusion in their lives—and she offered them the wisdom she has gained from her own wounds and confusion: that God loves you no matter what choices you make, and his love for you never wavers.

All these transformative moments—and more—occurred during the archdiocese’s young adult retreat on the weekend of April 1-3, a retreat that took place at the Mount Saint Francis Center for Spirituality in southern Indiana.

For the 55 people who were part of it, the retreat weekend offered the opportunity to focus on two of the great longings in the lives of young adults.

A breakfast revelation at Waffle House

“They’re longing for community and purpose,” says Sean Hussey, the director of the archdiocese’s Young Adult and College Campus Ministry that led the retreat. “It’s the deepest longing of our hearts to be loved and to love—to be vulnerable and for that vulnerability to be received with love and acceptance. They feel a sense of needing community. And there’s a unique kind of community among believers. People want to connect.

“And more than that, people want purpose—to see that their life has inherent meaning, and what they’re doing has inherent meaning. I think ultimately that is a search for God. People are seeking a sense of real purpose, and God gives that to us.”

With a smile, Hussey also noted that the Holy Spirit helped give the members of the archdiocese’s young adult ministry team the theme for this year’s retreat. That divine assistance came as the team met for breakfast at a Waffle House restaurant, a breakfast that included pancakes and grits.

The essence of that retreat theme—“Interior Freedom”—is shared by Meagan Morrisey, associate director of the archdiocese’s Young Adult and College Campus Ministry.

“This theme sounded good to us, but you never know how it’s going to hit people and be relevant,” she says. “But it was very clear from the beginning that people really needed healing, and they needed the message of freedom in their life, that the Lord wants them to be free and it’s possible to experience freedom in their lives from their attachments, particularly to sin. I think a lot of people are living with sin in their lives. And it doesn’t have to be.”

The freedom that God offers is far different from the freedom that is often talked about in the secular culture, she says.

“God’s law actually gives you freedom. That’s a message that everybody needs to hear. In our society, no one wants to follow the rules, everyone wants to do their own thing. I’m speaking in generalities, but that creates a selfishness that actually turns people more and more inward, instead of a freedom to actually love other people and live their life to the fullest.”

The search for the freedom and fullness of life that God offers was on display during the retreat.

‘A really beautiful moment’

“We had an optional holy hour in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday where people could spend an hour in silent prayer. It was almost packed every day,” Morrisey says. “It was just clear that people just needed that time of prayer. Over the weekend, we saw them keep opening up and being engaged more and more.”

The young adults’ willingness to share their vulnerabilities also flowed through the retreat.

“People have a lot of wounds in their lives, but they don’t know how to heal from that, they don’t know how to process that or maybe they don’t set aside time to work on those things,” says Emily Mastronicola, coordinator of events and volunteers for the archdiocese’s Young Adult and College Campus Ministry.

“So we were able to give people an entire weekend where they could be immersed in the sacraments, where they could talk to a priest, to explore those wounds and be healed from them.”

Part of that healing included what she describes as “a really beautiful moment”—when nearly everyone at the retreat took the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

“There’s always a great feeling of coming home when you do that, like the prodigal son,” Mastronicola says. “Just being able to surrender everything in your life and being able to come home and be with your Father, that’s everything.”

One of the talks that she gave during the weekend was on the theme of “surrendering” to God’s plan. She recalled a difficult time from her own life when she went on a four-day, silent retreat. At one point during that retreat, she says, she “heard the Lord speak to me” as she stood before a window and saw her reflection.

“He was telling me how beautiful I was,” she recalls. “What I was trying to explain in that surrender is that God loves you first. He doesn’t love you because of your job or who you’re dating. He loves those things about you, but first and foremost he loves you, no matter what choice you make. I encouraged people to look at their reflection that weekend and see how God sees them. To be able to remind people of their worth was just something really moving.”

‘The path to freedom’

Dominican Father Simon Felix Michalski had the same feeling as he served as a self-described “personal priest for the people at the retreat.” He provided spiritual coaching, heard their confessions and celebrated Mass with them.

“They’re folks who are post-college, who have new jobs, they’re newly married, they have new families,” he says. “They’re looking for ways to pray better, how to follow Jesus when you have children, how to grow in their spiritual life when they have all these other things going on in their lives.”

He also spent a lot of time during the weekend praying with them individually as they sought healing in their lives.

“I like to pray for the healing of people, to see how God works in people’s lives,” says Father Simon, associate pastor of St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington. “For people to name their wounds, to share their struggles, it’s very uplifting for the person being prayed for, and the person praying with them.”

The impact of such approaches during the retreat was often profound.

While trying to help fellow young adults move closer to God, Morrisey also asked for physical healing from God from the constant nausea she’s had during her first pregnancy.

“I’ve not had to take my nausea medicine since then,” she says.

Hussey recalls the conversation he had with a young woman after she had spent part of the retreat meditating on her relationship with God.

“She was so deeply moved, moved to tears,” he says. “She said that never in her whole life has she heard God speak to her so clearly as she did that day. That’s the hope. You’re trying to create an opportunity at a retreat.”

It’s an opportunity to discover a community of believers who accept and value you, an opportunity to find the purpose for your life—all by focusing on your relationship with God. That’s where to find the true freedom that he offers, Hussey says.

“Christ wants to give us more life and set us free. True freedom is found in not what I can do, or you can do for God, but what God has already done for you through the person of Jesus Christ—and how he wants to live in you.

“It’s that relationship with Christ that is the path to freedom.” †

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