SASKATOON — Ten youth recently took part in the first Search retreat to be held in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon for many years.
An intense weekend of spiritual growth, Search challenges high-school-aged youth to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and to make a conscious, adult commitment to their Catholic faith, explained diocesan youth ministry co-ordinator Colm Leyne, who worked with a local group of volunteers and Search alumni to revive the program.
Consisting of talks, music, prayer, spiritual direction, fellowship, and sacraments, the weekend encourages youth to “Search for Christian maturity.” This is accomplished by having the searchers come to know themselves, others, and God in a more loving and personal way. Like similar experiences such as Cursillo or a Live-In retreat, the Search weekend is an experience of love, described Leyne.
“Some of the youth were definitely hesitant when they came Friday night,” he said, but by Saturday evening participants from across the diocese had bonded as a group and were filled with enthusiasm about the retreat held April 17-19 at Bishop James Mahoney High School and St. Anne’s Parish in Saskatoon.
Search team member Adriana Viale said the experience was phenomenal for the young participants and for the entire team. “We can see the real work that God has done through everything that happened this weekend,” she said. “They really experienced God’s love through each other. It was incredible to see how they flourished.”
The retreat wound up with a reflection on “where to go from here,” Vale said, describing how participants choose several concrete actions to pursue, as a way to continue to strengthen their faith in the days ahead. “They have an action plan,” she said.
“Whether they just made an adult commitment, or a new commitment — this is going to be a monumental part of their faith journey,” she predicted.
Followup is important, added Leyne, saying that team members will stay connected with Search participants. “This is a mountain top experience, but we’re not just going to just say go back to the valley,” he said. “There will be opportunities to connect, and to follow up.”
During a closing mass with the weekend’s spiritual director, Rev. Modestus Ngwu, on April 19, families joined Search participants and the Search team to celebrate. Searchers received a lighted candle and a cross, before being sent forth to live their faith in the world.
“This was the best weekend of my life,” said participant Cascilla Christopher. “It was way better than I expected. I thought it was going to be just sitting around and talking about God. But it was way more than that.” She spoke about the power of Search in interacting together as a community, “meeting other people who are like minded, and also searching.”
Another participant, Jazmine Gamboa, said the weekend was filled with surprises — and fun. “I got to meet new people and have a new experience,” she said. “By going to Search, you also get to create a better relationship with God.”
Agatha Kiarie said the experience was great, with touching moments that drew her closer to God.
“It was fantastic,” said Kohen Volk. “I’d recommend it to everybody. I loved it.”
The impact of the weekend surprised some participants, who weren’t expecting such a positive experience. For anyone considering Search, participant Tanner Sieben said he would highly recommend it: “Just trust that it’s going to be a really fun time — it was great, a very good experience.”
Plans are underway for the next Search retreat weekend in the diocese, which will possibly be offered in the autumn of 2015.