The Passionist Youth Retreat held 10th-13th July 2017 at Camp Rangi Woods, facilitated by Jo McDade the Passionist Youth Retreat Co-ordinator from Brisbane, was truly one to remember. Waking up to shouts of delight and the cry of “snow!!!!” on the last day. Seeing the thick snow, encasing everything. Cars, trees, the pathway and the people making snow angels in it! Hearing the haunting creaking and snapping of tree branches, and seeing mini avalanches of snow falling from the trees. This being my second Passionist Youth retreat, I thought I knew immediately what I’d be in for. During free time- the intense card and volleyball/spike games, laughter and constant chatter, smiles all around and music being blasted; whilst during the sessions- quiet reflection, open honesty and sharing, and the support and close bonds forged between your small group. However even then my expectations were surpassed on all levels (not only by the snow!), as we were guided to take a deeper look within ourselves, our relationship with others, our relationship with God, whilst also feeding off the buzz of being in a room surrounded by like-minded youth with strong faith and cheerful smiles.
The opportunity to be surrounded by people you don’t know or have any preconceptions of allowed each one of us to be our true selves around their love and support, and to let go of any of the masks we may usually wear. The normal nervousness and anxiety felt when in a strange environment was immediately quashed by the genuine warm and welcoming smiles and conversations with the leaders and other youth, amongst whom bonds were gradually strengthened during the four days. This culminated in the heartfelt liturgy on the last night, and the warm hugs shared by all of us in forgiveness and love for one another.
Reflecting on the Passionist Youth Retreat, people’s courage in being vulnerable and allowing each other to grow deeper in our shared faith was a huge achievement. However, the main thing that stood out for me was the amazing vibe and joyful atmosphere, with everyone participating and being open and honest, friendly, loving and supportive of one another. I can safely say, I felt that there was no-one in the room on the last night who would’ve felt sad or alone. I cannot stress enough the importance of coming on a retreat such as this to take a step back out of our busy lives and gain another perspective, whilst simultaneously growing in faith and fellowship with like-minded youth. This retreat is highly recommended to any person regardless of where they are in their faith journey, who wants to have an unforgettable time. I know that I was definitely sad to leave. But I am more hopeful and stronger in my faith knowing I have the support of this amazing group of people, and will be able to see them at future camps and retreats.
“On the day that started painfully early and vehemently cold. Commonly known as an early Winters morning in Hawkes Bay, Monday 10th of July, the teens from Napier packed into a school van, kindly donated by Sacred Heart College and overflowed into an Intercity coach then headed off on an adventure that resulted in us individually bonding with each other as well as an intrepid knowledge and understanding of who we are as human beings. We came from all over to congregate at a place called Camp Rangi Woods for the 2017 Passionist Youth Retreat. This was an amazing retreat where we actually took the time to put the distractions of social media, etc. away so that we could be free to look at ourselves not through an Instagram filter but through the truth. With the amazing help and guidance of our mentors, Jo and Tim, along with the support and love from our group leaders, the teenagers on this retreat had the opportunity to really understand their relationship with themselves, others and God. This was a journey for all of us – one where we cried, broke free from obstacles, let down masks, had fun, played in snow and reconnected with God. Amazing memories were cultivated from this retreat, whether from the amazing food courtesy of Katherine and Linda’s talents, the hilarious jokes, Paul’s guidance and superb job in ensuring our safety, insightful prayer sessions, cozy cabins or each individual person there who made an impact on me as they did for others, it’s safe to say that many memories were planted from this incredible 4 day experience that will stick with me for, hopefully, awhile yet.
Bridget Kelly-Lowe, C-YA (Catholic-Youth Alive), CPoN (Catholic Parish of Napier)”