Greetings from Minnesota everyone! We’ve traveled over 5,000 miles during the past few months and our time on the road has been filled with incredible experiences at each one of our over 40 retreats and each person we meet reveals something about God to us.
Some retreats are particularly memorable. One of these was a retreat for 141 sixth and seventh graders. We knew from the start this would be a memorable retreat– how could such a large group of energetic middle schoolers not stick out in your mind? But it soon became clear to us that this was a special group. From the moment they came into the gym, they began to open up and invest. They channeled their energy into investing in the retreat, and between them and the team we were able to build off each other’s energy really well. During small group time, it became even more clear how much the Holy Spirit was at work in the group. Many of the retreatants had been through a lot of hurt in their lives, and it was so beautiful to see how open they were to the love God wanted to speak into their hearts. All of this came to fruition during the time of prayer ministry. I don’t know if there are words that can describe how incredible it was to be able to see the Holy Spirit so clearly at work. At the end of the retreat, we had an opportunity for the youth to get up and share their retreat experiences. A common theme was how impactful prayer ministry had been. One quiet girl shared how much she had encountered the love of God through the retreat even though she didn’t know what to expect going in, another girl shared about the comfort she’d experienced in mourning her mom’s death, and one boy shared about how he learned so much about his Catholic faith by reading a YOUCAT that was sitting with the Bibles for prayer ministry. So many of the retreatants had retreat experiences that they wanted to share that we unfortunately didn’t even have time to hear them all. But they know, and God knows, and we could clearly see the work the Holy Spirit accomplished. That retreat was such a clear reminder of why we do what we do.
As we travel, we have the special opportunity to stay with host families in their homes. It’s crazy how God uses these generous people to provide for our needs. One morning, one of the men on our team chipped his tooth at breakfast. We travelled to a different state that day, and when he met his host father for that location, it just so happened that he was a dentist! He took a look at his tooth, and offered to fix it. He not only took care of that tooth, but did some other dental work as well. And the most amazing part? He did this all for free. In addition to the material needs the Lord provides for us through host families, he also provides for us spiritually. Joe and Mary from Pennsylvania hold a special place in our team’s heart. They have hosted us twice, and both times we’ve been so inspired by the ways they share their faith, especially hearing Mary’s conversion story. The second time we stayed with them, we stayed at their lake house and because we didn’t have a retreat, we got to spend an entire day there. Mary did everything she could to make our visit a retreat for us. We went to Mass and then spent the day sharing the ways God has worked in our lives, having fun together, and praising the Lord together. It was definitely a time of renewed zeal.
One of the most difficult parts of this ministry is knowing that most encounters we have with people are only for a short time, whether it’s a few hours at a retreat or a night or two at a host home. But our consolation is in our union with them as fellow members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and we hope and pray that someday, we’ll have a glorious reunion with all of them in heaven.