Duc in Altum!: “Put Out Into the Deep”
By Stephanie Ricker
Reprinted from the March Spirit Newsletter
February held a great deal of significance for some of the young parishioners of St. Anne’s. Over three dozen high school sophomores gathered together the third weekend of February to attend a retreat at Camp Spencer Lake in Waupaca. This retreat, spanning the course of the entire weekend, brings these students one step closer to Confirmation. Organized by John Schmitt, Coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. Anne’s, the weekend events included guest speaker Rich Curran, Reconciliation, a special youth Mass in which Fr. Steve and Fr. Tom traveled to the retreat to celebrate, and multiple group sessions on faith sharing and the importance of God in everyday life. Students also had breaks in between, where they were able to socialize with new friends by utilizing Camp Spencer’s multiple facilities.
As a last minute addition to the small group of adults and parents who attended the retreat, I suddenly found myself in the position of Small Group Team Leader, sent to help guide these students as they explored their connection with God and the Church. As a parishioner of a small-town church where youth attendance at Mass is minimal, it was inspirational to see so many teenagers gathering together, celebrating Mass, and opening their hearts to the Lord and to their peers around them. At the conclusion of the retreat, I implored the students to write about the weekend, to share their experiences with parishioners of all ages. Several of their excerpts are included with this article, as well as a write-up by a student who had attended the retreat last year and came back this year as a Peer Leader.
“This weekend was fantastic. I met new people from different schools and with all different personalities. We had our own special mass that was amazing because it pertained to each of us on a teenage level. And then there was reconciliation. Nearly everyone cried because Father was so kind and patient as we confessed. We even had a professional guest speaker, Rich, who related to us in an incredible way. Free time was fun with all of the new friends we made. This weekend was full of learning and loving.” ~Janelle Giebel
“Coming into this retreat, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to be there, but as the weekend went on, my mindset changed. Through the fun activities, I made some new friends and also strengthened the bonds with old friends. Most importantly, my relationship with God was strengthened. I believe I am walking, well, riding on a bus, away from this experience as a better Christian and a better person. I also believe I’m speaking for more than just myself when I say that this weekend retreat was a truly memorable experience that I can carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank you to all who helped make it possible!” ~Sarah Jensen
“I was a participant in the 2011 confirmation retreat. I learned a lot that year about myself as a person, and what I had thought God was calling me to do. I grew and am still growing not only as a person, seeing as I am only a junior in high school, but also in my faith. When John asked me if I would like to come back to Spencer Lake this year and be a Peer Leader I was not only touched that he thought this was something I could do, but also that this would be a great experience. This time we have away from all the hustle and bustle of our lives in Wausau is such a great time for reflection inward on ourselves, and to figure out what we want out of our lives, and how we want God to be a part of them. Rich Curran, our guest speaker this year, stated some statistics about our lives as teens. An example of one of these statistics would be how 3 out of the 50 people at Spencer Lake have thought about or attempted to commit suicide. This statistic, along with the others about relationships and divorce and drugs, was eye opening to me. There are struggles we face in life and Rich talked to us about how God can help us through these things/situations if we just allow him to be a part of our lives. We learned to open up our hearts and minds to new possibilities, as well as meet and grow with friends. I feel that this year is just as good as last year was for me because it was a whole new experience with a new group of people. If asked in the future to attend and help with another retreat I would not hesitate to answer yes.” ~Calla Garner