Young Adults retreat to an encounter with Jesus

North Texas Catholic
(Mar 7, 2023) Local

Victoria Ramon at podium

Victoria Ramon, diocesan director of youth, young adult, and campus ministry, leads one of the sessions at the Young Adult Lenten Retreat at St. Ann Church in Burleson on March 4, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

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BURLESON — More than 75 young adults in the diocese hit pause on the activities of school, work, and recreation to encounter Jesus in three familiar stories from the Gospel of John at the diocesan Young Adult Ministry Lenten retreat.

On Saturday, March 4, the diocese hosted the event at St. Ann Parish in Burleson — the first Young Adult Ministry retreat since COVID-19 halted large gatherings in 2020. Victoria Ramon, director of youth, young adult, and campus ministries for the diocese, said the Lenten retreat builds awareness that “we are not alone on our journey towards heaven. We are meant to journey in community.”

Through a choice of English or Spanish reflections, the young adults contemplated the person of Jesus in three stories: the Samaritan woman at the well, the healing of the man born blind, and the resurrection of Lazarus.

Ramon explained the stories provide insight into who Christ is and how to enter into intimacy with Him.

The day began with Mass at the parish, and Father Reehan Antony, SAC, pastor of St. Ann, was impressed by the many young adults who left their homes early to be at Mass by 7:30 a.m.

Their presence, he said, showed “that kind of commitment, dedication from young people who are thirsting for God. It’s inspiring for me.”

Kase Pennartz and a few others from Tarleton Catholic Campus Ministry left Stephenville at 6 a.m. to arrive at the parish in time for Mass.

Pennartz, an exercise science graduate student, considered skipping the retreat because he had just returned from a research symposium in Galveston late Friday night. Although he keeps a demanding schedule of academic work and teaching confirmation classes at nearby St. Brendan Parish, he decided to attend the retreat and make time to “allow Christ to love me and reciprocate that love back to Him.”

Ramon opened the English session with a discussion on the Samaritan woman at the well, who encountered Jesus, entered into a relationship with Him, believed in His promises, then went to tell others about Him — the same path we are invited to follow.

“Jesus awaits us at the well,” she said, “so that we can drink of the Holy Spirit. The well for us, as Christians, is first and foremost Scripture and the sacraments.”

Deacon Jesus Humberto Serrano, from St. Thomas the Apostle in Fort Worth, reflected on the same reading in Spanish. He encouraged the young adults to “be open. Ask to get the living water. He’s willing to give living water at any time. Ask, and Jesus will do the rest.”

Then, like the Samaritan woman, spread the Good News at home, at work, and everywhere, he said.

Retreatant Esmeralda Turcios laughs during a talk led by Father Reehan Soosai Antony, SAC, at the Young Adult Lenten Retreat March 4, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Esmerelda Turcios brought others to encounter Jesus even before she heard the reflection on the Samaritan woman. The 24-year-old parishioner at St. Ann invited her sister and a friend to attend the retreat with her.

Turcios usually works on Saturdays but requested the day off “to get closer to God. During Lent, it’s a good time to reflect. I’ll gain more here than by being at work,” she said.

A common theme throughout the three reflections was the opportunity to be touched by Jesus in the sacramental life of the Church.

Jeff Hedglen, the director of campus ministry for the University Catholic Community at University of Texas at Arlington, explained the symbolism of the healing of the blind man, who regains his sight after Jesus smears clay on his eyes that He made from dirt and His spit and sends the man to wash in a pool.

We are all spiritually blind, said Hedglen, until we are touched by the incarnate Jesus. In this story, the dirt and saliva represent Jesus’ humanity and divinity. The pool where the man washes off the clay, then regains his sight, symbolizes the waters of baptism.

Each time we encounter Jesus in the sacraments, especially reconciliation and the Eucharist, we put ourselves in the position to encounter God, the healer, who can remove our self-centered blindness and restore our sight so we see with the sacrificial love of God, said Hedglen.

The retreat concluded with a reflection on the raising of Lazarus, during which Fr. Antony shared his personal story of clinging to a tree during a tsunami.

He hoped to communicate to the young adults that life isn’t the same after an encounter with the Lord and to “do my part, in a little way, to give them direction to live their faith in a meaningful way.”

Young adults, Ramon has observed, carry the burden of making weighty decisions in their 20s and 30s about education, career, marriage, and finances.

The pressures are lightened by the companionship of others and the teachings and sacraments offered by the Church.

“Coming to these sorts of events where you’re given the chance to take a break, and breathe, and sit with our Lord — that’s really important,” she said. “You also come to realize that our faith journey is not just one and done. I can begin again every single day. Every single moment.”

Young Adult Ministry, retreat, Lent, Diocese of Fort Worth, Catholic, trending-english