Retreat teaches about faith and sex

By  Anna-Therese Pierlot, Youth Speak News
  • March 9, 2009
{mosimage}Summerside, P.E.I. - Twenty young men and women from across Prince Edward Island gathered at the Marguerite Bourgeoys Centre in Summerside for a youth retreat focusing on the messages of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

The Feb. 6-8 retreat was organized by Greg Herbert, Debbie Bulger and Monique Perry, all members of Right to Life, who used video sessions from a widespread program called “Theology of the Body for Teens.” The program discusses and simplifies the concepts from John Paul II’s original teachings to help participants understand that God created humans out of love and for love, for example, and that their bodies make this call to love visible just as sacraments make spiritual truths visible.

The topics led to small group discussion where participants could relate the issues discussed to their daily lives. To many, the concepts of Theology of the Body were a welcome breath of fresh air, practically unheard of in secular society. Even some of the volunteer group leaders felt they were “learning something brand new” over the weekend.

Karen Brown, a Grade 11 student, said it was refreshing to talk about sex and the body in a holy context.

“This retreat has just been awesome,” Brown said.

A common comment from youth at the retreat was how sex- driven modern culture has become and they shared their own experiences from high school or university.

“This weekend has just been so refreshing,” said Nicholas Pierlot, 15. “So different from the negative portrayal of sex and the body that we see all around us in secular society.”

Sessions were divided up by icebreakers. A few “Olympic” events such as blindfolded basketball were all it took to melt the ice and send outbursts of laughter rippling through the halls at the centre. Meals were preceded by equally amusing forms of grace, ranging from the “Superman Grace” to “We Will, We Will Praise You,” accompanied by stomps and clapping. Talented young guitarists consistently led the retreat members in popular worship songs before sessions or during moments of free time.

The movie Bella was also shown as a portrayal of how real love gives, not takes. In the film a young man does all he can to help a young pregnant woman considering abortion, displaying real love by providing unselfish support for her and respecting her dignity. 

Fr. Greg Conway from Sacred Heart parish in Alberton, P.E.I., was also present to read and speak on the parable of the prodigal son, the theme being God’s forgiveness.

“Unlike the older brother, God our father is never angry but only happy to see us come back to him,” Conway said. “He doesn’t hold our sins against us; He just wants to heal us.”

Confessions and an hour of eucharistic adoration followed to give retreat members time for personal prayer and reflection. An evening Mass was followed by the rosary, with a Sunday Mass at St. Paul’s Church.

This retreat was the first of what organizers hope will be an annual or even semi-annual event on P.E.I.

(Pierlot, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Morell Regional High School in Morell, P.E.I.)

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