Retreat draws Maritime youth

By  Lauren Van Vliet, Youth Speak News
  • November 9, 2007

skit.jpgAMHERST, N.S. - Going to a Raising up an Army youth retreat is a typical activity for cousins Karyn and Hannah Brown, students at Three Oaks Senior High in Summerside, P.E.I. They have each attended six retreats, the most recent one on Oct. 19-21 at Between the Hearts Renewal Centre in Amherst, N.S.

{sidebar id=1}“It started with my older sister and her friends. When we became old enough no one wanted to (go), but I was always told that it was a blast,” Karyn said about going to her first conference.

On average the retreat draws between 80 and 130 youth, 14 years old and older, from across the Maritime provinces. Raising up an Army began in 1999 as a youth spin-off of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Atlantic Canada retreat. The youth retreat only took place once a year in the summer until the Queen of Peace Prayer Group from Saint John, N.B., began planning two retreats a year, in October and May. Each retreat has a different theme: vocations, the spiritual life of the church, the sacraments and Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

“There are usually seven of us that go over from our parishes, St. Patrick’s and Immaculate Conception and two or three from Charlottetown,” Hannah said.

Some of the highlights from the past retreats they attended are the five-hour eucharistic adoration, guest speakers, music and drama.

“Usually when people think of teenagers they don’t think they would want to go to church or spend five hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament. But this is like 40 to 80 boys and girls sitting completely overwhelmed,” Karyn said.

“Five emotional hours,” Hannah added.

Guest speakers are usually a priest or a bishop, who give a teaching related to the retreat’s theme. Past guest speakers have included Fr. Tim Devine, a Companion of the Cross priest, and most recently Fr. Patrick O’Neill.

“Everyone that ever talked at the retreat knew what they were talking about — their faith,” Hannah said.

The dramas and music are performed by the Queen of Peace Prayer Group.

“I almost cried,” Hannah said about one of the skits this year. “It challenges us to be who we want to be.”

The skit was performed to the song “This is Your Life” by Christian rock band Switchfoot. It showed many different scenarios in the lives of teens and challenged the participants to live their faith.

“Raising up an Army refreshes your spiritual hygiene. People wash their faces everyday, why not pray?” Karyn said about how she feels when she leaves the conference. “We really get to come back to God.”

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(Van Vliet, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Three Oaks Senior High in Summerside, P.E.I.)

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