Retreat makes faith real

By  Andrew Selvam, Youth Speak News
  • March 6, 2007
retreat kidsMISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Nicole Fernandez expected a huge emphasis on faith and to meet friends as one of 125 young people to attend the 12th annual Lasting Treasure’s weekend retreat at Philip Pocock Secondary School in Mississauga in early February. What she didn’t expect, like many others, was the confidence to be a future leader and insight into how to surrender herself to God.

“I felt supported (and) mad engaged in leadership as a result of all the youth participation,” said Fernandez, a Grade 12 student at St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Mississauga. “By surrendering yourself to Him, you leave all your selfish needs and let God shine through.”

Lasting Treasures is a three day retreat focused on empowering youth and young adults to embrace their faith and put it into action. It also attempts to expose the true treasures of the Catholic faith: the sacraments in which the Eucharist is front and centre and Mary, a role model of faith and humility.

This conference featured a live comedian, Pocock Idol, praise and worship, a meditation seminar, a rosary-making seminar, a nature walk, a chastity talk, powerful testimonies, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Mass.

Many youth are simply looking for a way to meet others with similar faith interests. Others have battled through drug addictions, depression and even the loss of loved ones and are now looking for a reason to live and come back to God.

Every year, the conference makes faith real by providing exciting speakers, inspiring skits and uplifting music. Several young people often experience true conversions from lives turned away from Christ to lives cupped in His full embrace.

“I feel revived, like I have a new and fresh start — a new man,” Jonathan Emmanuel, 15, said shortly after the retreat. He added that he felt spiritually stronger that he had the shadow of Christ protecting him.

Deacon Frank Sirianni is the visionary behind the Lasting Treasures retreat. He saw an outdoor retreat experience for young people with massive tents to stage activities. For the first eight years of its run, the retreat was held at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont. Some of the participants would spend a week walking to Martyrs’ Shrine and end off with the actual conference. Bus loads of young people came from all over Ontario to participate in the  weekend.

In its first year, Lasting Treasures was solely run by adults for young people. Now, many of its past participants run the conference, including Tony Sirianni and Emma Fedor who were masters of ceremonies for the entire weekend.

“People were more open this year and willing to express themselves with humility,” said Sirianni.

At the end of the weekend a young Grade 9 student issued a request to all her peers summing up her conversion experience: “Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with your life is your gift to God.”

The next Lasting Treasures retreat will be held in February 2008. If you’re a teacher or youth minister interested in co-ordinating a group to come to the retreat e-mail  Emma Fedor at info@lastingtreasures.ca.

(Selvam, 24, is a teacher at St. Edmund Campion Secondary School in Brampton, Ont.)


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