Retreatants at a past Homewood retreat in the Victoria dicoese gather for a praise and worship session. The Feb. 4-5 retreat is going virtual once again because of pandemic restrictions. Photo courtesy Bonni Roset, Terri-Ann Wynans

Homewood retreat resilient in COVID era

By 
  • January 5, 2022

Bonni Roset has perennially witnessed powerful expressions of faith and fellowship at the Diocese of Victoria’s annual youth retreat over the past two decades.

Same goes for Terri-Ann Wynans, Roset’s long-time friend and fellow co-ordinator for youth and young adults with the diocese for more than a dozen years.

Even though the strict pandemic restrictions in British Columbia impeded the ability for this gathering for Grade 8-12 students to take place in person at Camp Homewood on Quadra Island like always, Roset and Wynans did not seriously entertain outright cancellation in February 2021.

“It was difficult to not be able to meet face-to-face, but we didn’t want to not offer anything,” said Wynans. “It is quite looked forward to by the kids.”

Ongoing pandemic restrictions is making for another virtual retreat in 2022. Just like last year, the FacetoFace Ministries Catholic evangelization organization out of Saskatchewan is capping attendance to 50 youth so that they can see everyone’s face projected on the big screen in their facility, the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission in Bruno, Sask.

The launch episode commences on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. PT, and the three Saturday sessions begin at 12:30, 3:30 and 6:30 respectively.

Wynans and Roset branded the first virtual incarnation of this retreat as Homewood Reunion 2021. Past retreat participants teamed up with the FacetoFace team to present two days of talks, Mass and worship that culminates with eucharistic adoration.

“I didn’t think that (adoration) would be very moving sitting in front of my computer in my house, but it was amazing,” recalled Wynans. “The team mails a package of envelopes with different things. Last year there was a candle, a wad of plasticine — just different objects to be opened up throughout under their guidance. It made it more interactive than just listening to a computer.”

Roset shared a testimonial of one girl attendee’s experience of the virtual retreat.

“She wrote, ‘one part that stood out to me was adoration. I was kind of skeptical to see what adoration would look like on Zoom, but to my surprise it was still extremely powerful. It was helpful to have the candle that was provided to know that even though we were separated, we were still experiencing God’s presence in the same way.’ ”

Roset and Wynans let the Scripture readings of the retreat weekend influence their decision-making when crafting a retreat theme statement. A benefit of this approach is that the content of the sessions will sync up with Victoria Bishop Gary Gordon’s homily.

This year the theme is Faith over Fear.

The two women’s longevity with the Homewood retreat has afforded them the opportunity to witness how the event’s fellowship dynamic has evolved over time. For the first dozen or so camps, students would be tentative to break out of their cliques at the outset.

“But the last six or seven years, they get there and are comfortable from the immediate outset,” said Wynans. “Just the deep faith, feeling and worship that happens opening night brings me to tears. Watching those kids kneel and genuinely open their heart gives me hope for our Church, which is what we really need right now.”

Roset said they’ve had to “turn chaperones away” over the years because of the building not being able to accommodate the space. She says this demonstrates “how the adults get as much out of the experience of just watching these kids come together.”

Wynans and Roset cherish the prospect of again gathering in the Camp Homewood dining hall — currently undergoing a kitchen expansion — again in 2023.

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