Retreat for High School girls in Jacksonville, Florida (USA), October 21st-22nd of 2016.
In Jacksonville, Florida we had a big celebration for the feast day of St. John Paul II, patron and protector saint of the Home of the Mother. We decided to organize a retreat for high school girls in honor of JPII and his love for the youth. The girls started arriving at 6:00pm on Friday night. It was a pretty random mix of girls but they all started making friends and they ended up getting along great. After dinner we had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and, thanks to a priest friend of ours, the girls were able to go to confession during the Holy Hour. Almost all of them were able to go to confession and start off the retreat on the right foot.
After the Holy Hour and confessions, we had a camp fire which was greatly appreciated because the temperature in Jacksonville had lowered to 59 degrees that night! The girls toasted marshmallows for s’mores and were able to have a good conversation around the campfire. Before we went to bed we had to play a few rounds of “Martyr in the Dark”, which was followed by night prayer.
The next day we started off with the most important: the Eucharist. We also had to receive nourishment for our body, so we quickly ate breakfast. We prayed Morning Prayer all together and then we started off on our adventure! We drove to Osceola National Forest and found that JPII had reserved the whole park just for us! We were the only ones there to enjoy the lake, the grounds, the grills, etc. While a few sisters started the fire for the BBQ, the girls and the other sisters played soccer and went canoeing; a few girls even braved the cold water and went swimming. By lunch time the girls were hungry and tired, yet very happy.
After lunch we had a meeting about a quote from John Paul II in the WYD in Rome in 2000:
“It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal!.”
In the meeting we talked about the desires that all of us have to do something great with our lives, and we discovered that the greatest and most important desire that we could possibly have is the desire to get to heaven. We realized that it is worth every effort and sacrifice to make this desire become a reality, more so than any worldly desire that we may have.
The day went flying by. After taking a walk through the forest, it was already time to go back home. Some girls commented that this day was like a break for them and a rest from their daily environment which sometimes weighs upon them. They were glad to be able to experience pure and innocent fun. Others summed up their experience by simply saying, “That was awesome!” And we could see in their faces that they were certainly enjoying themselves. We give thanks to our Patron Saint, John Paul II, for teaching us the importance of bringing the youth to Christ and we give thanks to God for commending the youth to us as our main mission in the Home of the Mother. May we know how to fulfill this mission just as our Blessed Mother expects of us.