Our 10th annual FNE retreat at Mary Lake began as most FNE outings do, with excited Timberwolves and Explorers meeting at Baythorn Public School for car pool arrangements or meeting directly at the Mary Lake Retreat Center. The 40 minute drive to King City was accompanied by a familiar "soundtrack" of enthusiastic chatter, unstoppable giggles, mischievous banter and the occasional moments of silence. The drive to King City took us through an urban landscape into the peaceful serenity of the Mary Lake grounds thus highlighting the physical concept of "retreating".
It was lovely to be able to withdraw from our ordinary everyday routines and commitments for most of the weekend and be welcomed into the warm Mary lake Augustinian Retreat Center where Jesus was waiting for us to embrace him without concern. We thank Father Thomas Murphy and Brother Kevin for their commitment to our FNE Movement and the spiritual development of our Timberwolves, Explorers and Leaders.
Through a series of talks, discussions and meditations interspersed with breaks for outside play time and sports our youth were guided to EXPLORE their perspective on what Faith truly is, what faith means to them, how we live our faith, how we strengthen and share our faith and lastly how we inspire faith in others around us.
Father Thomas began with a session on what Faith really is. He explained this through dynamic PowerPoint visuals, prompting our youth to recognize what faith is by humorously depicting what faith "is not". Our youth were engaged in this dynamic presentation as they listened attentively to Father Thomas at time laughing at the images; commenting on the concepts and gaining a deeper understand of what faith truly is.
It was wonderful to see the great rapport that Father Thomas has been able to develop with our youth. The comfort level was evident in the way in which Father Thomas knew to tailor his explanations to popular culture, sports and concepts that the youth were familiar with in order to get his point across. Likewise, our youth who were known to Father Thomas by name were enthusiastic to share their thoughts on all subjects at times receiving a gentle reminder to stay focused when becoming distracted by other discussions. Brother Kevin was immediately welcomed into the group by our exuberant youth who looked forward to benefiting from his talks and meditations later in the retreat.
The morning session ended with outside sports and free play and the planning and preparation skits based on biblical passages highlighting "faith” that the Explorers would perform for the Timberwolves later in the day.
Our youth definitely make good use of their time; they work hard, pray hard, play hard and eat well! A hot dog lunch with a variety of breads and pasta salads made with love by the kind Augustinian Sisters was well received and enjoyed by Timberwolves, Explorers and Leaders before ascending to a cosy second floor private chapel for a brief talk on how we can use our faith to be servants of our Lord, The youth were guided to ask our Lord what daily what they can do to serve Him, how they can show Him that they love Him. We began with Holy Mass and as usual our youth were attentive and focused during mass. Singing the hymns together and kneeling fervently to receive Jesus in Holy Communion on their knees and on their tongues was a great testimony as to their ever growing faith and love for God. Mass was followed by a little more time outside to see the beauty of nature around themselves and to perhaps better appreciate, respect and love one another as FNE brothers or sisters.
We returned to the chapel for the singing of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and for the opportunity to have our confessions heard. We marveled at how our youth consistently respond to the opportunity to run to Jesus through this sacrament to be forgiven and to start anew. Father Thomas was very busy throughout this time with always someone patiently awaiting their turn to be with Jesus next. The soothing rhythmic melody of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in song wafted through the little chapel creating a sense of warmth, nurturing and family environment.
After our time in the chapel we moved o the main dining room to enjoy a nutritious and delicious dinner consisting of homemade hamburger patties on a healthy selection of buns, Greek salad and two tasty varieties of desserts . The Timberwolves then had free time while the Explorers continued with their skit preparations.
A few minutes later, all were called into the main meeting room to watch these dynamic recreations of Bible stories such as Peter walking on Water, the exorcism of a demon from a boy by Jesus and faith in the light of Christ to name a few. Needless to say, the Timberwolves enjoyed the dramatic nature of these presentations and seeing their Explorer mentors do silly things to relay the meaning of their passage.
Following the theme of Faith, Father Thomas then introduced the movie for the evening entitled For greater Glory which told the true sad story of the 1926-1929 Cristero War. The Cristeros War was the largest rebellion in Mexican history prompted by a counter revolution against the anti-Catholicism of the ruling Mexican government. Many thousands of Catholics were persecuted, tortured and killed during the Cristero War. This movie was especially poignant for both our girls and boys as it highlighted the integral role that women played in the collection, transportation and distribution of weapons and artillery during this war as well as their efforts to provide food, shelter and medical care for those in need. The movie also told of the courageous last days of a mischievous youth boy named José Luis Sánchez who turned his life around, strengthened his Catholic faith in a short period and then fought heroically defending his faith until his was tortured and martyred in front of his loving parents. The youth were moved by the powerful story of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio. Their lives will be changed forever as this powerful movie illustrated how the gift of faith must be nurtured, how precious this gift truly is ,what it truly means to defend and die for our faith and how those before us young and old sacrificed their lives in horrific ways so that we may have the freedom to promote, share and practice our faith.
After the movie, we returned to the Chapel with deep gratitude and sorrow in our hearts, ready to get down on our knees and sincerely thank God for deeming us worthy of the gift of faith and pray fervently in Adoration while Father continued to welcome youth to the sacrament of reconciliation.
There was no doubt that our Lord was present that we were surrounded by the Holy Spirit and that God was smiling upon us. It is these moments when we gather as a family in prayer and worship that we feel truly blessed as a movement and as an FNE family by the many graces that He has bestowed upon us.
Free time and a light snack of pastries was then followed by bedtime. A good number of our Timber Wolves and Explorers made a visit to the Chapel in their PJ's to quietly pray in front of the tabernacle or to sing hymns or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together as only youth can... it was truly a beautiful sight to behold!
He Has Risen!
We greeted Sunday morning bright and early with a hearty breakfast of cereal, scrambled eggs, a variety of toasted breads and sausages before dividing into groups with all Timberwolves spending time with Brother Kevin learning about how to grow your faith. The Explorers were guided in a brief meditation by Father Thomas who played a song written by his brother and performed by his brother's band Wintersleep. The song spoke of the apathy, misery and hopelessness in today's society and how we all long for happiness. He then played two short videos, one was quite humorous as a news story at 10... depicting a "Faith Linebacker" side swiping and tackling people who veered off the path of faith. Explorers laughed out loud at the ridiculous yet meaning nature of the short video. The Explorers really had a chuckle over this.
The Boy Explorers then learned more about Father Thomas' personal faith journey towards the priesthood and the Legionnaires of Christ and a brief talk on purity as a young man. The Girl Explorers participated in a discussion of the life and tremendous faith of Saint Catherine Labouré, D.C. (May 2, 1806 – December 31, 1876) (born Zoe Labouré) who was a member of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and a Marian visionary who relayed the request from the Blessed Virgin Mary to create the Miraculous Medal worn by millions of Christians.
The retreat ended with a number of FNE families joining us in the small chapel for the Chaplet of Divine Mercy sung beautifully by our youth followed by Sunday mass. At this closing Mass a number of the timber wolf and explorer parents joined us... all participants who could receive the Eucharist also received the blood of Jesus... a very special and rare gift!
Before packing up and heading home we once again enjoyed a tasty lunch of cold cut sandwiches and piping hot homemade chick and vegetable soup with ice cream for dessert, Our youth left the retreat in time with a good number making it to their weekly Sunday afternoon Korean school, complete homework and prepare for the school week ahead. They were definitely tired but also at peace deep within their hearts, for they now understood more deeply the true gift of their faith and had a burning desire to live their faith by serving the Lord through humbly serving others and guiding others to Him.
Story written by Gazelle (True Macedo) the troop leader of the dove Girl Explorer Troop!
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