Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

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youth easter retreat 001 900x600German Hernandez, founder of the Easter Youth Retreat, poses with his neice, Andrea Hernandez, who coordinates it, and committee member, Monica Pang (Photos by Mary ChalupskyWEST HAVEN – The Archdiocese of Hartford hosted a day full of energy and enthusiasm for more than 300 teens in the form of Youth Easter Retreat 2018 on April 7 at St. John XXIII Parish.

The theme was "Tell Me Who Are You?  I Am Your Father." 

Participants in the retreat, presented in English and Spanish, came from New Britain, New Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, Stratford and Bristol as well as West Haven for a day of music, speakers, food, videos, short plays, outdoor games, snacks, Mass, and eucharistic adoration. It was coordinated by Andrea Hernández and a team of volunteers.

youth easter retreat 004 A 900x600Everyone pauses for a group photo at Easter Youth Retreat 2018 at St.. John XXIII Parish in West Haven.“We want teens to know they have a Father who knows them, loves them and has a plan for their lives,” she said.

A hands-down hit was SI7, a music ministry from New York that provided a beginning-to-end backdrop of energetic contemporary spiritual music laden with meaningful messages and songs known to many of the students. 

“I came because it seemed like a lot of fun, and it’s different than church,” said Raysa Perez, 17, who wore one of the “I Am Your Father” T-shirts included in the $15 retreat package.

Added her friend Atziyaded Cervantes, 14, “It’s not very structured so it good for our age group.”

Speakers included Father P. Carlos Echavarria, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in New Haven, who spoke about the person of God the Father; and Bertha Peralta, who addressed the question, “Who are you?”

She urged retreatants to “Be who you are. … Don’t be conformed to this world … don’t be a follower.”

“Be who you were called to be,” she added, noting,“You cannot be you until you learn who he (God the Father) is.”

Celebrating Mass was Father Michael Casey, archdiocesan vocations director, who delivered an Easter message on the risen Christ, and urged students to be willing to, “Tell the world that Jesus rose from the dead.” 

One video on “social distractions” challenged students to limit the use of smartphones and other digital technology. “Take a 48-hour detox” from your phone, and “create healthy digital habits in your family,” said Peralta.

Father Jose Mercado, pastor of St. John XXIII Parish, which draws standing-room-only attendance at Spanish Masses, said, “I hope the kids come away with an experience of encountering the risen Lord through the music, talks, socializing with each other, prayer, and especially in his flesh at Mass …. so they can have a closer relationship with Jesus.”

“It was great,” said Jair Saucedo,” of St. Louis Church. “I got to be near God and hear all about him.”

Jason Hernandez of St. Louis Church pronounced it good, citing "the food, the music, activities and the message.”

The adoration at the end “was calming and relaxing,” added his friend Elvis Quiroz. “It gave you a chance to think and clear your mind.”

This is the 12th Youth Easter Retreat at St. Louis Church. It was the brainchild of parishioner German Hernández

. Hernández. explained that after the festivities of Holy Week and Easter, there was little for students to look forward to celebrating. “So we brought in speakers, music, Mass, adoration, games and food … a lot of food,” said Hernández, who seemed to be enjoying the retreat as much as the teens. 

“We have a lot of volunteers and support with donations from the community,” he said. “We believe that if we all come together to share resources, we can create something good for the community and share the experience together.”

A highlight was a stirring, candlelit hour of eucharistic adoration led by Father Jeffrey A. Gubbiotti, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Ansonia. As students knelt on the floor, he encouraged them to touch the humeral veil, the ceremonial outside vestment that a priest wears draped over his shoulders and down the front, just as the woman touched the hem of Jesus in Scripture, as he carried the monstrance through the gathering.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.