Saint Joseph Academy - Encounter Christ Retreat 2017
Marist Youth Reflection:
As a student from Saint Joseph Academy, I always considered myself a person that was involved in my community, had a nice relationship with God, and was an overall good person. After I attended Encounter 39, I realized there was room for improvement. After hearing the talks from seniors and teachers, as well as our small group discussions, I started to think more about who I am and how I treat others. I could become a little closer to God, a little closer to my classmates, and a little closer to my family. I had always had a close group of friends that were my support group. I went to them with my good and bad news. I was cordial to my classmates, always respected them, but never considered them anything more than classmates. Encounter 39 allowed me to connect with people I hadn’t previously talked to or gotten to know. I learned that other people have insecurities, doubts, and issues just like I do. I realized that I was not alone.
Not only did Encounter 39 allow me to learn about other people, grow closer to my classmates I can now call friends, and re-evaluate myself and my decisions, but it taught me that I am not alone and I am able to turn to my classmates in times of need. As a whole, I can fully state that the group of students that attended Encounter 39 came back closer with each other, with God, and with their families. I am extremely thankful that I could experience the Encounter and would highly encourage future students to attend. Thank you to everyone that helped make the encounter happen, it truly was a life changing retreat. --Camryn Gloor, SJA Student
Marist Young Adult Reflection:
Making my Encounter with Christ from a Different Perspective. Written by: Angelique Demetillo
There it is. *inhale* I open the familiar glass doors under the white Marist Brothers sign… *exhale* I’m back home.
Knowing I’m going to be back at Esopus is usually accompanied with the comforting reminder of a familiar place and community I can escape to—my little “Heaven on Earth”. Returning to Esopus this time was no different. As soon as I saw the driveway leading up to the Marist Brothers Retreat Center, I was relieved—relieved from the stresses of papers, graduate school applications, and research proposal deadlines; of struggles with family and with friends; of future decisions and uncertainties that being in your last semester of college brings. It all melted away.
As Young Adult leaders, we tell Encounterites how amazing the Encounter experience is. We tell them this experience can fill you up with so many beautiful moments, memories, bonds, and relationships if you keep yourself open to it. Every time I’ve come back to lead or help out at Encounter, I remember that advice and leave myself open to what each Encounter has to offer. I find that there is a quiet familiarity in the new faces, new dynamics, and new experiences that each Encounter brings and in that familiarity, I am reassured of Christ’s presence in my life.
It is easy to get bogged down in what life throws at you regardless of where you’re at in your life’s journey. Intertwined with the mundane responsibilities of “adulting”, the anxiety from the uncertainties of “what’s next”, and even the excitement of what’s-in-store; is the change and even loss of perspective. As rector during this Encounter, I was in charge of making sure people and things were ready and where they needed to be. I had a responsibility to ensure things ran as smoothly as possible so that the Encounterites had the opportunity to make the most of the experience.
Maybe it was my current in state of life at the time or the unforeseen responsibilities of rectoring that I soon become overwhelmed. I thought I was open to experience Encounter from a new perspective but I was too caught up with the details of managing the retreat and thinking 4-5 steps ahead that I lost sight of why I came back in the first place. I was worried that I wasn’t rectoring right, that I was making the wrong decision when a situation arose, or that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing when I was supposed to be doing it. My vision tunneled to make sure I could see as far ahead into the weekend so I could be ready and prepared for whatever it was I had to do to make this retreat go smoothly. It was hard to be “here” in the present and not “there” in the future. I think this is a prime example of how easily we can turn God’s call for us into our own mission… forgetting that the reason we really do anything is because it is how God works through us.
So, when I was asked to sing for Saturday Night prayer, I was elated. “Finally, something I KNOW I can do right.” As the Encounterites bustled into the chapel and sat themselves around Champagnat’s Lantern, I got that same nervous feeling I had had all weekend, “Don’t mess this up.” Once everyone was in, I began the transition from the piano instrumental to the song.
“Lord I come, I confess, bowing here, I find my rest. Without you, I fall apart. You’re the one that guides my heart…”
Singing “Lord, I Need You” slowed down and contemplatively was cathartic for me. It was the cry I had not known I needed at the time. It pulled me out of my thoughts and into that moment. Although I started prayer singing to the Encounterites, I found myself speaking with God through the verse. Then, the chorus came.
“Lord, I need you. Oh, I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, My righteousness, Oh God how I need you.”
All of a sudden, my voice was not alone. The Encounterites joined in and together, we prayed. We sang the chorus over and over until the piano and the bongo drums were stripped away and there was nothing left but a multitude of voices speaking in unison with God. I was moved. In that moment, I was reminded of why I was there, of why I keep coming back to Esopus and Encounters: to rediscover Christ.
I truly believe I encountered Christ during that weekend in that one, vulnerable, moving, and unifying moment. I was reminded that in every Encounter retreat, in every life experience, no matter how familiar, there are always challenges that make it difficult to keep ourselves open to what the experience has to offer and to discover Christ from new perspectives. For instance,
When I first made my Encounter 5 years ago, Christ was the new community, the new family I met. When I lead my first Encounter 3 years ago, Christ was the faith in myself to guide my small group.
When I was assistant rector 1 year ago, Christ was the Marist spirit I had developed and embodied in my actions.
When I was rector 2 weeks ago, Christ was the feeling within me and within everyone else that shared in that beautiful moment in prayer.
This retreat reminded me that encountering Christ is not always easy; it’s not always familiar because we are constantly finding ourselves in new experiences and different situations as we go through life. We can’t expect to find Christ in the same places or feelings. His presence grows with us: where we find Christ at one point in our lives may not be the same place we find his manifestation a year later.
At first, this may sound a little unnerving because we find comfort in stability: we like knowing we can always go back to that same place and find exactly what we’re looking for because that’s where we found it before. But with a little more reflection, I think you’ll find comfort in knowing that where we encounter Christ changes because He is always with us. He will always be there, no matter where we are. We may not encounter Him the same way as before. We may not even recognize Him sometimes. But He’s always there.