Christmas break has been giving me a wonderful time to reflect on my year, and I realized I was never fully able to write about my retreats or camps. So, here it is! I’ll be rating each event in three categories: spiritual growth, fellowship, and self-actualization. In spiritual growth/value, it refers to the religious aspects of the retreat and how my faith was impacted from the retreat. Fellowship is about the people I spent the time with and how we connected during and after the retreat. Lastly, self-actualization is about the lessons I learned about myself during the retreat, and also what I realized about my relationship to others.
High School Immersion at Mater Redemptoris House of Formation (FSGMs and Diocese of La Crosse)
For the past four years, I’ve gone on this week-long retreat. There’s never a moment where I get tired of spending time with Alton Franciscans or other young women discerning their vocation. This retreat provided me with many opportunities to get to know the community well, and it is always nice to reunite with my friends whom I’ve made over the past four years there. After the retreat, I remember asking my cousin if it was normal if I retreat high lasted for over a month. Then I realized, it wasn’t a retreat high, but simply a valuable shift in my life that made me more joyful and courageous in my discernment.
Spiritual growth/value: 10/10
-The classes were on prayer this year and we used Ascension Press’ “Oremus” program, which wonderfully discussed different methods of prayer that were tried during adoration and meditation.
-Praying the Liturgy of the Hours helped me to gain a better sense of the flow of religious life, and my favorite part was chanting “Salve Regina” with everyone at Night Prayer.
-Mass and Meditation every morning provided a great start to each day, and moments of spiritual mentoring/spiritual reading/adoration were incredibly helpful in growing closer to God.
-Recreational times and group activities helped to connect everyone together, and also during the meals.
-Helping out at Catholic Charities with the other girls allowed us to see the connection between love and service.
-Overall, it was incredibly nice to spend time with others that were seriously discerning their vocation and were strong in their Catholic faith. It was also nice to bond with the religious sisters, they were incredibly joyful and extremely fun to be around.
-I learned a lot about myself and how I prayed during this week, and found ways to improve it.
-I realized that my vocation could be closely tied with the Alton Franciscans.
Diocese of Winona’s Camp Summit (FIAT Team)
This year was the first year I participated on the FIAT team for my diocese’s Camp Summit. The theme this year was “Glow in the Dark,” and it still resonates with me to this day. I definitely applaud the diocese for doing a magnificent job of promoting vocations and including solid explanations of the Catholic faith. It was a humbling experience to serve others on the FIAT team, and it was wonderful to meet other Catholic teenagers in my area that actually cared about their faith. I still keep in touch with many of them, and am super grateful of the experiences and lessons this camp has brought me. As it was mentioned on the last day, you can’t stay on the summit of the mountain forever, you need to share what you’ve experienced and shine your light on others.
Spiritual growth/value: 10/10
-Now this is how a good religious experience should be! If you want to attract young people to their faith, show them beauty! And this is exactly what the Diocese of Winona did:
-A combination of young religious sisters in habits (Nashville Dominicans), diocesan seminarians, a religious brother in a habit, a faithful married couple, amazing priests, and humble single lay persons provided an opportunity like no other for youth of all ages to witness the beauty in all types of vocations.
-The talks were splendid, and were understandable and relatable for people from sixth grade to a lot older.
-Mass was extremely reverent, and Eucharistic Adoration and confessions were just as great! Middle schoolers were able to be still and find the Lord during moments of prayer.
-Everyone got along really well, and it was beautiful to spend time with all these wonderful people in the Diocese of Winona!
-The FIAT team was wonderful to be on, and I’m grateful for their support and enthusiasm for the faith. To me, I am eternally thankful because I realized I was not alone in my views, and desire to live my faith to the fullest. These were people were cared about their faith, sought to learn more about their faith, and lived out virtues.
-The campers were fun to be around, and it was truly an experience to humbly try to lead them towards Christ.
-Without going into too much detail, Eucharistic Adoration during training days helped me to realize what God was calling me to do in my life.
-I left Camp Summit knowing I had grown in multiple ways, and I still remind myself on a daily basis to continue living my “FIAT/Yes” to God, and to serve others by glowing in the dark.
-I realized that if we aren’t open-minded, we may not see the surprises that God puts into our lives.
Veni Si Amas/Come and See Weekend (FSGMs)
After the high school immersion retreat, I was looking forward to finally visiting the Alton Franciscans’ provincial motherhouse. Although this weekend retreat ended up lasting a little longer resulting in me staying another day at the convent, which was actually great! Road trips with Sisters are a lot more fun than one would expect.
Spiritual growth/value: 9/10
-Immersing ourselves into the prayer life and daily lives of the sisters was difficult at first, but it was wonderful to be able to pray with them.
-There were many amazing talks that really helped me discern and understand the faith more.
-In just a weekend, it was difficult to get to know everyone that was there (about 20 young women).
-But, it was great to have met other Alton Franciscans and really be able to experience more of their convent life in real time (waking up at 4:35 am!).
-There was something during this weekend that just made me want to return..
-I understood that when you’re truly joyful, you sometimes don’t even realize it.
Senior Retreat (Catholic school)
I don’t have too many good things to say about this one…
Spiritual growth/value: 1/10
-This retreat only gets a one because we started the day with Mass.
-The topics and activities were just about “meditating on the body,” or “how to breathe.” And while a talk was in the church, the speaker mentioned someone that was “a Catholic…that was also a Buddhist, Jewish, etc.” I’m sorry, but that’s how it works.
-I mean, it was nice to be with my senior class, but there wasn’t much to fellowship this retreat either.
~Additional comments: The only good thing about the retreat was when it ended, and I ran into one of my favorite priests (who was at Camp Summit!). Other than that, it was mostly a waste of time, and how a Catholic school would allow this baffles me.
Kairos retreat (Catholic school)
The rumored “life-changing” experience was more or less of a letdown. The week after the retreat felt alright, but then any retreat high wore off. I was looking forward to a time to grow in my spiritual life, but nothing changed. The more I reflect on the retreat, the less I like it. If you’re looking for an orthodox retreat that’s focused on bringing everyone towards Christ and His Church, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a place to connect better with classmates, then that’d be here. The priest that told me I’d make better use of my time visiting a religious order…he was probably right.
Spiritual growth/value: 3/10
-Well, let’s just say some things should have been left in the seventies and eighties. If you thought liturgical abuses didn’t happen any longer, well you’re probably wrong.
-Laying down on blankets in the sanctuary? Pop music during Mass? A sad excuse of what could’ve been a wonderful time of Eucharistic Adoration with Benediction and Exposition? And other things not worth mentioning…
-What’s the point of naming it “God’s time,” when it really wasn’t on that…
-It did bring me closer to other classmates by realizing that we all had our own problems, and we should respect others because we never know what they might be going through.
-I realized certain aspects about myself, but it wasn’t that noticeable.
~Additional Comments: As someone who was really trying to be open about this experience, I really hoped that it would bring others and I closer to Christ. It may have for others, but it did not really do that for me. It would’ve have been much better if they had not named it after “God’s time,” since it didn’t really reflect the events of the retreat.
Longer visit (FSGMs)
I can’t say much about this since this was a very personal visit, and a lot of important events happened over this time.
Spiritual growth/value: 10/10
-Beautiful time spent! I was able to spend so much time in prayer with absolute quiet to hear God’s voice.
-Praying with the Sisters is among my favorite things to do. The adoration chapel in the convent is just so peaceful, and it was great to have that time of prayer.
-It was beautiful to be around this religious community. I even found myself enjoying cleaning and cooking when I was talking to these Sisters.
-The Sisters have an incredible joy, and I found myself smiling every second of my visit!
-I learned a lot about where I should go in my discernment, and the Lord led me to the point where I am today.
So I guess the diocese and religious sisters tend to put on better retreats? Either way, if anyone is looking for an great opportunity to have both faith and service, then try out Camp Summit! Or if someone is discerning, then try a “Come and See” weekend at a religious community. If you just want a retreat without any religious aspect…well, I’m sure you can find one. My favorites this year were definitely anytime spent with the FSGMs and/or Camp Summit. One thing I did find slightly ironic was how the diocesan camp had two young religious with habits (from out of state), while the Kairos retreat I went on had two elderly sisters without habits.
Also, the school retreats were not as bad as I made them sound, there was good to them, too. But the other retreats just had more good things to them! These are all just my opinions and perspectives, please respect them!