Published May 6, 2004
In a memorable retreat experience, 17 middle school teens from the Cathedral of Christ the King took part in a daylong service project in Athens in April.
The youth joined with Sisters Margarita Martin, Angela Cordero and Marietta Jansen of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to serve in a Mexican immigrant community living at the Pinewood Estates North mobile home park where the sisters have a trailer convent. The youth built a playground, soccer goals and volleyball net, beautified the sisters’ convent grounds and painted addresses on the roadside of hundreds of mobile homes to assist emergency vehicles that serve the community. Many children from the community and several adult volunteers from Athens and Atlanta joined them, and all shared a fiesta meal.
The theme for the retreat weekend, held April 2-4, was “Road to the Heart.” It included praise and worship, talks on salvation, service and the struggle to live holy lives. The high point was Saturday night when the teens joined together in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Following adoration, the teens enjoyed a bonfire, smores and fellowship under the stars.
Scott Fleming, principal of Msgr. Donovan Catholic High School in Athens, opened his school up to the retreat’s participants. Fleming said he and the faculty were pleased to participate in the retreat. Others from the Athens community joined in the retreat, including the Just Faith ministry at the University of Georgia Catholic Center, whose members provided the Saturday evening meal.
David Lapiniski, head of middle school youth ministry at Christ the King, said, “The retreat’s service project was a wonderful chance for our youth to experience Jesus in disguise. I think this experience will have a lasting impact on each of the participants.”
Lapiniski also thanked those who helped to make the weekend a success, “especially the folks at Msgr. Donovan High School who allowed us to use such a beautiful facility.”
Sister Margarita spoke to the youth before the project began and challenged them not only to “serve the community as Jesus motivates your heart, but also allow the community to serve you. Meet the people and their children. Allow them to work alongside you. Let the blessing flow out and in.”
Teen Patrick Angulo commented, “As we worked with the people in the community, I felt a lot of stereotypes that I carried start to shatter. I think God was showing me how much he loves everyone and wants me to do the same.”
Louise Corrigan observed that “not only do we grow closer to God in prayer and Bible study, but also when we live His word in service to others. I felt God this weekend when we were working with the community, when we were receiving teachings and when we prayed before the Blessed Sacrament.”
Another teen, Quitterie Gounot, noted that “even though the children in the community we visited don’t have very much, they are very happy and they find joy in simple things instead of fussing over everything like we often do.”
Father O’Connor, one of the priests in attendance, challenged the teens to walk the pathways of salvation by following the Holy Spirit and the example of Christ. Father O’Connor emphasized the seriousness of Jesus’ command to pick up and carry one’s cross that God’s kingdom might grow.
Youth leader Hudson Higgins closed the retreat challenging the teens to live what they learned and experienced. He talked about the robes of baptism that they hope one day to wear in heaven, robes that are to be washed clean of sin and kept clean through participation in baptism, reconciliation and the Eucharist—all with the goal of growing ever closer to the Lord. Love, he taught, is the all-encompassing command that should animate every part of one’s life.