This Fall I was invited to offer a Confirmation retreat for Resurrection parish in Grand Island. I welcomed the invitation not only because it is my parish, but also because it gave me an opportunity to put into practice the principles that were mentioned in the previous blog of what to look for in a Confirmation retreat. If you haven’t read that blog, I encourage you to read it over to see how we were able to actualize the principles laid out there. Below I will describe how everything came together, in no particular order other than what my fingers type. There was a rhythm to the retreat, which built upon the different activities, but my description here of the retreat may not necessarily follow that rhythm.
An environment can help set the mood and help lead to better experiences. In the case of Resurrection, I took a walk around inside and outside the Church to see what could be usable space for our retreat. Weather and availability permitting, it is beneficial to use multiple spaces, as this can allow for movement which helps to keep the attention of young people. I began the process of visual imagination and looked for ways to use the space we had inside and outside for our different activities. Already knowing that the retreat would include supper, talks, and hands on activities, I tried to balance large group activities with individual activities. For the individual activities, I choose to go outside between some tree lines that were far enough apart where we could set up multiple individual stations. I began looking through the internet to get ideas for decoration, as decor is no skill of mine. I found one that had lights hanging from trees, and as our retreat was later in the afternoon it seems it could work for us. The picture below is similar to what I saw online.
Instead of having everyone sit together, we setup individual station for every student to sit with their sponsor or parent. We set a candle in-between them and they discussed a few questions about how they could use a gift from the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways. This is what it looked like.
We would also use open space adjacent to the tree lines for a bon fire and holi powder activity. At the bon fire, we had someone give a witness talk that related to a song that followed. The song by Hill song called, 'So Will I' focused on God's creation and talked about how He is present in all things. This is what both activities
I will return to how the holi powder tied into the retreat, but for now let’s move onto how I utilized the space inside. We finished the retreat with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Adoration took place inside, only after we got most of the color powder off our clothes and began a spiritual transition to be in silence before the Lord. We had a brief talk on resting in God's presence and proceeded with a Eucharistic procession. Since we did this in the parish hall, the same place where we ate and had the talks, we had to be aware of setting up in time for each activity. Here is how we utilized the space inside.
We also had a little dance to celebrate of our Baptism, but apparently that picture got lost in the shuffle.
I believe we had over 50 participants, which includes a student and their parent or sponsor. With such a large group and a lot of moving parts, it was essential that all the leaders were on the same page. Of course this meant that we had multiple meetings leading up to the retreat not only to discuss logistics, but also to get to know each other and make sure that everyone was on the same page. This means that even if a leader had a small part in one activity, everyone understood the purpose and flow of the entire retreat. This enabled us to be intentional about how we interacted with the participants and presented the materials. One of our main focus was that we were intentionally relational. That meant that instead of leaders hanging around watching the retreat unfold, they sought every opportunity to connect with participants. At meals, they sat together and talked, in transition times they related, etc.
Another important part of the retreat was prayer. We prayed for the retreat, and as a group we prayed at the beginning of the retreat, inviting the Holy Spirit to be present to everyone in the room. Overall, we were providing good leadership that was intentionally spiritual and not just practical.
I'm not going to say much of the entire outline and the material list, as that information is available through the Chancery office. However, I can briefly mention a few key facts. The overall cost of this retreat was about $400, which included the meal, the powder, stipends for some of the speakers, and materials. The whole retreat began at 5 pm and finished at 9 pm on a Sunday.
The Signs and Symbols
Signs and symbols were used to highlight important theological concepts. By these we mean the pouring of the water of Baptism, the acts of service that were witness to, the activities with holi powder, and adoration. Below is a description of how we tied all these together.
Baptism- Confirmation confirms the baptism graces, therefore it was important to remind people of what Baptism means. To lead up to the baptismal talk we can talk about the gift of salvation which God grants to each of us. Jesus restores us to new life and is leading us to the fullness of life. We re-enacted the pouring of the water and described its significance. After the talk, we dance to the 'Deep Cries Out to Deep,' in celebration of our baptism.
Service- Confirmation calls us to service, therefore to illustrate this call a witness talk was given of an act of service to the poor. A walk through this act of service was illustrated through pictures and narration.
Holi Powder- There were two activities with the holi powder. For the first activity, we invited participants to gather around large tables with powder in containers and sheets of paper that had the 7 gifts of the Spirit listed. The sheet of paper also had a symbol of anointing and a seal. As we began the activity, a description of each of the 7 gifts was read and participants were invited to think about one that stood out to them. After the reading, each participant smeared olive oil unto the paper and decorated the paper with the 7 colors of powder. Each color represented a gift of the Spirit. The point of this activity was to make concrete the ideas of anointing, sealing, and the gifts of the Spirit.
The second activity with powder was simply when we invited to student to have fun by throwing holi powder at each other. The different colors represented the gifts, therefore it was symbolic of receiving the gifts of the Spirit. Powder and water may stain therefore we asked them to wipe off the powder before we went indoors.
Adoration- Lastly we finished with adoration. For this we invited everyone to just be in God's presence and not to worry about doing anything other than receiving. We share that the Spirit comes to us from the Father and Son, therefore it was important to be near He who grants us the Spirit. We followed this talk with a solemn procession with the monstrance, a couple of songs of adoration and silence.
After adoration, we concluded the retreat by asking people to share their experience of the retreat. Comments were very positive, afterwards we thanked everyone involved in putting it together and finished with a prayer!