Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Spirited ‘Fan the Fire’ Retreat Draws Several Hundred Youth for 25th Annual Event

The church, parochial school and grounds of St. Joseph Parish in York were filled with the spirit of youthful energy, praise and worship on Saturday, November 4, as some 250 teens gathered for the annual Fan the Fire Youth Rally.

Now in its 25th year, the spirited event continues to draw dozens of young people from throughout the Diocese of Harrisburg for a day filled with presentations, prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, music, food trucks and friendship.

With the theme of “Eucharistic Love,” the highlight of the day for many of the teens was an afternoon Holy Hour in the darkened church.

Accompanied by praise and worship songs by contemporary worship band Bring Us Mountains, Father Peter Rettig, parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish, carried the Eucharist in a monstrance, slowly walking the aisles and blessing adorers as he passed by.

Many of the teens gently reached their hands towards Jesus in the Eucharist, highlighted by a spotlight in the darkened church. During Benediction, dozens of teens came forward from their pews to kneel at the altar. It was a solemn and marvelous moment, which brought many to tears.

“Adoration is a time to bring your prayers, to bring your worries, to bring your anxieties. Go to Jesus in those moments,” Chris Wood, the parish’s Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, told the teens before joining his worship band for the Holy Hour.

“I encourage you that whatever is going on in your life – good, bad or “meh” – bring it to God. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is right there,” he said, pointing to the Eucharist in the monstrance. “All we have to do is trust, believe, have faith. That requires us to let go of our own selves, our own will, our own desires. This is your moment where you can encounter Jesus one on one.”

Presenters throughout the day were Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Brother Stephen Cantwell, OFM, Cap., and Mary Taylor, a lay Carmelite. Sister Geralyn’s keynote, “Pay Attention, Be Astonished, Share with Others,” encouraged the young people to look and listen for God, be astounded by it, and share that faith with those around them.

In an afternoon panel discussion, the three presenters answered questions from participants, which ranged from how to discern and how they heard the call to their vocation, to how to share the faith with those who don’t believe.

Among the returning participants this year were Kirsten Resch and Maddy Detz of Lancaster Catholic High School. Both told The Catholic Witness the Holy Hour was a highlight of the day.

“Seeing Him right there in the spotlight, for me, really showed me how close Jesus is to us all the time,” Maddy said. “It was a really great time for reflection and focus on that.”

“I had chills throughout the Holy Hour; I had them the whole time,” Kirsten said. “It became very real to me, that Jesus is present on the altar. The music added to the beauty of the moment, and really helped draw me in.”

They also were inspired by Sister Geralyn’s presentation. “It spoke to me in a certain way because her message of paying attention, being astonished and sharing with others is the overall message and purpose of Fan the Fire, so that we’re inspired in the faith and take it to others,” Kirsten said.

The youth rally concluded with the celebration of Mass by Bishop Timothy Senior. Father Kyle Sahd, pastor of St. Joseph Parish; Father Joshua Weaver, Diocesan Director of Vocations; and Father Stephen Logue, chaplain at Lancaster Catholic High School and campus minister at Millersville University and Franklin & Marshall College, concelebrated the liturgy.

“The relationship we have with God is the most important relationship we’re ever going to have in our life. He is the One who sets the direction for your life. He is the pattern for your life as a Christian. Be close to Him always; desires to be right there with us, always as a presence of love,” Bishop Senior said in his homily.

“With that closeness to Jesus, you can discern what God’s plan is for your life,” he continued. “Through a relationship with Jesus and coming to know and love Him, we can discern what He has in mind for us. Each one of us has been created for a reason. To come to understand that purpose, to do God’s will for our lives, is the most important thing we could ever do. Support and encourage each other in that.”

Remarking on the encouragement and support he saw among the teens at the rally, the bishop reminded them that “Christianity is not a religion for lone rangers, for people who say, ‘I’m going to make it on my own, and be a rugged individualist.’ We need each other to live the Gospel, to encourage, to support, to lift each other up when we’re down. Encourage each other in faith by your good example.”

(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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