June 29, 2011 // Local

bcX retreat teens serve in their own back yard

By Diane Freeby

NOTRE DAME — “When you help others, it’s just a good feeling.”

Brian Trahin was among 80 young people from around the diocese who had more than “just a good feeling” after spending five days serving others in their own back yard as part of the bcX Servant Leadership retreat.

“We were at the Center for the Homeless, and there was this family with five little kids,” recalled Trahin, who made his first bcX retreat last year and will be a junior at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne. “We just ran around with them, giving them shoulder rides. Their mom was happy. Their situation wasn’t the best, but they could still see hope and have a good time. They had a bright outlook, even though things were desperate. I know I’m more fortunate, and sometimes I feel less hopeful. That makes me realize that even though these people have it worse, they can still have a good positive outlook on life.”

The name “bcX” refers to “b”ing Christ for others and “c”ing Christ in those they serve. A collaboration of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Holy Cross College Campus Ministry, the mission trip is designed to let young people experience a lifestyle of service. 
“We’ve done leadership retreats in the past where we’ve focused on prayer, the sacraments, catechesis,” explained Cindy Black, director of Youth Ministry for the diocese. “But the one component we were really missing was service. This allows us to have a comprehensive event that allows us to go into every aspect of what our faith life should be.”

With Holy Cross College students serving as leaders and facilitators, participants stayed in dorms and spent their days serving alongside South Bend-area ministries and charitable organizations. In the afternoons the young people returned to campus to blog about their experiences (readers can check out the bcX blogs at www.diocesefwsb.org/bcx/BCX_Blogs_2011.html).

“They go to a different site each day, so hopefully they get three different types of service experience,” said Black. “We try to make sure one has direct contact with those we’re serving. We teach them that even when they don’t see the people that they’re still helping. If they do yard work, they’re beautifying where these people live. One of the groups shared how they were sorting cans at a food bank. They never saw the people who would receive it, but they were praying for the people who donated the food and also those who would end up consuming the food. So it just showed this whole communion, this body of Christ coming together. That was awesome.”

Anna Wilcoxson, a junior-to-be at Saint Joseph’s High School in South Bend, said she enjoyed her first bcX retreat.

“It was a great experience,” beamed Wilcoxson as she and her friends left the closing Mass, celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Friday. “We got to go out and help the community and we saw rewards that came out of it. We didn’t always see direct results, but it felt good knowing we could help somebody out.”

During the evenings, teens were immersed in strong catechesis and community. In addition to evening Mass, they participated in a rosary walk to the grotto at the University of Notre Dame. There, they spent time in private prayer with opportunity for confession. Thursday night was devoted to Eucharistic Adoration.

“Adoration was really touching,” remembered Trahin, noting the mix of prayer and song. “I really heard God talking to me and telling me that this is good for me, it’s really developing my Catholic faith. I really needed that.”

During his homily Friday, Bishop Rhoades expanded on the prayer experiences of young people, sharing an answer he gave when a student recently asked him how the bishop prays. He suggested the young people might also try a method called “lectio divina.”

“I reflect on the readings of the day,” smiled Bishop Rhoades, waving his copy of Magnificat magazine. “If possible, I go into a chapel or a church, but sometimes I just pray in my room. I read the Scripture passage slowly and silently, asking the Holy Spirit to help me pray. When I’m reading Scripture I’m listening to the voice of God! If one or two sentences hit me, I repeat those words as if they’re addressed to me. Just be with the Lord and let Him speak to you.”

That summed up the bcX mission of being present to the Lord, then making His presence known to others.

“You gotta try things, you gotta be willing to serve,” added Trahin. “If you don’t, you’ll never know. I guarantee, when you see the people you’re helping, you’ll know you’ve made a difference in their lives.”

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