By John Pratt
More than 400 eighth grade students and adult leaders gathered in South Bend at St. Joseph High School Sept. 21 for the Sealed by the Spirit confirmation retreat. Students attended from 18 parishes across the diocese.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated a 9:30 a.m. Mass to open the day, praying and sharing a message with the young men and women he will soon be confirming. The Mass took place on the feast of St. Matthew, who Bishop Rhoades noted is the patron of St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend. He also reminded the students of the blessing they have in the example of other young men and women within the diocese who are choosing to follow Christ.
One of the religious communities present was the Congregation of Holy Cross, which sent seven seminarians led by Bradley Stalcup, who have formed a music group called the Band of Men. The seminarians brought the joy of music and the beauty of the Catholic faith to life through their folk songs, praise and worship, and sacred music for Mass and adoration.
The second religious community supporting students throughout the day was the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. Sister Fiat Staley attended, along with three other members of her community. Sister Fiat shared the beauty of the message of God’s love for the young men and women preparing for confirmation and urged them to remember to always be a home with the Lord.
World Youth Day Panama pilgrims Dane Litchfield and Jennifer Litchfield emceed the event and created an enthusiastic and youthful retreat experience for all those gathered. Several high school members of the Diocesan Youth Leadership team led confirmation catechesis trivia and taught about the lives of the saints. These youth leaders’ experience with the universal Church helped them to instill an appreciation for it among those preparing for confirmation.
Father Ryan Pietrocarlo, CSC, co-chaplain at Saint Joseph High School and parochial vicar at St. Adalbert Parish, South Bend, also spoke about an experience of the larger Church to the eighth graders. “A big part of what are students are learning is the universal Church, that the Church is more than just our parish of St. Adalbert.”
The students had many opportunities for prayer and the sacraments throughout the day. In addition to Mass with Bishop Rhoades, Brittany Baucom, youth minister at St. Pius X Parish, Granger, and the Band of Men led a session on prayer and praise, and worship music. Finally, in the afternoon, the students received the sacrament of reconciliation and prayed in adoration. As Father Pietrocarlo noted, “the Eucharist was the one that made that unity happen.”
Because the diocesan youth who are preparing for their confirmation learned during the retreat about the universality of their faith, Father Pietrocarlo concluded: “They can think in a larger way of our diocesan Church and see the universal Church, and that there are other youth walking with them in their faith journeys.”
John Pratt is director of youth ministry for the diocese.
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