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placeholder March 24, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA

Participants in a youth ministry retreat from St. Margaret Mary Parish in Oakland, with retreat master Father Brandon Macadaeg in the center.
Valerie Burkart/Courtesy photo

Youth retreat focuses on developing
'spirituality of the evangelist'

A retreat by the St. Margaret Mary Parish Youth Ministry at the CYO Retreat Center in Occidental invited the teens to develop a "spirituality of the evangelist."

Retreat master Father Brandon Macadaeg, a newly ordained priest of the Oakland diocese and parochial vicar of Holy Spirit Church in Fremont, expressed how important it is to be joyful in practicing and sharing our Catholic Faith — "just like Pope Francis," he said.

The Feb. 28 retreat, "Get Connected — Encounter Christ: To Know, Love & Live Our Faith," coincided with the first year anniversary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI resigning ministry, and the subsequent election of Pope Francis.

Each teen was assigned to a small group named after an apostle: Sts. Andrew, John, Matthew, Peter and Thomas.

Rather than reading through the dense material of the Holy Father's work or even diving through the vast treasure of Catholic theology, the retreat talks focused on developing one's relationship with Christ and the Church.

If we are to win people over for Christ, it's necessary that we know Him first. Pope Francis mentioned in a February homily, "if you witness to a consistent, Christian life, something will begin to work in the hearts of the non-believers and it will be our witness that brings them to the love of Jesus Christ."

The first talk focused on the Church, and how to be an effective evangelist. The result: Fall deeply in love with the Church, both in the joyful times and in the challenging times. The teens reflected on the ways they first fell in love with the Church, either through liturgy, theology, music, art or just simply by going to church with their families.

The second talk focused on the world. Using Peter's denial of the Lord (Mark 14:66-72) reveals that sometimes the pressures of the world can seem too much for a disciple of Jesus, to the point that he wishes to run away. To love the cross means to know how to love. Father Macadaeg invited the teens to face the crosses of the world, with courage, conviction, joy and with a little bit of style. Father Macadaeg presented the "10 Rules for Handling Disagreement like a Christian," originally developed by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.

The final talk focused on our Identity in Christ, when Peter healed the crippled man on the day of Pentecost (Acts 3:1-10). If we let the cycle of the dying and rising of the Lord take root in our lives, then that means the life of Jesus is taking root in our lives and, therefore, we can say with great conviction to others, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise and walk!"

Father Macadaeg assigned each small group an apostolic mission they had to present to believers and non-believers. Other retreatants acted as their audience, providing each small group with positive and constructive feedback.

Some teens expressed what they'd learned:

"I learned not to judge; not to be judgmental of other Catholics," Emily Rae Fealy said. Brendan Sullivan said: "I learned how important it is to be joyful in expressing our Catholic Faith, with believers and non-believers."

And Patrick Kennedy said, "I never knew being a priest was so cool!" referring to Father Macadaeg.

Bridget Poon voiced several graces she received: "For me, three things made this retreat the most beautiful and prayerful weekend I've ever been blessed to experience: the beautiful surroundings of our amazing retreat center; the peace and comfort of all-night adoration, both Friday and Saturday nights; and of course, our always joyful and faithful retreat master, Father Brandon Macadaeg. I came to the retreat with a very specific question, and, through the grace of God, I was able to come so much closer to His answer for me."

"Working with people during the group presentation was a challenge at first. But it allowed me to remember we all belong to the Church, and, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we should learn to work together despite any differences we may have," John Gabriel Burkart said.

(Michael X. Sullivan is youth minister at St. Margaret Mary Parish, Oakland.)

 
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