Eighteen years ago, Fr. Tom Washburn, our youth ministers, and several teens got together and after many weeks of praying and brainstorming, developed our Walk to Emmaus retreat. This past weekend we held this two-day retreat for 42 tenth graders preparing for Confirmation. As you may expect, a few were eager to attend but many, or most, were reluctant, resistant, and unhappy to be spending two days at church without their cell phones. Yes, we require that they actually retreat and leave those things at home. Sunday night we returned the teens to their parents with a very different attitude and hearts that were burning with the love of Jesus Christ.
Our retreat includes several talks, some done by our team and some done by special guests. This year our special guests included a Benedictine monk, a Sister, two teens who were confirmed last year, and teachers from the teen’s school. As a special treat this year, two of our team had daughters helping on team and their daughters learned our retreat theme song and taught it to the teens. Three generations of WTE team – it was very special and the kids loved it. The talks are interspersed with relevant fun activities that get the kids engaged and ready for the next talk. The teens get to experience Reconciliation which they begin anxiously but always report it is a highlight of the retreat. One thing that the teens always report touches them is palanca which they receive from their parents, sponsors, extended family, parishioners, and more. After the teens completed their 9th grade retreat, parishioners agreed to pray for one of the teens until their WTE retreat. Those prayer partners also wrote notes of affirmation letting the teen know they have been praying for them for approximately 18 months. Another very meaningful part of the treat is Adoration and it’s always well received. However, this year the team reported feeling an overwhelming outpouring of the Holy Spirit and noticed a tremendous change in the kids after spending time in Adoration.
We are truly blessed at St. Thomas Aquinas to have a program and retreat that absolutely gives our teens hearts that are burning within them for Confirmation and beyond.