I was extremely privileged to attend the Catholic Youth Team’s annual young adults retreat, Journey to the Father, during the university holidays. Having just arrived home from a 45 minute commute, I was picked up by a friend who had kindly offered to drive a group of us to the YMCA campsite in Wainui. The drive was moody, as we ascended into low hanging rainclouds on our way over Banks Peninsula. Happily, we were all excited for the weekend ahead, as we looked forward to taking time out of study/work and to grow in faith and fellowship. The first evening began with adoration, an ideal way to offer up in thanksgiving the past week of full time work with which I had been blessed and to unwind. This was followed by the Stations of the Cross, which we decided to hold indoors due to poor weather. By now I was struggling to stay awake after the early rising and very long work days that week. We then entered into a time of contemplative silence which would endure until the following morning. This time was devoted to reflecting on the passion and death of our Lord in imitation of Holy Week.
Saturday morning we broke our fast (both literally and metaphorically), then moved into several talks focused on the main theme of this retreat, “Being Remade”. Our speakers were Timothy Malone from CYT, Fr Clement the tertiary chaplain and Fr Chris Eaton who had joined us from Canberra. Each talk was very stimulating, followed by a time to discuss and reflect further in small groups. We then headed outside for a walking rosary down the main road from the campsite to the sea. Despite light rain, I thoroughly enjoyed the walk. Reciting the rosary while walking is one of my favourites ways to pray. I find that this is an excellent way to meditate, using the natural rhythm of walking to occupy the body and calm the mind. It is also a privileged opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature in the present of God. Following on from this, we then entered into an intense evening of adoration, praise and worship, prayer ministry and reconciliation. I did not experience any extraordinary emotional moments, yet I appreciated the opportunity to pray among faithful young adults and to give thanks. In fact, this retreat helped me to become aware of the incredible blessings I have received from the Lord this year. In January, I had attended a very similar retreat, at the same campsite, with many of the same people and with a similar schedule. As I look back and compare these two events, I have become acutely aware of a huge interior change I have experienced in the past 6 months, both psychologically and spiritually. Compared to the beginning of the year, I have been healed from major personal struggles, have grown in hope and have begun to mature in faith. I have also been blessed with a group of sincere, faithful and humble friends which have been (and continue to be) invaluable to this spiritual growth, and with exciting plans for the next few year!
The final day wrapped up with a beautiful mass, further testimonies, prayer then some elbow grease to clean and pack up in preparation for the road home. The weather seemed to be testifying to the spiritual events which had unfolded over the weekend, with a dreary wet winter on Friday and Saturday giving way to a warm spring Sunday. We packed into the van and headed back over the hills towards home, stopping over for a (prolonged) break at McDonalds to enjoy each other’s company one last time.
Thank you to all those who worked hard in the background, as well as the foreground, to make this event so successful!