By Novice John Taylor
On Sunday, May 14, the Richmond community residence hosted the St. Anthony´s Confirmation Retreat. Novice Pascal led the overall planning, scheduling, organizing, and execution of the retreat for nearly 20 Confirmation students. Novice Pascal and the rest of the core group of animators, Fr. Joe Nguyen, Fr. John Puntino, and I spent the previous few months brainstorming and developing the program and activities for the retreat. This joint planning process taught each of us valuable lessons with regard to listening, patience, valuing opinions, and dedicating ourselves to making the best overall experience for the young students to experience God through the retreat.
The day of the retreat finally came, and we began welcoming the confirmation students to our residence starting at 8:45 am PT. Linh, the religious education coordinator responsible for the confirmation students and organizing volunteers for the food preparations for the day, showed up with donuts for everyone. After the students ate, we went outside and some of the young adults from St. Anthony's Youth Group led the students in a few fun games in the grass outside. From there, we all went into the cafeteria to play family feud in teams. The idea of the game was to get the students to think of the secular values we have for modern successful people like Elon Musk and Taylor Swift. It was competitive! Then, Fr. Joe talked about our priority of values in our lives and after lunch, we had a rotating stations activity whereby each station presented one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. According to the students, the activity for the Gift of Fortitude was the most fun: guiding a barefoot and blindfolded student through (what they thought) was a path full of sharp tacks.
After that activity, Fr. John Puntino led an activity where the young anonymously shared their life difficulties on notes and volunteers taped them onto a wall. Then, the young looked over them and wrote which gifts of the Holy Spirit would help each problem. I appreciated knowing the struggles of the young and how wise they were to know which gifts could help with each difficulty. From that activity, I led the students in an activity for making a coat of arms with their personal values shown in pictures. The confirmation students are gifted artists! From that activity, Fr. Joe, Fr. John P., and a couple of other priests heard confessions. It was very nice to see all of the parents, especially all the mothers, attending Mass in our community chapel with their children, the confirmation students. There was a beautiful dinner prepared for a Mother's Day celebration after Mass, where all the mothers were honored and received potted plants from St. Anthony's.
I was greatly impressed by the value of community that I witnessed through this retreat. It took many volunteers and goodwill from so many people to bring about this experience for the confirmation students. And, everyone was so joyful and appreciative and helpful to each other. And, we all focused on the mission together to focus on serving the young in a Salesian spirit. This was such a wonderful event, and I'm going to take the lessons learned through this experience with me into future ministry.