On September 10 and 11, teens in the Diocese of Gary worshiped together during the Ignite the Fire overnight retreat at St. Patrick’s parish in Chesterton. The retreat was based on the theme “Glow in the Dark.” Young Catholics from sixth to twelfth grade came together to participate in many different activities. It was mainly planned by a group of teen leaders that served as mentors for other teens during the retreat.
Will O’Donnell, a junior at Andrean High School, was a group leader who helped come up with ice breakers for the retreat so that the teens would get to know each other better. According to O’Donnell, meeting so many different people from different age groups enabled him to get more out of the retreat. “When you come closer to [other people] you come closer to God, and it’s just a great experience,” said O’Donnell.
O’Donnell was glad to be able to meet other juniors in his group and discuss Catholic values with them. Every group at the retreat discussed the theme of the retreat and connected it to the lives of each individual. “We talked about how we can be a light for someone else in their darkness… how we can spread that light to others, and we can help them to become light so that they can shine for someone else,” said O’Donnell.
Brad Nieman plays the song “Pharaoh Pharaoh” with his band, Fired Up! Photo provided by Joe Kern
Teens also spent a lot of time singing and dancing together during the retreat. Music was provided by Fired Up!, a band that plays Christian contemporary music. The rhythm guitarist, Brad Nieman, is also a leader of St. Mary’s youth group in Crown Point. He was not only able to become friends with the rest of the band during the retreat, but he was also able to help teens inside and outside of his parish meet each other and God.
Nieman said that one of the best things about the retreat was just seeing teens outwardly enjoy themselves in a Catholic setting with other teens. “[I liked seeing them realize] that there’s no shame in expressing your faith and that faith is something you should be proud of and outward about, not something you should hide under a bushel basket,” said Nieman.
Amongst many other fun activities, teens listened to several different guest speakers who shared their own experiences about their faith and how they have seen God’s light in the world. One of these speakers was Bishop Donald Hying, who has shown a great commitment to Catholic youth during his time with the Diocese of Gary. At the retreat, he let teens ask him questions. When asked what his favorite thing about being a bishop is, he responded that it is “moments like these” that bring him great joy. Both Bishop Hying and the teenagers enjoyed interacting with each other during the retreat.
A teen reads prayers that were written by other participants during the retreat. Photo provided by Joe Kern
Retreats like Ignite the Fire allow people to connect with one another and God in a Catholic setting. Teenagers that attend these events will be prepared to act as a light to the world and provide a bright future to the Catholic Church. Not only will they be prepared, but they will have fun living out their faith like O’Donnell did. “I gained a better understanding of how fun worshipping God can be,” said O’Donnell.
The youth of today’s Catholic Church will one day become the Church of tomorrow. This is why teenagers are so important to the Church community now; by becoming involved in the community and learning how to live the Gospel at a younger age, these teens will be prepared to take on Christ’s mission as the adult leaders of the Church.
For teens who are interested in going to a Catholic retreat, there are two upcoming retreats. The “Grasta Dé!” retreat for middle school students will take place on October 16 at Andrean, and “The Way” retreat for high school students will take place on November 19 at St. Michael’s in Schererville.