Assisi by the Chesapeake

Assisi by the Chesapeake

Flashback to Summer

Weekend Gathering Introduces Young People to Franciscan Life

What happens when you bring together 95 teenagers, 20 Friars, and several chaperones on a summer weekend?

You leave them asking for more.

Young people from Franciscan schools and parishes in Baltimore, Maryland, Buffalo, New York, and Siler City, North Carolina, gathered on Friday, July 21, at the Shrine of Saint Anthony in Ellicott City, Maryland. There they attended the Simple Profession of Vows by Friars Vincent Mary Ouly and Marvin Paul Fernandez, then spent time touring the Shrine and Little Portion Farm.

Friar Christopher Dudek led an icebreaker exercise at the Shrine of Saint Anthony
At the Shrine of Saint Anthony, Friar Cristofer Fernandez talked about the Canticle of the Creatures before leading the retreatants through Little Portion Farm.

Later that day, they traveled to Sandy Cove Ministries, a retreat center located on the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay.

“The weekend was organized by our Friars in formation,” said Friar Nick Romeo. “They gave talks, led prayer sessions, had the kids gather in small groups. Then Saturday afternoon was fun time. Sandy Cove has canoeing, kayaking, a zipline; there is a pool, mini-golf, and other activities. Saturday evening we had confessions and Adoration. The last thing was Mass on Sunday morning, and they left after lunch.

“The talks were all linked to St. Francis – the Cross, his humility, his vocation. They presented a Franciscan perspective on the Crucifixion: Jesus came to be in relation to us, not fix us, and the Crucifixion is the highest form of relationship. The fullest form of love is giving oneself in sacrifice.”

The young people enjoyed the ‘vibe’ of the weekend.

“They talked about how cool it was to make friends from other states,” Friar Nick said. “But they also said they felt like they had space to be by themselves. The atmosphere was down-to-earth, relaxed. They had time to just ‘be.’ It wasn’t super-polished.

“Many gatherings like this work at being very emotional, and sometimes open with how sinful the kids are. Our goal wasn’t to make them cry. The approach this took was hopeful, joyful, positive.”

Friar Tim Blanchard recalled the words of St. Peter.

“During the Transfiguration, St. Peter approaches Jesus and says, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here…’” Friar Tim said. “I believe a successful retreat evokes a similar feeling when retreatants can say ‘I’m glad I came!’ Thanks be to God we had many retreatants who said just that after enjoying time with new friends and experiencing new ways to pray and draw closer to our good God.

“The Friars led various activities that helped the retreatants unwind and keep their hearts open to God’s subtle whispers. On the last day after the morning Mass, one of the retreatants came up to me and said, ‘I was dreading giving up a weekend of my summer to do this, but I feel so changed now and I cannot wait for next year!’”

Friar Raad Eshoo led a team-building exercise where the retreatants fashioned a Franciscan cord using Twizzlers. But since they could only use one hand, they had to help one another.
Franciscan Sister Philomena Clare paddles a canoe for a retreatant and Friar Cristofer.