It was a blessed 4 days and 3 nights as OYP held their fourth combined polytechnic retreat, Empower ’18. The theme for this retreat was taken from Luke 5: 1-11, the passage on the call of Simon. When Simon had encountered Jesus, he dropped his nets, left his boat and followed Christ. Jesus invites all of us to drop all our earthly possessions and simple pleasures and follow him, to live a life with Christ at the centre of it all.
One of the aims of the retreat was to allow participants to acknowledge and understand their call as Christians, to embark on a journey with Christ and to truly know what it means to leave everything and follow him. A sense of revival dwelled in the hearts of many participants at the end of the retreat, as they left with their relationship with God renewed.
Over the course of the retreat, mass was celebrated daily, serving as a reminder that all of us are called to partake in the Eucharist as one Church. Other forms of worship included, praise and worship and Eucharisitic Adoration. Each day began with morning prayer as we reflect on God’s word through scripture (Lectio Divina) and ended with personal reflection through the Examen Prayer. These prayers taught us how to pray, reflect and see how we can live out scripture in our daily lives and to discern where God is inviting us personally.
As the days went by, God’s never-ending love was tangible to many participants as they grew to realise how intimate and deep Christ’s love for us is in the prayers and sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many who struggled to forgive themselves came out of the confessional feeling liberated from their sins. They experienced the reassurance that no matter how broken or sinful one may be, Jesus will always love you no matter what.
Before the retreat, I was burdened by sin and unworthiness, resulting in me hiding myself away from God because of shame. During the retreat, God revealed to me the truth that I am not a mistake and that the Father’s love is more powerful than any negative words. I was filled with the spirit of joy and courage to go out again and be His light to others and have Him lead me. – Mark Francisco
During the outpouring and the healing sessions, many participants were filled with the Holy Spirit as they cried out to the Lord in their time of tribulation. Joy filled the atmosphere as they came out proclaiming how God’s love prevails in times of distress.
One impactful practice during the retreat was journaling. Participants were encouraged to pen down their thoughts and important takeaways from the sessions and to jot down the truths that they received. This really helped with reflection and served as a concrete reminder of the truth in times of worry after the retreat, to remind us how God has touched us before and will continue to do so.
As Pope Francis says, “To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone”. It was really inspiring to many who felt unworthy when in a testimony given by one of the leaders revealed to us that Jesus does not wait for us to be holy to call us to join Him and journey with Him, but He wants to journey with us every step of the way, especially in our times of weakness.
A deep sense of bonding between the communities took place, as we had fellowship over meals and played games that really encourage the participants to not only have fun but to really understand what it is to be surrounded by people who seek Christ and would be ever-willing to help one another in their journey towards Christ as one community. Gender-based cell groups provided a sacred and safe space for participants to share their personal struggles and to really allow them to realise that they are not alone in this fight and by sharing, you stir within the hearts of those you share with so that they may be willing to share their struggles too.
The empowerment session on the last day served to remind us of how God continually fills and empowers us in all that we do, and that our call is to first follow Him. how we are called to be in our various communities, to being wholly in Christ, with Christ and for Christ.
On a personal note, this retreat has really opened up my heart to the gift of receiving the graces from the One I serve and to remind me why I continue serving with all my heart. I look forward to many more opportunities for the Lord to use me as his instrument in bringing more people to Him. Truly, God is good! Amen!