Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..."

We promised to post a longer article about our girls' camp, and although we are a bit behind, we still wanted to share with you about this fruitful weekend that took place here earlier this summer!  This is the article that appeared in the most recent issue of our eparchial newspaper, Horizons.  To view our photos, click here!

“We are witnesses” was the theme for the fifth annual Life in Christ Girls’ Sleepover Weekend (“Girls’ Camp”) June 27-30, 2013.  Fifteen teen girls from Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin, along with seven young adult facilitators, camped out at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery in Burton, Ohio, for a weekend of prayer, talks, discussion and fun.

Stephanie Packard, 18, of St. Mary parish in Cleveland, said, “It helped me to grow closer to Christ and to return back to Him.”  Another participant commented, “I realized how much I don’t talk to God.  I found my vocation and healed over a past experience during the talks and confession.”

The four-day camp is sponsored by the Eparchy of Parma’s Office of Vocations.  The participants heard from speakers representing each of the vocations in the Church, who spoke about their call to holiness within their vocations and about their favorite saints and the importance of praying to the saints.  This gave the girls an important opportunity to reflect on the way that God is leading them during this time of their life.  One participant said, “I had said ‘yes’ to Christ countless times, but this weekend I shouted ‘yes’ with my whole heart.”

The weekend began on Thursday evening with a documentary on the life of St. Maria Goretti, followed by discussion.  The girls were surprised by the patience of St. Maria in her everyday life, her example of purity and her forgiveness of her murderer.  On Friday morning, Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Gabriella, of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, spoke about the call of each person to be a saint.  A saint, they said, is someone who is holy, and “holy” means to be “set apart.” Therefore, holiness is not first a matter of “doing” but of “being”; it is a gift from God.  They shared the ways in which we open ourselves to the gift of holiness: through prayer and the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments).  The Sisters then talked about the examples the Church gives to us in the canonized saints.

Leah VanDine, 15, of St. Mary in Cleveland, said, “My favorite part of the weekend was the entire moral of the weekend, ‘We are Witnesses,’ because it helped me come to see the holiness in myself and in others and our spiritual need to be saintly.”

Young adult facilitator Stephanie Bullock spoke about the single life, particularly the temporary state of singleness as a special time of grace and growing in holiness while discerning one’s ultimate vocation.  Young adult couple Art and Maggie Klatt spoke about the vocation to marriage and the challenges and joys of seeking holiness through setting aside self out of love for God, spouse and family.  Mother Theodora, of Christ the Bridegroom Monastery, spoke about the vocation to the monastic life and shared her journey of discernment.

The camp also included plenty of fun and prayer.  One participant said, “It is the most amazing experience to be with so many girls from all over the country and truly come together.”

On Saturday evening, young adult Rob Fetsko of Holy Transfiguration parish in Mentor, Ohio, gave a moving talk to the girls about their inherent dignity as daughters of God.  “You are beautiful just as you are,” he said.  He explained that when young women understand their dignity and live in a way that demonstrates that, it helps young men to be who they are called to be.   The girls then participated in the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession) and spent the evening in personal prayer in the gentle glow of candle-lit icons.  Emily Clark, 15, of St. Francis de Sales parish in Akron, Ohio, said, “My favorite part of the weekend was the confessions because it was awesome and freeing.”

The weekend culminated with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, across the street from the monastery.  The girls and their families joined the Boys’ Camp participants and their families for this moving, youth-cantored liturgy with Bishop John, followed by lunch and an awards program.

Megan Tucholski, 16, of Holy Spirit parish in Parma, Ohio, said of the weekend, “It strengthened my relationship [with Jesus Christ] because I got time to find Him and also to find myself.”  To young women considering next year’s camp, Mae Martin, 16, of St. Stephen parish in Allen Park, Mich., advises, “It’s so fun and peaceful and awesome!  You have to come.”

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