Thursday, August 20, 2015

“Beautifully Made, Wholly Redeemed”

We are finally getting around to sharing with you about our busy summer! This post is about our Girls' Camp, which took place in June. We are still smiling as we think about it!

Twenty “Beautifully Made, Wholly Redeemed” teen girls gathered at Christ the Bridegroom Monastery for the seventh annual Eparchy of Parma Girl’s Camp, June 25-28. Coming from parishes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and even as far away as Texas, the girls came to encounter Christ’s love through the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession).

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“Beautifully Made, Wholly Redeemed,” the theme of this year’s camp, emphasized the original beauty in which we were all created in infinite love and in the image of God. The girls watched the classic Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast,” which illustrated the beauty and dignity that lies deep within the heart of each one of us, and is not just reliant on our outward appearance. In our small group discussions, we looked more closely at these words from Scripture: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Throughout the camp, we explored the main themes of salvation history. “In the divine image He created him; male and female He created them…God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good” (Genesis 1: 27, 31). The truth is that we are all made very good, but the lies of the devil and the fruit of sin in our lives leave us ashamed, and we hide from God. We read in Genesis that after the fall, “God then called to Adam” (Genesis 3:9). Throughout salvation history, God has been calling to each one of us, desiring to restore within us the original beauty of His creation, desiring to be reconciled with us, desiring to embrace each one of us as His beloved child.

Sr. Cecilia gave the main presentation this year, explaining the Mystery of Holy Repentance (Confession) and how Confession is a renewal of our baptism. After Confession we are completely reconciled with God, as clean as a baby that has just immerged from the baptismal font. She quoted an exorcist who said, “The devil fears one good Confession more than a thousand exorcisms,” because when we immerge from the confessional we are completely pure, a “new creation.” After Sr. Cecilia’s talk, one of the girls shared that this was the first time she had truly understood what was actually happening in Confession.

Mary Fetsko of Holy Transfiguration Parish in Mentor, Ohio, shared her personal testimony as a single woman living in the world, and how God has been working in her life. She reflected on how God’s mercy in the Mystery of Holy Repentance had helped her understand her own dignity and beauty in God’s eyes. Jason and Brooke Roberts of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Akron, Ohio, gave a talk about their vocation to marriage. They emphasized that love is not always a feeling but a choice you make every morning, and they also spoke about how Confession has helped strengthen their marriage.  

Dokimos (postulant) Moki Lonchyna shared her remarkable vocation story and how God has spoken to her of His love through prayer and the Mystery of Holy Repentance. She shared that her vocation, as is every vocation, was a response to His particular call upon her heart. After Moki’s talk, one of the girls commented, “This is the kind of story you read in a book, but this one actually happened!” Chris Kelly, a youth minister at Sts. Robert and William Parish in Euclid, Ohio, followed with an inspiring talk about how God fulfills our desires through the vocation he is calling us to, and how the deepest desire of every woman in the desire to be loved.

Although the main theme of the camp was related to Confession, we found that prayer  and God’s love became a focus for many of our small group discussions. We learned of a personal God who cares deeply about each of our hearts, who speaks to our hearts of His love, and who wants to be with us. Prayer is simply being with God, even when you do not know what to say. When you take time to be with Him you begin to hear Him speaking to your heart of His love. The girls themselves expressed so beautifully the fruits of the camp. Georgianna Hartung shared that “it brought me closer to Jesus and showed me a way to listen to Him.” Yana Monaco shared that “praying, Confession and various discussions opened my eyes to a more intimate and loving fellowship to people and especially to God.”

The camp culminated in a time of quiet reflection and prayer and an opportunity for Confession on Saturday evening. Most of the girls wrote that their favorite part of the camp was Confession. One girl shared that “it was very powerful and cleansing,” and “I know of His forgiveness and mercy, and I’m more open to prayer.” Elisabeth Hartung shared, “I’ve come to understand more fully my need for love, love that can only come from God.” Veronica Perts also shared, “I found hope and courage and LOVE in Jesus Christ. I experienced the love Jesus has for me.”

Our girls were not only showered with torrential downpours of God’s mercy and love during the camp, but with torrential downpours of rain as well. Our “camp” turned into a sleepover very quickly, as all the girls had to sleep in the monastery due to the rain. Although many girls lamented our flooded tents and soccer “field,” the camp remained very prayerful and fun. Our spirits were not completely dampened, and we were still able to make our crafts, share in group discussions, and get to know each other better.

The camp closed with a joint Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with the flooded boys’ camp participants at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariapoch, across the street from the monastery. After liturgy, the campers and their families shared a delicious lunch prepared by Richard Plishka, and the campers received rewards from the Sisters and facilitators. To encourage more girls to attend the camp next year, one of the participants said, “It was a spiritual strength booster and will leave you changed.”

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