“LIFTED Retreat lives up to its name in that it helps to remove whatever holds us down and then helps you up.”
So testified a young adult that attended the 2019 Catholic Youth Parramatta (CYP) LIFTED Retreat on the 5 to 7 July at Benedict XVI Retreat Centre in Grose Vale.
There’s no denying the experience of isolation and confusion that many young Catholics living their lives in the world face, but the LIFTED Retreat is perennially a chance for them to encounter others and feel strengthened in their commitment to their relationship with Jesus Christ and to their Catholic faith.
“We face difficult times ahead as youth of the Catholic community and I’ve learnt on this retreat that by going against the tide and following Christ courageously, you can inspire and evangelise others,” said another of the 62 participants. “If you’re not struggling, you’re dead! The faith isn’t meant to be an easy path, but we must dare to be different.”
These words echo those of Pope Francis in Christus Vivit, his recent Apostolic Exhortation to the youth of the world. The retreat reflected on this inspiring document, particularly the following passage:
“Certainly, as members of the Church, we should not stand apart from others. All should regard us as friends and neighbours, like the apostles, who “enjoyed the good will of all the people” (Acts 2:47). Yet at the same time we must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, fidelity to our personal vocation, prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship.” (Christus Vivit, 36).
The various guest speakers took up the challenge to “dare to be different” by drawing on different elements of our Catholic heritage beginning with a reflection from the CYP team on martyrdom, and how our history is filled with role models who dared to be different.
Dave Harrison, Director of Catholic Mission, Diocese of Wollongong, got Saturday morning off to a powerful start with a call to see the struggles involved in following Jesus as a reminder that we’re alive.
“Dead men don’t struggle,” he said. “Our following the hard, but life-transforming and joyful path of Jesus will be difficult but we’re only going where our Lord went first: to the Cross and beyond.”
His reflections on encounters with hurting people in prisons and hospitals, on the streets and in his own workplace inspired participants to consider to whom they were called to go in their lives.
Throughout the rest of the day there were times of sharing with other retreatants, for Mass and for silent prayer and the rosary.
PJ Almendras, Acting Team Leader, Catholic Youth Broken Bay, took us even deeper on the Saturday evening with the always-powerful LIFTED night. He shared his story of being a grieving teenager who found strength, hope and peace only when he encountered God at a similar youth retreat sixteen years ago. This led beautifully into an experience of prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation for many there.
“This was a turning point for me,” said a young woman in her 20s. “I now feel I have no more guilt from my teen years and am ready to run forward. This was hard but so worth it!”
Sunday morning saw Joy Adan, writer and creative, dare all who had been touched by God over the weekend to go out into the world authentically themselves.
Building on Pope Francis’ challenge to “make a ruckus” (Christus Vivit, 143), she encouraged everyone to throw themselves into life with all their gifts and talents, their faith and experiences, and all that makes them different.
Sunday Mass was celebrated by Fr Peter Williams, Vicar General & Moderator of the Curia, Diocese of Parramatta, who commissioned all present to go into the world in community, like Jesus sent his disciples, depending on each other and our strong relationship with Jesus in order to fulfil our baptismal call to share the redeeming love of God.
And so ended the LIFTED Retreat 2019, with young adults prepared to make the world a different place by the love they had experienced from God and from each other, which they were now eager to share.
“This is my third LIFTED Retreat and coming on this journey every year so far has helped me learn something new about myself and my faith,” said Cecilia Tuuhetoka. “Being away from my busy lifestyle helps me reorganise my life and prepare to go out there and be myself by sharing my love for Christ and others.”
The next Catholic Youth Parramatta event will be LIFTED Live! Feat. Gus and Iggy. This is a dynamic night of prayer and praise, Adoration and Reconciliation for all ages. Saturday 3 August, 7.30pm at Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill.
To register for LIFTED Live! Featuring Gus and Iggy, visit parracatholic.org/liftedlive/.