Spiritual Retreat Reminds Students of Higher Calling
- Nigel Akuani
Port Moresby: A spiritual and fun-filled Youth Retreat has left sixty Grade Twelve students with a heightened sense of optimism for their future ambitions.
The three-day retreat that began on Tuesday 22nd September, held at the conference hall of the Catholic Bishops Conference in Waigani, had as its theme, “Care for Creation. Live LIFE!”, and had the participation of the first batch of Grade Twelve students from Jubilee Catholic Secondary School.
The second batch of 54 Year Twelves attended on 23rd September, with the final batch of 44, set for Thursday 24th September. The retreat is expected to engage a total of 158 Grade Twelve students.
Organised by Ms Sheryll Isoaimo, Media Animator and Teacher of JCSS, in collaboration with the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNGSI, the retreat is designed to help students reflect, renew, reconcile, resolve and reconnect, with themselves.
Various sessions were given throughout from Commission Secretaries of CBCPNGSI, that included: Elizabeth Aribi, Secretary of the Youth Commission; Fr Ambrose Pereira SDB, Secretary of Social Communications; and Development Secretary, Marie Mondu. Sessions dwelled on: Pope Francis’ Encyclical of Laudato Si and the Season of Creation from September 1st to 4th October; Relationships in Life; and Forgiveness.
In her orientation session, Ms Aribi, explained to the students how fortunate they were to be in Grade Twelve, and urged them to use responsibly the remaining time they had left to achieve better results for their future. “The decisions you make today are on you, you choose what to take in or out, and this retreat serves as a way of improving your decision making by helping you reconnect with yourself, your schoolwork, family, and above all, God,” she said.
She told of how the source of life was a gift graced and given by God to all of his creation and said the retreat served for the purpose of reconnecting with Him. “At one point of this retreat, you will meet Him and thank Him. Take advantage of today because God is presenting himself today for you to spend time with Him,” she said.
The presentation of Laudato Si by Fr Ambrose, and its connection to the problems of today, particularly COVID-19, raised concerns among students as it highlighted the importance of caring for the Earth and its relationship with its inhabitants. “In the name of development there is so much destruction occurring, and COVID-19 has made us realize that we need to do more on our part to protect creation,” he said.
He advised them to always be mindful of their place in the world as predetermined by God, to be caretakers of all of creation, and to protect and preserve natural resources for future generations to benefit from.
Ms Mondu left a strong impression on the students during her talk of relationships in life. In her talk she stressed the significance of love, respect and forgiveness in a relationship and how they all worked together solidifying unity between people. “Love means having respect for others or your partner, valuing their opinions and treating them with dignity as humans. When there is no respect of a partner, this then leads to promiscuity and the sexual exploitation of one’s partner,” she said.
She admitted that this was an unpleasant social problem that affected the lives of many families, and urged for matters of Relationship to be discussed in a more open manner. “In most PNG societies and families, the topic of relationships, love and sex is taboo. But it is an interesting and necessary topic for many young people to know more about as they explore the challenges and mysteries of Adolescence,” she stated.
Prayer moments were held between sessions to create an atmosphere of silent contemplation and reflection of sessions presented. Screening of short videos on Creation gave students time to re-evaluate their current attitude toward the environment, and their relations with friends and family.
To conclude the day’s program, a Confession and Eucharistic Celebration was held in the afternoon that saw both male and female students make a personal commitment, by reciting vows to live pure, in respect of themselves and others.