Youth of the kingdom

María Reyes

Warm wishes to the Hispanic youths and young adults of the Philadelphia Archdiocese and those who serve them in this new year!

Approximately 40 high school youth from Our Lady of Hope, St. Hugh, St. Veronica, Incarnation of Our Lord and St. William parishes together with their group leaders, gathered at Our Lady of Hope Parish on Dec. 6, 2008 to reflect on the Advent season.

The theme of the one-day retreat was, “Who are you waiting for?” The goal of the retreat was to provide youths with the opportunity to reflect on how “waiting” can sometimes cause much anguish and anticipation. The youths were challenged to be patient and wait for the good things that the Lord has in store for their lives. It also served as a moment to reflect on main reason for waiting during this season – the coming of Christ Our Savior.

The young people were invited to leave their worries at the door and to live the retreat experience in peace and quiet. The retreat also offered time for group sharing, participating in the sacrament of reconciliation and Mass.

“I have been to many different youth retreats, but the presence of Father Gus [Puleo] was a memorable one,” said Shamil Fuentes, a St. Veronica youth group member who participated in the event. “His personal stories made so much sense to me. His stories stayed with me throughout the season of Advent and I have had the opportunity to think about them over and over again.

“Father Gus asked us about the pictures that we carry in our wallets and [asked us] if we were to look in God’s wallet would our pictures be there the way we carry our friends’ pictures?” she said. “It made me think about the way I carry Christ in my heart and if I carry Him the way I should. In Father Gus’ homily at Mass, he spoke about a personal story in which he had re-gifted a gift that a friend had given him and how it went around in a full circle. He made it clear to me that God’s love should always be re-gifted, especially to those who need it most. We should be proud to have a friend like Jesus.

“Since this retreat, I have seen Christ in a new way in my life,” Fuentes concluded, “as my closest friend.”

A youth minister at the retreat shared with me that one of her young participants was at the right place on the day of the retreat: she is a victim of separation from her family due to immigration issues – a sad reality in today’s world.

The girl stood out from the crowd on the day of the retreat, a smiling young lady patiently and hopefully waiting to be reunited with her family. Our prayers will remain with her and with all the youths and young adults that are faced with similar hardships.

The hope is that the youths that attended the retreat took home some of the messages shared with them on this day – and that they can understand that no matter what they are waiting for, Jesus waits lovingly with them.

Maria Reyes is the coordinator for Hispanic Youth and Youth Adult Ministry for the archdiocesan Office of Youth and Young Adults.