A Confirmation Retreat with 450 eighth graders from four parishes in Northern Westchester gathered on January 16. The pariticipating parishes were Assumption, Peekskill; St. Columbanus, Cortlandt Manor; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Shrub Oak; and Holy Spirit, Peekskill.
The students participating in the retreat came from different public school districts. The Martin Luther King Holiday, a national holiday as well as a day off from school, was an ideal day to gather them for prayer and reflection.
The Array of Hope group conducted the retreat, presenting five excellent short videos: God's Dream for You, I Love My Catholic Faith, Apostolic Church, Faith and Confirmation. These videos were well done and their presentation was interspersed with music, witnessing, reflection and small group activities that were fun, age-appropriate, and consistent with the various themes.
The day culminated in a beautiful liturgy concelebrated by two pastors: Fr. John Higgins of Assumption and Fr. John DeBellis of Holy Spirit, both of whom were so supportive of the retreat day, and by Fr. Vincent Druding, parochial vicar of Assumption.
Of course, none of this would have happened without Peg Hoblin, the Catechetical Office regional director for Northern Westchester and Putnam. Her inspiration, leadership and dedication to the ministry in these counties were essential to the success of the retreat day.
The organization and hospitality were ably provided by four of our coordinators of religious education: Cathy Bischoff, Assumption; Stephanie Carlone, St. Columbanus; Sarah Koshofer, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; and Elizabeth Kogler, Holy Spirit. It was clear to all how beautifully they collaborated, how well they knew their students, and how much they themselves enjoyed being able to offer this retreat experience.
At the end of the day, shortly before the liturgy, the parents of the students arrived. Both the leader of Array of Hope, Mario Costibile, and I had the opportunity to speak with the parents. We encouraged them to continue to come with their children to Church on a regular basis and to help their sons and daughters grow in their faith. The parents then joined the students for the closing liturgy. I was also very impressed by the coordinators, catechists and others from each of the four parishes, who were present to assist in any way needed. What a great group!
No doubt about it: Jesus was present there. The students, hopefully, left with a little deeper sense of how much they are loved by God and how the Sacrament of Confirmation will be a strength for the rest of their lives.