LEXINGTON — Ray DeShazo has been working with young people for over 35 years and he still gets excited when something new and unique is put in place. That’s why he and his wife Carol were looking forward to their current group Teens Growing In Faith (T.G.I.F.) at Corpus Christi setting up their first religious retreat. The idea for the event began when the church’s communications ministry chair, Vicky Reese, asked DeShazo to consider the undertaking.
He began by searching for a teen group that had a track record of getting young people involved in what was happening today as well as facing the next century. He found this at St. John Neumann Church in Atlanta and their “Life Teen” program. Contacts were made and a date was set for the retreat.
Twenty teens from St. John Neumann came to Lexington on March 20 for the event themed “Who’s at the wheel?”
The day started at 7 a.m. as Ray and Linda Loerner of St. John Neumann co-lit the pastoral candle that would remain glowing throughout the retreat.
Sessions included one that featured a recent hospital patient who had undergone brain surgery, telling how it affected his family life.
“I knew mom and dad loved me, I just didn’t know how much,” he said. He admitted that all parents are different, but they all respond to a teen-age child who offers to help now and then. “Parents see that ‘help’ as caring and that caring turns to love and bonding that lasts a lifetime.”
The family discussion was titled “Tune Up,” and it was followed by small group discussions that centered on “danger zones” (drugs, alcohol, and sex). The adult leaders also had small group discussions aimed at making sure the retreat was beneficial for all.
Of course, you can’t have a teen retreat without music, which was supplied by the St. John Neumann Teen Band.
The afternoon saw more small group discussions. Some were held indoors, while others were lit by the sunshine outside. All stayed with the theme and topics that asked questions such as, “Are you driving at high speeds?” “Am I on the right highway?” “Am I taking care of daily maintenance (prayers, Mass, Communion)?” and “Who is riding in the passenger sear?”
Two of the participants, Matt Williams of South Carolina and Caitlin McClusky of Georgia, actually sat in a car to ask the question of the day, “Who really is at the wheel?” Then they joined the entire group for the distribution of T-shirts, a special teen Mass, and a dinner that was followed by a recap that included personal sharing (“cleaning the windshield”) and personal commitments (“handing over the keys.”)