BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C. — Most boys love getting away to the mountains with their fathers, but Greg Andress goes a step further. When he takes his boys to Black Mountain, he invites a group of fathers and their sons to share the adventure.
From Feb. 26-28, 17 fathers and 28 boys enjoyed a journey of faith organized by Andress through Conquest, a Catholic program of spiritual development that brings fathers and sons closer.
Father Dominic Pham of the Legionaries of Christ kept the theme of the weekend, held at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, centered on Christ with daily Mass and reflections. The men, however, caught the spirit of the retreat early.
“We put the dads to work,” said Marc Connelly, one of the fathers. “Everyone had a role to play.”
The fathers were in charge of morning prayers, meditations and sporting activities that included hiking, an obstacle course and games in the gym. The older boys organized and led four teams in all the activities, including naming their teams: The Crusaders, The Trinity, The Knights and The Saints.
Jacob Andress took the lead for The Knights, while Sean Connelly guided The Trinity, Michael Connelly took the helm for The Crusaders and Stewart Stravolo led The Saints.
The older youth also made sure everyone helped create a coat of arms for their team and a team cheer.
“Leadership, that’s always important for the boys,” said Marc Connelly, father of Michael and Sean.
They needed that organization when everybody gathered in the gym to play dodge ball, capture the flag, basketball and volleyball. It was just too cold to truly enjoy outdoor activities, even though they tried.
Darrell Weathers said his son, Seth, likes to hike. But on this retreat, the trails were iced over and slippery, while the wind chill “made it feel like it was zero degrees out there,” Weathers said.
Still, everyone gamely hit the trails, then rushed back to the warm facilities. At one point, they built an outdoor bonfire to roast marshmallows, but soon retreated to the cozy confines of the cottages or the gym.
Weathers said Seth “liked the gym the best,” especially dodge ball and Civil War, which he described as a version of capture the flag.
Weathers credited Andress for the time he spent making everything work. That included the fathers leading prayers and the times set aside for reflection.
One session focused on friendship with Christ. In another, they talked about the Good Samaritan. The fathers and sons also meditated on the virtue of obedience.
Father Dominic said it was a successful retreat because so many fathers pitched in. Then he told them that in order to build a solid relationship with their sons, they had to have a sound relationship with Christ. Quality time, such as the retreat, was one way to build up both.
Andress said his three children who attended the retreat were still talking about it. He added that he took Father Dominic’s talk to heart.
“If your relationship with Christ is messed up, you cannot have a good relationship with your sons,” he said.
The other dads agreed, and Andress said he received plenty of feedback about organizing another retreat.
“The fathers got to see their sons grow in their faith and to love the Lord,” Connelly said.