Hispanic teens ‘Search’ for meaning at retreat

Teenagers sing and gesture during the Search for Christian Maturity retreat held at Camp Kinard from Sept. 3-5. (Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss)

Teenagers sing and gesture during the Search for Christian Maturity retreat held at Camp Kinard from Sept. 3-5. (Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss)BATESBURG-LEESVILLE—Through prayer, song and fellowship, more than 70 high school students spent Labor Day weekend learning how to mature in their faith.

Search for Christian Maturity 2010, called Search for short, was sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston Offices of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and Hispanic Youth Ministry. Hispanic students from nine parishes met at Camp Kinard in Batesburg-Leesville from Sept. 3-5.

The retreat featured peer ministry, with high school students leading the sessions.

Rhina Medina, associate director of Hispanic youth ministry, and other adult volunteers supervised the weekend.

Medina said the program offered Hispanic young people from different backgrounds an opportunity to meet their peers and support each other.

“The retreat’s theme is Search, because their goal was to concentrate on looking for Jesus, to find him and keep him in their hearts,” Medina said.

This was the first event of its kind offered in the diocese for Hispanic high school students. Organizers hope it will become an annual tradition.

The students heard peer testimonials about faith, forgiveness, morality and living a Christian life. They played sports and games together, sang praise and worship songs, and prayed together throughout the three days. Youth also spent time in private prayer and meditation, and the sacrament of reconciliation was available on Sept. 4.

Father Filemon Juya, pastor of St. John of the Cross Church, spoke to the participants about discerning their true vocation in life, and a married couple offered a session on how to build a strong family.

Lulu Torres, 16, who attends St. John of the Cross, led one of the teams.

“This has been really exciting because it’s changed my thoughts and choices about my Christian life,” Lulu said. “I want to get more involved in ministries at church now, and help others to learn about their faith. I’ve learned about what faith is, and to trust in God.”

José Hernandez, 18, a member of St. John Neumann Church in Columbia, said the weekend gave him tools that would help him stay strong.

“I’ve learned more about myself,” José said. “I learned to follow Christ and that I need to serve Christ, my community and my church. It’s helped me with my maturity as a Christian.”

On Sept. 5, the retreat concluded with Mass celebrated by Father Juya.

Youth leaders then gave Jerusalem crosses to the students on their team. The symbol, a large cross surrounded by four smaller crosses, is said to represent the four directions where Jesus’ gospel spread from Jerusalem.

The retreat leaders told the teens the Jerusalem cross is a fitting reminder of the lessons they learned: the need to walk with Christ and to spread his message in daily life.