High school men learn to keep spiritually fit

LEESVILLE—The fitness regimen known as CrossFit requires a great deal of training and discipline in order to successfully complete the high-inten­sity workouts.

For the 57 participants of the High School Young Men’s Retreat, the message was how to apply that same level of commitment to their spiri­tual lives.

“We’ve had talks by several people discussing what (the young men) need to do to prepare themselves (spiritually),” said Joe Maggio, a youth minister at St. Mary Magda­lene in Simpsonville and one of the adult staff members at the retreat. “Just like in CrossFit, you have to prepare yourselves.”

“Crossfit (Luke 9:23)” was the theme at the weekend retreat at Camp Kinard on Jan. 26-28. Guest speakers and activities focused on making the connection between physical and spiritual preparation while drawing inspiration from the verse in Luke’s Gospel, “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny him­self, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’”

The retreat, which brought to­gether high school boys in grades 9-12 from across the state, is in its second year at Camp Kinard after being inactive for several years. The weekend featured guest speaker Doug Tooke, the young adult minis­try coordinator at the Diocese of Helena, Ga., and owner of Monarch Catholic Ministries, plus music by renowned Christian musician Justin Dery, music and youth min­ister at St. Paul the Apostle in Seneca. The retreat also included Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Gugliel­mone.

“It’s been really powerful and I feel so connected,” said Carlos Escamilla, a freshman at West Oak High School and a parishioner at St. Paul the Apostle in Seneca. “We’re very blessed to have these people around us to teach us about their ex­periences and how it connected with their faith. It really helps us feel that vibe.”

Brad Singer, 16, a resident of Aiken and a sophomore at Aquinas High School in Augusta, Ga., is hoping the weekend’s events will raise his spirituality to the level of his athletic training.

“I play three sports at my high school, so I know about how to train and prepare,” said Singer, a first-time attendee at the retreat. “I was at that same level (spiritually) when I was younger, but lately I kind of fell out of it, so I hope this can help me reconnect.”

Maggio said he wants all the young men at the retreat to eventually make that connection.

“How are we training our spiri­tual lives? How are you going to get there?” Maggio said. “Are you including God in those preparations for those goals? Who should you look for as a mentor or a trainer? It’s about keeping young people on task spiritually, with all the discipline and preparation, just like in regular CrossFit.”

Escamilla, who is also active in high school sports, said, “It makes sense because you have to practice in order to become better. If I don’t pray enough or if I don’t go to Mass, that’s like the practice for your faith. And that’s what leads up to the big game Confirmation and the other sacraments.”

By Chip Lupo / Special to The Miscellany

Photo, Miscellany/Chip Lupo: Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, right, celebrates Mass at the retreat.