We have to say that during these past six weeks here in Palatine we have been blessed to meet many young people who are answering that call and responding with the same dedication and discipline that we have watched in the Olympics.
It was thanks to Megan Summerbell’s (our summer intern) encouragement that we were able to contact Shevawn Pearson who invited us to give a talk to the young people attending the MI Youth Retreat for 13 to 17 year olds at Marytown. MI stands for “Militia of the Immaculata.” The MI is a spiritual movement founded in 1917 by St. Maximilian Kolbe, with over four million members worldwide. Through Total Consecration to Mary, young lives are transformed into instruments of “youth evangelizing youth,” with a mission to transform their world with authentic and heroic love.
This was Megan’s first year to serve as one of the youth leaders, after attending the retreat for several years. As one youth leader, Katrina, explained to us as she sat down with us for lunch, the goal of the MIs is to bring the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary “as soon as possible, as soon as possible, as soon as possible.”
The theme of the retreat was the theme chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for young Catholics in 2012 – “Rejoice in the Lord Always” (Phillippians 4:4). For many years the MIs came to the Home for at least one day of service during their retreat but since that didn’t work out this year we brought “the Home” to them. There were about 120 young people (a mixture of young men and women) attending the retreat so two Little Sisters and five Residents went to Marytown. We were invited to give a presentation on the “Beatitudes: Recipe for Joy-filled Saints”. This seemed to be a match made in heaven since St. Jeanne Jugan lived out the spirituality of the Beatitudes with great joy!
Sister gave a brief introduction to the Beatitudes showing how Jesus and St. Jeanne Jugan lived them out and how they are so much a part of the spirituality of Little Sisters. She used real life stories to bring home examples of each Beatitude. After the introduction the young people split up into groups – one group for each Beatitude, with a Resident or Sister with them. In their groups they would decide how they would present their particular Beatitude to the rest of the group. Some did skits; some told the stories; others gave their own examples. They were very creative.
It was beautiful to see how they included the Residents and how the Residents also participated by listening, directing and encouraging the young people. At the end when we all came back together again one of our Residents, Penny, told them all how impressed she was with their presentations and with them. She told them that at one time in her life she had taught CCD and had never experienced the enthusiasm for the Faith that she had witnessed there that day. She thanked them for their Spirit-filled witness.
Afterwards I asked the Residents who had gone what they thought of their experience and of the young people they had encountered. Penny was not the only one who found them “remarkable.” Paula remarked that she learned a lot from them and thought the whole thing was “fantastic.” The young men that she worked with were “very helpful and very good with their answers.” Teresita was impressed at how “open” the young women were to the messages and stated that it was good to see that “the Holy Spirit is still very much alive among the elderly and the young!” She said knowing that they would carry with them what they learned into their daily lives gives her much hope for the future. Betty Harte enjoyed her time with them and would go again “anytime.” She was struck by their sincerity and their faith. Bob was able to share with his group of young men a little bit about his life and what he still does for his parish such as teaching 4th graders CCD and the things that he is able to do around the Home to help out. He was impressed with their presentation but especially with the discussion of “their Beatitude” — blessed are the pure of heart — and the young man who summed it up — it is better to give then to receive.
Sr. Mary Paschal enjoyed interacting with the group of young women she was with and encouraged them to be open to the Lord and to say yes when the Lord called since some of them felt that the Lord might be calling them to the religious life. Sr. Diane also found that the young women she was with didn’t just take their Beatitude at face value but went deeper. The whole afternoon proved to be very worthwhile for everyone involved. It was a grace-filled experience and seeds were scattered as St. Jeanne Jugan was given an opportunity to share the secret of her joy.