Nine Jesuits attended the Youth 2000 Christmas retreat in Newbridge Co.Kildare where seven hundred young adults spent the last weekend of Advent preparing for Christmas by praying, attending talks and workshops, celebrating the Eucharist and going to confession. Youth 2000 has a philosophy of ‘youth leading youth’ so the Jesuits, along with Dominicans and other leaders were there to assist them. According to Niall Leahy SJ, one of the nine Jesuits who attended, “All of us Jesuits were so moved and enthused by the events of the weekend that we felt compelled to meet early in the new year to prayerfully reflect and share on the experience, just as St. Ignatius himself would have done. With one mind and heart we made a commitment to continue going to and serving at future Youth 2000 retreats.”
Niall Leahy is leading a group of young people to World Youth Day in Krakow later this year as part of Magis2016. The group from Ireland will begin by meeting up in Czestochowa along with 2,000 other young people from around the world also taking part in this Jesuit event. They will break up into smaller groups and go out from there ‘on experiments’ including working on a farm or eco-project, cycling or walking pilgrimage, working with people with special needs or the homeless, and creative projects in art, drama or music. After a week on experiments in various places the groups meet up again in Czestochowa before heading to Krakow for WYD and returning home on 31 August.
Below is Niall’s reflection on working with the young adults of Youth 2000 at their Christmas retreat.
In recent years Youth 2000 have seen increasing numbers of young adults choosing to devote their last weekend before Christmas to the person who is, after all, the reason for the season. This year 700 young adults from the four proud provinces battled their way through rising flood-waters to set a new attendance record at the annual Christmas retreat which took place at Newbridge College, Co. Kildare. In what was also surely a record of sorts, nine (NINE!) intrepid Jesuits went along to immerse themselves in the experience and to accompany the young retreatants on their spiritual journey to the manger.
The catechetical focus of the talks was that God wants you to be happy and that letting God into your life in a real way is the path to authentic happiness, or as Pope Francis has put it, to experiencing the joy of the Gospel. As regards spirituality, the retreatants were invited to welcome God into their lives by sincerely receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, to experience His mercy in the sacrament of confession, to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament and to contemplate His life in the mysteries of the rosary.
Judging by the buzz around the place this life-giving formula had the intended effect. At every workshop, share group, meal and queue, it seemed like everyone was eager to talk. Conversations ebbed and flowed between the sacred and the silly! The happy faces on this YouTube video says it all.
The laughing and smiling was all the more credible given that many honest tears were shed during the reconciliation service on the Saturday night. Those Jesuits who heard confessions were simply overawed by the depth of the young people’s trust, transparency and the subsequent healing that took place for so many.
The indefatigable organisers and army of volunteers, without whom such special occasions could not happen, also gave witness to the true presence of the Lord in their lives by their selfless service. All who were present owe a debt of gratitude to those who live out Youth 2000’s motto “youth leading youth to the heart of the Church.”
We Jesuits were so moved and enthused by the events of the weekend that we felt compelled to meet early in the new year to prayerfully reflect and share on the experience, just as St. Ignatius himself would have done. With one mind and heart we made a commitment to continue going to and serving at future Youth 2000 retreats.
Jesuits present: Mateusz Basiejko SJ, Edmond Grace SJ, Niall S. Leahy SJ, Bernard McGuckian SJ, Brendan McManus SJ, León O’Giolláin SJ, Kevin O’Rourke SJ, Michael Sheil SJ, Kamil Slawinski SJ.
Niall Leahy SJ.