By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light facilitated a MYO/MYA Regional Retreat at the St. John Paul II Maronite mission in Sleepy Hollow, New York on Saturday, March 11th. The theme was “Be Made Clean” and was based on the gospel of the Second Sunday of Lent, the Healing of the Leper. We were blessed to have among us and as one of the keynote speakers, His Excellency, Bishop Gregory Mansour.
This Regional Retreat brought together over 130 teens and young adults from the following parishes, including their dedicated volunteers: St. John Paul II mission; Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, Brooklyn, NY; St. Louis Gonzaga Parish in Utica, NY; St. Sharbel’s parish in Somerset, NJ; Our Lady Star of the East parish in Pleasantville, NJ; Our Lady of Lebanon parish in Easton, PA; St. Maron’s parish in Philadelphia, PA; and St. Anthony’s Parish in Danbury, CT.
A number of pastors from the parishes mentioned were in attendance: Msgr. James Root (Brooklyn, NY); Fr. Dany Abi-Akar (Sleepy Hollow, NY); Fr. Kamil El-Choufeiti (Pleasantville, NJ); Fr. Simon El-Hajj (Easton, PA); and Fr. Aaron Sandbothe (Utica, NY).
This retreat day was filled with activity, prayerful communion with God, and with much laughter and fun (and even a surprise visit from the ice cream truck). We had two presentations for the day, one from Fr. Dany Abi-Akar, pastor of the host parish, on the cleansing gift of confession; and the other from Bishop Gregory, on the power of the Eucharist to heal and bind our wounds.
The morning included small group discussions, which focused on some of the fears we may have on approaching confession, and, more positively, how confession improves our relationship with God. The MYO small groups were facilitated by our dedicated volunteers, and Sr. Therese Maria led the MYA.
One of the highlights was the large number of young people who went to confession despite the many misgivings and fears they expressed earlier. We had priests stationed around the beautiful church offering the saving mercy of Christ. It was uplifting to see these young people approach Jesus with tears in their eyes during Exposition of the Sacred Mysteries.
The day concluded with Divine Liturgy, dinner and a dabke party. We would like to thank Fr. Dany Abi-Akar and the parish and volunteers of St. John Paul II mission for hosting this event and for their outstanding hospitality. Thanks for all their hard work, the preparation and service of the meals, and the donation of the ice cream truck. A very big thank you to Mrs. Frances Mourani for coordinating this event at the local parish level.