By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL
The MYO regional Christmas retreat for the Eparchy of St. Maron was on November 30 – December 2 at the Retreat Center of the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, MA. The theme of this was the adoration of the Magi (Wise Men) with a focus on how we can adore Jesus as they did.
The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light facilitated the dynamic group of over 100 teens and chaperones from several parishes which included, St. Maron’s in Philadelphia; Our Lady Star of the East in Pleasantville, NJ; St. Theresa’s in Brockton, MA; Our Lady of Purgatory in New Bedford, MA; St. Anthony of the Desert in Fall River, MA; St. Anthony’s in Lawrence, MA; St. Anthony’s in Danbury, CT, and Our Lady of the Cedars, Boston.
Over the two days, the teens participated in a variety of different events and activities and prayer which included adoration and confession. God bless the Maronite priests who serve the above parishes that came to offer the Mystery of Penance to the youth. One of the icebreakers, which generated alot of excitement; was the “Christmas stations”. The chaperones from St. Anthony’s in Lawrence created six different stations at which the youth had to participate in different activities in as quick as time as possible. Some of the stations included putting on a Santa suit, eating Santa’s three oreos and drinking his milk, unwrapping presents with oven mitts and so forth. Friday night concluded on a festive note with a bonfire, roasting marshmallows and socializing, in the crisp air. The youth had fun after the bonfire by participating in a gingerbread house building competition, which the chaperones actually won for their creativity and effort.
Fr. Joseph Daiif, Pastor of St. Theresa’s in Brockton, spoke to the youth on Friday night on the gift Jesus made of Himself in becoming man to save us. Sr. Therese Maria led the youth in adoration on Friday night, while Fr. Joseph gave benediction.
On Saturday morning, Msgr. James Root, Pastor of St. Anthony of the Desert in Fall River, spoke about the adoration of the Magi, and why their visit to Baby Jesus and their bringing of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were so special and important. In our small group discussions, following the talk, many of the youth commented that they learned a lot about the Magi themselves and the significance of their gifts. We encouraged the youth to think and reflect on their own personal gifts that they can place at the feet of Jesus this Christmas season.
There was no better place to prepare for Christmas than the La Salette Shrine with their famous display of countless miniature lights and catechetical displays which switch on at 5pm everyday during the Christmas season. On Saturday evening, the teens made their way to the Shrine for the blessing of the Manger and the switching-on of the lights. They had some free time to explore the vast display of lights. The evening ended with lots of fun which included pizza and a dabke party.
Over the course of the weekend, many of the youth expressed their joy at having made so many new friends, at having this opportunity to bond with God and one another, and at being free to just be themselves and have fun.