Father Christopher Colavito, Catholic chaplain at The College of New Jersey, Ewing, addresses the young adults during a presentation in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Church.
Father Christopher Colavito, Catholic chaplain at The College of New Jersey, Ewing, addresses the young adults during a presentation in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Church.

On March 4, young adults [18-39] from across the Diocese gathered for the annual Lenten retreat, “Given: Become What You Receive.” The young adult retreat was led by the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, and hosted in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton. 

PHOTO GALLERY: Young adult Lenten retreat

Reflecting on the day’s theme, Dan Waddington, department director, said, “Since we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we are called to go out and make disciples – to become what we receive.” 

Keynote speaker Gez Ford, who is involved with the family and music ministries in St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, spoke about how God changed him while he was growing up as a young adult in an Irish-Catholic family in Manchester, England. Ford comes from a rich spiritual background as a full-time worship musician and is involved with Catholic addiction help centers called the Tabor and Carmel Houses. Ford is also currently a candidate in the diocesan diaconate formation program.

Ford admitted that even though he grew up in a family where faith was strong and practiced, by the time he turned 11 years old he “thought Church was a sham.” 

Sharing some of his past challenges, Ford acknowledged he struggled with homelessness, addictions, and anger with family members.

“That all changed one time in the back of a police van … I gave up,” he said. “But during that [time] I had a moment of grace where I recognized that God created me out of love; it was imprinted on my heart – the idea of the cross baffled me. The day after, there was a change in my life.”  

Ford related his personal story to the Eucharist. “Jesus, as he refers to himself in John 6, is our spiritual food; he calls us to himself. When we receive that, digestion is different, he resides in us and we become nourished, fulfilled, and at peace. After we receive, we are called to go out and to live a moral life,” Ford said.

After lunch, participants attended sessions on “Liturgy of the Eucharist” led by Father Chris Colavito, Catholic chaplain at The College of New Jersey, Ewing, and “Living the Body of Christ” with Cristina D’Averso Collins, director of Family Life in the Diocese of Metuchen and campus minister at Monmouth University, West Long Branch.

D’Averso Collins reflected on the Eucharist, noting that in Christ’s time disciples walked away from his teaching about his Body and Blood. Many disciples today do the same thing.

The retreat rounded out with Ford and his worship team leading young adults in praise and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Mass celebrated by Father Colavito.

“Similar to how the Apostles saw the Transfiguration event, when we receive the Eucharist, we become transformed spiritually as well. If we truly knew what the Eucharist was, we would all be trembling,” Father Colavito noted in his homily.

“What we receive on Sunday should transform us at work or in school on Monday, and of course the rest of the week,” he said.

Joe Ferrarelli, 31, of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, who attended with his wife, said Ford’s talk resonated with him, especially when Ford said, “We’re called to not like people, but to love them. With so much going on with the world, he assured us God is in control.”

Amanda Kleinmann, 28, of St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, said she “didn’t have any expectations coming in, but I did learn a lot. The breakout talk by Father Colavito was something I definitely needed. He explained the Eucharist from the perspective of being a priest at the altar, and the seriousness of it. He taught me how to be in the moment, instead of going through the motions at Mass, which happens to me often.”

Father Rick Osborn, parochial vicar of St. James Parish, Red Bank, who assisted with hearing Confessions and Eucharistic Adoration, said, “It’s always a privilege to hear Confessions and [administer] the Sacraments, but especially today with helping young people in their faith, as many are first starting their faith lives. It’s always a great joy.”