By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
Ask those who attended the daylong retreat May 3 in San Alfonso Retreat House, West End, what they enjoyed most, and they all respond pretty much the same – going for a swim.
The “swim,” however, had nothing to do with bathing suits, but rather was designed to be a refreshing spiritual swim in which they could reflect on their ministries in the Church of Trenton.
Throughout the “Replenishing the Minister” retreat, which had as its theme, “Living Water,” presenter Msgr. Richard LaVerghetta referred to Scripture passages, works of noted authors and personal stories to lead the gathering of 140 in three “swims” that focused on how “Jesus is living water for all of us and how, filled with his peace, mercy and joy, we must be springs of living water for one another and the world.”
Msgr. LaVerghetta, pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, said it was his goal to give the women and men who serve in a range of ministries within the Diocese “hope to see that they as members of the Church are part of something that really has changed the world for the better.”
Referring to St. Paul in the Book of Ephesians 3:14-21, Msgr. LaVerghetta also offered words of encouragement on how, even during the challenging times facing the Church, it’s important not to lose hope.
“God can and does accomplish more than we could ever dream or imagine through ‘the power at work within us,’ the Holy Spirit,” he said.
Those who attended the retreat serve in many capacities and parishes across the Diocese, including in the ministries of jail and prison, youth and young adults, bereavement, social service, and addiction and recovery. Also in attendance were catechists, pastoral associates, Catholic school teachers, campus ministers, clergy and religious.
Reflecting on how the retreat was about “replenishment, renewal and refreshment,” Deanna Sass, director of the diocesan Department of Pastoral Care, said, “People in all ministries give of themselves for others, and this was a chance for them to receive care and be inspired and enjoy the seashore and the company of others just like them.”
With this year being designated as the Year of Youth in the Diocese, Sass noted that her department – which sponsored the event – worked in collaboration with the diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries to invite persons to the event who directly minister to youth.
Ruth Stanczak, a member of the bereavement ministry in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, was enlightened by the way in which Msgr. LaVerghetta helped all “see Jesus working through the Church.”
“Naturally this produces much hope and optimism in our souls to continue our work of ministry,” she said. “We all felt confirmed in our work for God.”
Jeanne Marinello said she related her work as youth ministry coordinator in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral to the various analogies pertaining to water and “about being in the same boat and also about if you are not catching fish on one side of the boat, don’t be afraid to explore fishing on the other side.”
Youth ministers, Marinello said, often have to find ways to think outside the box in order to engage youth in the life and faith of the Church since “there is no cookie cutter Catholicism. We are all different; we have to constantly be on an exploration to bring our message to meet those who we serve, not the other way around.”
“It’s always good to go beyond the walls of our parishes and go into our communities to convey our message and serve both the physically and spiritually hungry and thirsty,” she added.
Along with assisting at Mass and presiding over sacramental celebration, Deacon Matt Nicosia of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, also directs the altar server ministry and is youth group coordinator.
Attending this retreat day, he said, “equipped me with additional tools to help emphasize to young people how important our role of disciple really is and how important they are to the present and future Church.”