By Kaitlin Kowalec | Correspondent
Talking and laughing, faithful of all ages flocked together March 23 for a family night and lock-in retreat geared toward forming stronger bonds in faith and friendship.
“I hope the teens walk out with what our Ignite Youth Group is all about: fun, faith and fellowship. Our theme is to be ignited with the Holy Spirit in our daily lives,” Joan Kret, youth ministry coordinator in St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, said of the night.
Photo Gallery: Year of Youth in St. Leo the Great Parish
In celebration of the Year of Youth, the parish hosted a family night and overnight lock-in that began at 7 p.m. March 23 and ended with 7 a.m. Mass the next day. The event drew youngsters, teens and parents alike.
Set up around the parish gymnasium were several tables with games such as Apples-to-Apples, Jenga, Uno and Bible Trivia, which the teens and younger children played together. A few young men played basketball, which continued much of the night.
There were a few brave takers on the karaoke machine: a quartet sang a medley of Disney classics, and Sister of St. Joseph Sister Jeanne Belli, parish pastoral associate, graced the crowd with a couple of tunes. The all-youth rock group Once Upon A Time from Rock’n Music Academy, Middletown, helped the teens not just to sit and listen to the beat, but start dancing as well.
And despite some stumbles and wrong turns, almost all of the youngsters and a few of the parents could not resist joining in as parishioner Rob Laub taught Country & Western line dancing.
During the evening, director of religious education Kay Hetherington led everyone in prayer through an original presentation on the Stations of the Cross.
“It’s written as a contemporary walk through of the Stations to make people feel as if they’re really there alongside Jesus,” she explained. “As we get closer to Easter, it’s good to consider the Passion of Christ and have an open avenue of discussion about it in the family, and here it’s nice that the kids can reflect on it as a group.”
Mark Russoniello, pastoral associate for parish faith formation, held a discussion on Lent as well as the importance of the Year of Youth and a few of the young saints whose images adorned the gym. Part of his presentation included a demonstration with three jars exemplifying “sin,” “me and you” and “Jesus” and having the young people volunteer to pour the jars. That showed how everyone is born pure and tainted by sin but how it is Jesus who can clarify and absolve everyone of that sin.
As the evening wore on, younger children and families left, leaving the teens to take part in faith-filled activities such as trust exercises, a reflection walk, prayer journaling and watching the movie “The Little Boy.”
When asked about young people’s place in the church, Dylan, 14, said, “Young people have so much vigor. We get up every morning to go to school, but then there’s still that life in us that keeps us going to get out there and spread the word of God.”