Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and stood there, calling out as before: “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” — 1 Samuel 3:8-10

Once again, the youth from our Northern California parishes gathered together in a retreat to listen to God and at the same time draw closer to each another.  The retreat, whose theme centered on Samuel’s response to the Lord, was held from Friday, November 11th, to Sunday, November 13th, at the Presentation Center in Los Gatwas os.  H.E. Mar Bawai Soro, Fr. Dimitri Grekoff and Fr. Andrawis Toma, Sr. Tarbytha and Sr. Anahyd, and seminarians Simon and Royal were the honored guest speakers for the 80 youth gathered together from St. Mary, St. Thomas, St. Matthew, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishes.

Bishop Bawai started of the talks with a discussion on the call to virtue and the need to draw close to God, which at the same time draws us close to one another.  The sisters of the Workers of the Vineyard talked on vocations and how to discern what God is calling you to.  The seminarians from Mar Abba Seminary discussed the importance of prayer and good friends when discerning a vocation.  Fr. Dimitri, completed the talks with a homily during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.  He discussed the graces that flow from God, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the need for service to God, pointing out the Church’s emphasis of Isaiah 6 in which Isaiah, after his lips have touched the coal, offers his service to the Lord.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ — Isaiah 6:8

The retreat was filled with fun and spirituality.  In addition to having each others’ company, there were games, sports, and activities designed to get the youth to know one another more closely.  Morning and Evening prayers were accompanied by Rosaries and an hour of Adoration, as well as the station of the cross.  Our priests offered the Sacrament of Confession to many of the youth, with Fr. Dimitri actually hearing confessions until almost 2am.  The Eucharistic celebration formed the high point of the retreat.

Overall, it was a blessed event, and we thank God for the blessings, our clergy for their support, the seminarians and nuns for their camaraderie, being friends and great examples, the youth leaders from all the parishes for their dedicated work in making this retreat possible, and all the youth for their spirit and energy.