Retreat fosters coming of age, reaching out, social action
By Dorothy K. LaMantia | Trenton Monitor Correspondent
On Donovan Catholic’s calendar, Feb. 3 was dedicated as the date of the junior class retreat, when freshman, sophomore and senior classes remain home, and the normally bustling halls are quiet, inviting the junior girls and boys to prayer and reflection.
To see photo gallery on this story, click here.
“Open Hearts, Open Hands: the Journey to Christ,” the theme of this year’s retreat, proved especially fitting as students deepened their connections with each other — and their teachers — through discussion of issues and questions pertinent to those coming of age in today’s world.
A social action project benefitting the victims of human trafficking and an address by a special guest speaker were highlights of the day’s agenda leaving deep impressions on the participants.
Following tradition, girls and boys were separated and met in different rooms.
“We want to address what it means to be a Catholic man and a Catholic woman in the world,” said Mary Beth Di Blasio, director of campus ministry. “Our men religious education teachers meet with the boys in the gym, and our women teachers meet the girls in the lecture hall for the day’s program. When the girls and boys are separate, they act differently, are less self-conscious and able to speak freely.”
Girls viewed excerpts of two videos pertaining to the issue of human trafficking in which survivors of the sex trade described how they had become victimized. After viewing the film — one from Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (SOAP)an organization founded by trafficking survivor Theresa Flores — the girls affixed labels providing the human trafficking prevention hotline number onto packages of soap, which would be sent to hotels in areas known for high incidences of human trafficking.
After the girls gathered in a circle to pray for the victimized, Mary Fitamat mused, “We might have just saved a life by putting a label on a soap package.”
In the gym, the boys were inspired by Anthony Ferrara, a 21-year old athlete, musician, and motivational speaker who became a champion wrestler in spite of his being blind from birth. His message, “You can take on any problem, however big or small, and you can accomplish great things in spite of the difficulty and God is real” resonated with his audience.
Afterward PJ Spernal of Jackson, parishioner of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, shared his takeaway of the day: “Now I feel I can meet this future head-on with full confidence. I know people have my back and God will be there for me.”