This past weekend, my wife Erin and I helped lead a Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) retreat in St. Robert, MO. Erin served as the lay director and I the co-music director. The weekend was blessed with thirty-one candidates and one adult observer. These are huge numbers for a TEC retreat. The weather was beautiful, the facility worked out well, and our team could not have worked harder. The retreat went off without a hitch.
That’s…of course…how it looked from the outside and from the perspective of the candidates. Being married to the lay director gave me a unique perspective into the construction of a TEC retreat. From the beginning, it was clear that we were going to have to put a lot of trust in Jesus.
For starters, it should be noted that the number of candidates signing up for TEC retreats in our diocese has been declining for years. So, most directors/teams begin preparation for TEC retreats knowing they will have to work hard to attract enough candidates to make the weekend a go. Secondly, we knew the space would be just big enough to accommodate a normal-sized TEC group. Anything bigger would start to cause serious logistical issues. Third, it’s considered bad form to actively recruit your team before the previous TEC’s team has been formed. The TEC previous to ours was taking place just a few weeks before ours, so we knew we would have to scramble to assemble a team once theirs were set.
The four weeks leading up to the TEC saw a dizzying revolving door of team and candidates. In particular, the week prior to the weekend featured a mad scramble for additional team because of the surprisingly large number of candidates. On top of all of this, thirteen of the candidates were a Confirmation group coming from one parish. Typically, we cap our numbers at five coming from any one parish, but an exception was made in this case. The reason for the cap is that a sizable contingency from one parish or school can dominate the weekend and screw with the dynamics. Also, sometimes Confirmation candidates are forced (by parents, grandparents, etc.) to participate in sacramental prep. One or more teens on the weekend with a bad attitude can adversely affect the flow of the retreat.
There were reasons…BIG reasons…to not feel settled entering the weekend. To their credit, though, the team never reflected that attitude. They knew what we were up against. They knew about the numbers, the large group from one parish, the logistical concerns, the fact that much of the team, being new, had not met some of the other team members. They just didn’t care. I don’t mean to say that they were apathetic. I just mean, those concerns didn’t bother them. They knew the one thing that would be true no matter what challenges they faced: Jesus was going to show up.
TEC is designed to set up a “meeting” with Jesus, through a journey with His Paschal Mystery. The team knew that all they had to do was set up the encounter, pray, and Jesus would handle the rest…and he did. We saw it in the peace displayed by the candidates after Reconciliation, they’re reverence as we adored Jesus during shared prayer, they’re gradual comfort in sharing their faith with each other, and the way they participated in the prayer and para-liturgy experiences. These candidates opened their hearts to Jesus, and he changed their lives.
As we travel through this week, here are a couple of questions to ponder. When looking to share Jesus with others, are you trusting in Him enough to just set up the meeting and get out of the way? Why or why not? What needs to change in your life to allow those encounters with Jesus to be more effective? What can you do this week to work toward making those changes in your life?
For more information about TEC, click here