Spiritus retreat team set to embark on 9-month journey

By Thomas Kelly | For The Compass | September 3, 2009

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Meeting each other for the first time, Spiritus team members gathered Aug. 23 to get acquainted and share a meal before a weeklong training session in St. Paul, Minn. Spiritus is a new retreat ministry group based out of Mount Tabor Retreat Center. (Thomas Kelly | For The Compass)

“Our goal is to facilitate 140 retreats for young Catholics in grades three to 12 and spanning a nine-month period beginning in September,” explained Foord. Commitments to more than half of these retreats have been received.

“This evening’s gathering is the first time most of these people have met each other,” said Foord. “Tomorrow they’ll depart for a week-long training session with the National Evangelization Team based in St. Paul. Then they’ll hit the road.”

Accompanied by team leader Mark Lyons from Mount Tabor, the team will travel by van throughout Wisconsin, evangelizing youth at parishes and schools through retreats and other programs as requested. On days without scheduled retreats, the team will visit schools and serve in community agencies.

In addition, the team members will devote time to daily prayer – both community and personal – as well as attend Mass and receive the sacraments as frequently as possible.

Ranging in age from 20 to 26, team members will live in community by gender – women at Mount Tabor and men at St. Bernadette Church rectory in Appleton. They have agreed to live by the teachings of the Catholic Church and promote them in the youth they serve, to refrain from dating and to serve six days with one day off per week.

Erin Schuessler, 22, of Resurrection Parish in Allouez found her inspiration listening to a Maryknoll missioner’s homily while working at Camp Tekawitha Retreat and Conference Center. “I had just celebrated reconciliation before Mass and was instructed to offer the Mass with the hope of understanding what God wanted me to do. The homily moved me to share my faith actively and move forward. So here I am.”

Nick Coombs, 25, of Catholic Campus Ministry in Springfield, Mo., recently studied culinary arts at Missouri State University, but something tastier called him to Spiritus. “I’m hoping that getting out of my comfort zone and doing something to spark my spiritual life will teach me to serve God’s children more than cuisine; (instead, serve) real food for their spirit.”

Jenilee Foreman, 23, of St. Patrick Parish in Rochelle, Ill., recently majored in theology at Southern Catholic College, Dawsonville, Ga., and felt drawn to learning more about evangelization. “I was in the first class to graduate from a brand new Catholic college,” says Jenilee. “Now I’m in the first group of this new evangelization program. I guess you could call that the full immersion method!”

The pull that brought each of these eight women and men together for the next nine months is as individual as the participants’ spiritualities. Each one is committed to a purposeful, but currently indescribable end: an openness not to what they want, but to whatever God wants for them.

“It’s an unusual opportunity for these people to live so radically for Jesus,” noted Foord. “Each one has indicated a deep love for God, and feels led by the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus. They feel called to share their faith to inspire younger Catholics. Many of them envision ministerial work and leadership positions in the church. Vocations are another strong possibility.”

According to Foord, Spiritus offers dynamic retreats using praise, music, dramas, challenge activities, witnesses and small and large group discussions.

“We have made the cost of these retreats affordable for tight budgets so we can reach as many Catholic youth as possible,” added Lyons.

For more information about opportunities for the Spiritus team to visit a parish or school, or to learn more about Mount Tabor, call (920) 722-8918, or visit www.mttabor.net.

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