Retreat helps youth learn to open their hearts to others

Fr. Albertus Joni, an SCJ from the Indonesian Province doing graduate studies in the United States, led a retreat May 17-19 for 70 youth who are a part of the Indonesian Community (Mudika UKI) in Toronto. Joining him was Postulant Hung Pham from the US Province, and SCJ Frs. Jim Casper, Peter McKenna, Martin Kadamattu and Aegi Warsito of the Toronto community who heard confessions.

Fr. Joni shares the following:

Smiles during retreat games

It is always amazing to see how God works among young people. I was blessed with a chance to witness God’s love and mercy in the three-day UKI youth retreat in Toronto.

Focusing on the theme of “unity,” these beautiful young people, aged 15-29, reflected on their personal relationships with themselves, with their families, and with God. We talked about the truth of our real selves as “the beloved sons and daughters of the Merciful Father.” Learning from the event of Jesus’ baptism, we tried to be attentive to the voice of the Father who always calls us to return to His home, to true joy and happiness.

Being positive and sharing love were other key things upon which we reflected.

Our Dehonian spirituality affected me so much in my preparation of  this retreat. Like Fr. Dehon when he was a youth, young people today suffer from anxiety and loneliness in part from the demands of families and tensions in society.

Participants at prayer

I found that the spiritual experience of Fr. Dehon was anchored first in his experience of love in his family alongside all the grace and struggles of his early life. The more I dig into Fr. Dehon’s human experience as a youth, the more I see how God prepared him from the start of his vocation to have sensitivity toward other people’s suffering.

“I initially came to this retreat only to nourish my personal relationship with God,” wrote Nydia Hadi, one of the participants. “I used to be a loner who enjoyed my solitude with God, but did not pay attention to other people around me. Through this retreat I have become more certain that God wants me to open my heart and learn how to be a good friend who provides love, encouragement, and support to others.”

We celebrated Mass outdoors together as we closed this annual retreat. Songs, poems, a short play and prayers were all prepared by the youth. I really admired their commitment and hard work to give their best for the community.

Closing Eucharist