I came in on the early morning of Saturday, still feeling drowsy in the car. Then once I passed through the entrance, there was a buzzing energy of young people which instantly woke me up.
After breakfast, I joined in on a game where we were trying to kick around a shuttle-cock without dropping it (our record being only 5 kekeke). Then it was time for Father Truc’s talk on the topic of relationship with others – understanding others’ situations and personalities underneath the surface. This was followed by a brief discussion in each of our small groups, sharing experiences of our relationships with family and friends, and it is astounding how much we can relate with others’ experiences. The next spiritual activity was role-playing, which brought about great laughter, with dramatic performances, but were also very meaningful.
Sister Mary joined us for the next talk, on the topic of our relationship with God. She shared the challenges she had faced while relocating to a far-away town, as well as how fulfilling this chapter in her life was to be able to meet wonderful people. This was followed by our next activity, the Great Debate. And because our team is so awesome, we were tied in first place.
By tradition, we finished off the main talks with the highly anticipated Amazing Race, which included games such as tug-of-war; hopscotch tic-tac-toe relay; and Guard the Queen Dodgeball. At the same time, we had to keep an eye out for the saboteurs in our team (although some were just unintentionally bad at some games – which only made the saboteurs’ jobs easier)!
Afterwards, we journeyed through each of the Stations of the Cross in the silence of the night, all huddled up with lit candles,united as one. When Father Manh got us all to gather around and lay a hand on the Statue of Mary, that was when I really felt a deep connection with God.
As the night grew darker, there was a special moment of reflection, while we sat in a circle around the lit candles. I just felt the trust that everyone had for one another, and the warmth that filled the room. It was truly something that I will never forget – an intimate moment where we disclosed our struggles and deepest feelings. Even as we headed over to the small chapel for adoration, praying together side-by-side, there was serenity within the darkness.
The night didn’t end there however – some were still chatting with each other, some played games, but I was watching the spicy noodles challenge. I didn’t dare to take it on, but it was more fun watching the others burning their mouths and drinking bitter melon juice. But curiosity got the better of me and I eventually drank it as well – and man was it disgusting!
The next morning, I was so happy to be awoken by … a ringing handbell that echoed through the hallways. During Sunday Mass, I could feel how close we had become – through singing together as a small “choir”, and as we embraced each other during the Sign of Peace. After Mass, we were grouped with our team for the last time to share the memories that we had created over the last couple of days. The day ended with a beautiful slideshow that captured the wonderful moments during the retreat, where everyone was smiling from ear to ear.
When I got home, I finally got to read the Affirmation letters from my fellow peers at the retreat. We were able to say the things we would not have said face to face, an opportunity to open our hearts and express our appreciation for others. The messages were all really touching that I still keep them as memorabilia.
For sure, I would recommend you all to attend the retreat. I am constantly amazed at how interesting the topics are each year, especially the fact that young people can relate to them. I’m very grateful for all the Fathers and Sister for taking the time to be with us, the mothers who are always so willing to cook for us, the Thanh Nien members who helped organised a wonderful retreat, and of course those who attended the retreat!
By Peter Tran – 2018
Photos coming soon…