Ready, Set, Grow: New retreat encourages youth on the path to sainthood

by Susan McFarland

North Texas Catholic

August 2, 2019

Lauren Wilde and Annice Barber-Petroff sand a part for a baby bed as they take part in the Metanoia Retreat at Saint Ann Parish in Burleson, Sunday, July 21, 2019.Lauren Wilde and Annice Barber-Petroff sand a part for a baby bed as they take part in the Metanoia Retreat at Saint Ann Parish in Burleson, Sunday, July 21, 2019.
Lauren Wilde and Annice Barber-Petroff sand a part for a baby bed as they take part in the Metanoia Retreat at Saint Ann Parish in Burleson, Sunday, July 21, 2019. (NTC/Rodger Mallison) See the Metanoia photo gallery.


BURLESON — Putting faith into action and learning how to experience a true conversion as Christ’s disciple was the mission of a five-day intensive youth retreat held at Saint Ann Parish in Burleson.

Mission accomplished, according to Mathew Hawkins, a Metanoia Retreat facilitator who is a missionary with Adore Ministries in Houston.

The word metanoia, Greek for repentance, refers to a change of mind. The goal of the retreat was simple: to help all that attend learn how to be a saint.

Organizers opened the week with pizza and icebreaker games that led to silliness and laughter, allowing the teens to relax and get to know each other. The youth gave up their cell phones to disconnect from outside distractions and allow them to live in the moment.

“Sometimes we can't see it, but God has a plan for every single one of you and we want to help you realize that plan,” Hawkins said during the opening session.

Hawkins said it was great see the youth learn how to serve others while reforming themselves. Even by midweek Hawkins began noticing fruits of the retreat, especially in the students who wrote testimonies and shared with others what the Lord has done with them and why they follow their faith.

Mathew Hawkins
Mathew Hawkins, of Georgia, leads the opening session as high school students participate in the Metanoia Retreat at Saint Ann Parish in Burleson, Sunday, July 21, 2019. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

“This is such a mix of cool kids,” Hawkins said. “What’s so good about listening to their testimonies is they get to hear from their peers and learn what others have experienced. They realize they all have something in common and it bonds them.”

Hawkins said most youth come from great backgrounds but will still face a tough challenge once they leave home.

“The next stage of their life will be the hardest,” he said. “So, when they leave high school, they will know how to keep their faith.”

Emmaline Gappa, a 16-year-old from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller, said metanoia, the name of the camp, is appropriate.

“It’s a conversion. It speaks true to what the entire camp is,” Gappa said. “If you’re willing to experience Christ in your life, you’re really able to see faith in a different light.”

Gappa said the camp covers all the bases important to her such as Adoration, Mass, service, and friendship. “It’s definitely encouraging to be able to walk away after sharing personal testimonies and realize that we’re more alike than we realize.”

Along with games and hanging out with peers, activities at the camp included prayer, Adoration, daily Mass, Confession, praise and worship, small groups, service, and breakout talks.

Metanoia Retreat replaces the diocese’s two previous camps — Young Disciples and Camp Fort Worth.

Victoria Ramon, associate director of youth ministry, said bringing together the two camps allows for something new while keeping the essence of both.

“Metanoia provides an opportunity for the youth to experience the best of both these events without having to choose one week over another,” Ramon said. “Overall, we believe the week was a great start and foundation to understanding where Jesus is working and where He is alive in our young people.”

Carlos Flores, a 16-year-old who attends St. Stephen Parish in Weatherford and had attended Young Disciples previously, said he enjoyed the service aspect Metanoia provided.

Participants in the  Metanoia Retreat join parishioners in Eucharistic Adoration at Saint Ann Catholic Church in Burleson, Sunday, July 21, 2019.
Participants in the  Metanoia Retreat join parishioners in Eucharistic Adoration at Saint Ann Parish in Burleson, Sunday, July 21, 2019. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

“We went to Catholic Charities. I never knew what all they did,” Flores said. “I learned they help immigrants and refugees.”

Flores said he will leave the retreat with confidence.

“When I go back [to] what people say is the ‘real world,’ I'm not embarrassed or shy about my faith,” he said. “I know I’ll be OK out there.”

A group from Holy Angels Parish in Clifton also attended the retreat. Annice Barber-Petroff, 16, said the retreat allowed her to learn more about devotions such as Divine Mercy Chaplet and Liturgy of the Hours.

“When you start to pray, it’s hard to sit there and listen. It’s helpful to have a manual,” she said, referring to Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, a book given to each attendee.

Barber-Petroff said another surprise was how she found joy after going to Confession.

“Usually when I go, I just confess mortal sins. This time I did the examination of conscience,” she said. “I felt so joyful afterward — like when I was a child. It makes it a lot more meaningful.”

Annice Barber, Barber-Petroff’s mother (also named Annice), youth minister at Holy Angels, said her “campers” intend to bring what they learned back to the parish and share with others.

“I love the idea of these kids fanning out across the diocese and carrying out to their communities what we’ve experienced here — learning the love of Christ, how to have a deeper commitment, and what conversions are all about,” Barber said. “And their testimonies — just hearing how they’re experiencing conversion when they slow down and see Christ working in their lives. It’s amazing to bear witness to that.”

Barber said being from a small parish, it was great to witness her students realize they are a part of something much bigger. “It’s like we are all in the same family,” she said.

Barber said the retreat was not only enjoyable for her as a counselor, but it helped her form connections with other youth ministers to share ideas. “I have a lot more knowledge about what the diocese is offering to the youth and to each parish,” she said. “It was helpful on all fronts—personal, spiritual, and professional.”

Lauren Wilde and Annice Barber-Petroff sand a part for a baby bed

BURLESON — Putting faith into action and learning how to experience a true conversion as Christ’s disciple was the mission of a five-day intensive youth retreat held at Saint Ann Parish in Burleson.

Published (until 8/2/2035)