A Reflection on the 2010 Altarboy Retreat - By Deacon John Anderson

The 2010 Annual Diocesan Altar Boy Retreat took place from Sunday, June 27- Wednesday, June 30 at Christ the Saviour Cathedral and Seminary in Johnstown, PA. Christian youth retreats are said to be some of the most significant events in a child's life. When children are taken out of their typical environment and put into a different one, the atmosphere is conducive to reflection, decision-making, and significant personal growth. This year the altar boy retreat was no exception. This year we had over 80 boys participating from all over our Diocese. This year's Retreat Master, Fr. David Cochran , put together a fantastic group of leaders as follows: Fr. Luke Mihaly, Fr. Andrew Fetchina, Fr. Peter Zarynow, Fr. PeterPaproski, Fr. Miles Zdinak , Fr. R Michael Zak, Fr. Michael Macura, Fr. Matthew Moriak, Fr. John Fedornock, Fr. James Dutko, Fr. Michael Chendorain and Fr. Deacon John Anderson.

The altar boys arrived at 6 pm on Sunday and were assigned to their sleeping quarters. The boys were grouped with others their own age, with the hope that the age appropriate format would provide a better learning and teaching experience, especially for our younger altar servers.

The first full day of the Altar Boy Retreat was filled with many activities and opportunities for spiritual growth and enrichment. The boys viewed video presentations on the life and spiritual struggles of Joseph. There were 4 main talks with a video presentation on 4 different aspects of the life of Joseph. (Abandoned, trapped, tested and promoted)

From the videos and presentations on Joseph, the boys learned how to navigate victoriously througha world that is sometimes hostile and unfair. Joseph is the antithesis of the "victim mentality"--because life or others have treated him cruelly and unfairly. He was justified in seeking vengeance, nursing self-pity, living selfishly and expecting others to compensate him. If ever there was a true victim, it was Joseph! Who has ever met anyone who has been treated more unfairly than Joseph? Yet he was so different because his response is so different. He models for us what it looks like to trust God's loving power.

After each presentation and short talk conducted by the presenters, we broke into our age groups and had clergy rap sessions. It was the hope of the staff that this age ppropriate format would provide a better learning and teaching experience, especially for our younger altar servers. The boys received instruction in Plain Chant Singing, travelled to Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Windber, PA to enjoy the parish's recreational facilities and the nearby town park, and also took part in a scavenger hunt. The boys participated in many activities such as softball, basketball, swimming and more. This year the older boys challenged the clergy to a basketball game and were sent packing by our clergy team! A cookout dinner at the Windber Church Pavilion was provided by the cooks of SS. Peter & Paul Church who did a great job! thank you! To close out the first day, the boys sang a Moleben to St. Nectarios and participated in the Holy Mystery of Repentance.

The highlight of the second full day of the retreat was the celebration of Divine Liturgy where Fr. David Cochran was the main celebrant. Following Liturgy, additional discussions on the retreat theme took place prior to leaving for Idlewild Amusement Park in Latrobe, PA. The day concluded with an ice cream social at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Windber.

Wednesday marked the conclusion of the 2010 Altar Boy retreat. Highlights included breakfast with His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas, who enjoyed spending time with the children. After breakfast there was a final presentation on the Life of Joseph and a visit to the Seminary Bookstore prior to departure.

During their stay in Johnstown, the young men gained much.  They learned life lessons, grew stronger in their faith and had fun at the same time. The participating priests were  pleased by the favorable comments  they heard about the retreat on their long car rides home. In all it is truly a blessing from Almighty God that  the retreat was a huge success  and that clergy and altarboys alike enjoyed their time together and can't wait for next year!