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Young adults can unplug, renew at retreat

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SAN DIEGO — “Verso l’alto” is the theme of this year’s Diocesan Young Adult Retreat.

The Italian phrase, which means “to the heights,” is closely associated with Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, an avid mountain climber, who inscribed it on a photo from his last climb before his death from polio at age 24 in 1925.

The selection of that theme is also a nod to the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival, a three-year initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to foster greater devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is often described as “the source and summit” of the Catholic faith.

About 140 young adults, ages 18 to 39, from throughout the diocese are expected to attend the retreat, Sept. 16 to 18, at Whispering Winds Catholic Camp and Conference Center, in the Cuyamaca Mountains.

The retreat, which will begin on a Friday evening and wrap up early Sunday afternoon, will include two Masses as well as inspiring talks, small-group discussions, reflection time, fun group activities like a Saturday night bonfire, and opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of reconciliation.

Pamela Poe, associate director of the diocesan Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said it’s not simply that young adults “enjoy” the retreat.

“They need it,” she said. “They need that time away.”

She explained that it gives young adults the opportunity to trade their “busy and noisy” world for “a setting that is so conducive to prayer and community” – at least for the weekend.

As director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Maricruz Flores is heading the leadership team for this year’s retreat. But, last year, she was just a participant, and that experience left an impression.

“I appreciate just going off to Julian, disconnecting because my phone does not get a signal up there, and really being one with my brothers and sisters in Christ,” she said, “and, when I come back, I’m refreshed, I’m reinvigorated, and it keeps me on track in my faith.”

Flores said that, while the retreat follows the same general format every year, it’s a new experience each time.

“There’s something familiar about the retreat,” she said. “But, every year, it’s different speakers, it’s new ideas, and then you get new young adults who come and share their lives.”

One of the new features of this year’s retreat will be a special track for bilingual participants, said Brilema Perez, associate director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry. The new track, she said, is “a great opportunity for bridging gaps” between the English- and Spanish-speaking young adult communities.

Another change is that, rather than hiring liturgical musicians from outside of San Diego County as in past years, the retreat organizers secured the services of the same local young adults who have been providing the praise-and-worship music for the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office’s successful Abide Worship Nights.

Perez spoke about the benefits of the retreat.

“It provides for a space to really dialogue, to really get to know the other person,” she said, explaining that participants hail from disparate walks of life.

She said the retreat is a chance “to speak from the heart and to talk about your experience of your faith journey, to listen to other people’s faith journey … and find common ground.”

The cost to attend the Diocesan Young Adult Retreat is $185 per person. More information is available at sdcatholic.org/youngadult or at (858) 490-8260.

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