Mini-retreat for middle-schoolers: An interview with retreat leader Father Patrick Hoare
CHARLOTTE — Father Patrick Hoare, pastor of St. John Neumann Church in Charlotte, is the featured speaker in the Middle School track of the Eucharistic Congress. Father Hoare says the program will feature the Life Teen Band from St. Matthew Church, and will both inform and entertain the sixth- through eighth-graders who attend the track. Although the track is only three hours long, Father Hoare intends to introduce the students to the concept of a retreat. Father Hoare recently spoke with diocesan Director of Communication David Hains about his participation in the Congress. His comments have been edited for clarity.
Q: Many Catholics have attended retreats in high school and as adults. What will the experience be like for a middle school student?
A: It's being called a mini-retreat. As middle school students they are reaching a maturity level where they are questioning and starting to examine critically what they believe. When I was in sixth grade, you believed what you were taught. Now, because of the way society marginalizes or almost mocks faith, kids at a younger and younger age are sort of encouraged, through the media and through their peers, to question everything and to look at things with a skeptical eye. I am going to base the mini-retreat on John Chapter 6, the "Bread of Life" discourse, and start with the passage where Jesus reveals Himself to be the Bread of Life. At the end of the passage, it says, some of the disciples said following Jesus was too hard for them, and they left Him. And from this, the kids go through a thought process: Is Jesus crazy? Are we crazy for believing Him, or are we crazy for not believing Him? That's really the question that I want to help them answer for themselves.
Q: That is an interesting way to boil down the journey toward salvation.
A: It is. And of course, since this is the Eucharistic Congress, (the retreat) will be centered on the Eucharist. We will be examining our belief in the Eucharist as middle school students who will face questions on why they believe that the wafer they see is the Body and Blood of Our Lord.
Q: Have you ever taught middle school students?
A: I've been in middle school classrooms, but my main experience with middle school students was when we started an education program for them at St. Mark Church in Huntersville. My primary ministry prior to becoming a priest was with high school students.
Q: How should a middle school student prepare for the Eucharistic Congress and the mini-retreat?
A: I would encourage middle school students – and everyone participating in the events of the Congress – to really be aware of both their personal experience and the experience of those around them. They are part of a much larger experience, not only at the Congress but also in the Church around the world. They will be participating in the procession, the education programs and in Adoration, and it is important to not only notice how they are experiencing these things personally but how others are experiencing it. A big part of the liturgy is the Church of Christ coming together as one body. Their relationship with Christ is a personal thing, but they are part of a larger Body, too.
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