My Summer School Experience 2017
Last year (2016) was a tough year for me. I felt that I was beginning to crack under the weight of all the commitments I had. So I was desperately seeking to have that time of recharge and re-motivation. I was looking forward to this year’s Summer School of Evangelisation, hoping it would give me that time to prepare for 2017.
Just before the first day, I found out that I was needed to be a share group leader. My spirits dropped, and I suddenly lost interest in going. However, I felt obliged to help. So I just went along. As the week went by, I attended lectures and seminars, prayed over people in the night sessions, enjoyed quality fellowship with the attendees and those in my share group, did some prayerful exercise with Graceful Fitness, and meditated in the presence of Christ in daily Adoration and Mass. Ultimately, through the combination of these experiences, I was touched by the power of God. I felt motivated and inspired to really be the best witness I can be of His great love.
The retreat ran for eight days, 8th to the 15th of January (Sunday to Sunday). The way the Summer School of Evangelisation works, is that, starting from Monday, each day has two lectures in the morning, mass around mid-day, a seminar in the afternoon, and a night session after dinner. Around those main fixtures were relaxation time, meals, and personal prayer time with Adoration. That was the format for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday, Saturday and the Sundays had no seminar. Seminar one went for Monday and Tuesday, and Seminar two went for Thursday and Friday.
When I arrived, I had to pick two lectures and two seminars from a vast selection of talks on many different topics. I really liked the fact that I could choose the topics I wanted to learn about. This allowed me to tailor my experience to suit my personal needs.
I chose the “Pathway to the heart of Christ” by Derek Boylen for lecture one, because it was about Mary. How and why we can look to her for guidance to lead us to be closer to God. I always struggled with the idea of why we even bothered praying to Mary when we can just pray to God instead. Derek delivered this lecture series in a very real way. He helped me to see the experiences of Mary being the chosen mother of Jesus with new eyes. Going through this lecture series, I can now understand why the church holds her up so highly. She was chosen by God, and made our mother by Christ himself. She is the “new Eve”, the mother of humanity, and the mother of the church.
For the second lecture, I chose Fr Dave Callaghan’s lecture titled “Finding Jesus”. This was probably the most interesting talk from my Summer School experience. From the get go, Fr Dave set out to re-establish the wonder and awe in the stories of Jesus through the gospel. A key phrase that stuck with me, is that “if you’re experiencing boredom [while reading the gospel], you haven’t met Christ.” Fr Dave left this talk very open, and provided us with opportunities to ask many questions about the stories in the gospel. We started out on “why did God become human?” This then turned into a discussion on who is Jesus? Which lead us onto wondering why it is so hard to love God. The ironic thing is that I left each lecture with even more questions than when I went in. I find that I have a new, healthy thirst for wanting to get to know Christ even more.
I chose Johanna Banks’s talk on “Growing in the Spirit Together” for Seminar 1. This talk was about friendship, and how we should treat our friends. We discussed things like why do we have relationships and how does that relate to our purpose in life, and what is love and how does that dictate the way we are called to be in relationship with one another. The world has a specific view on what friendships and our other relationships should be like. This talk dissected that perspective, and showed us how we are supposed to be in relationship according to the teachings of Christ. As I do have many friends with different perspectives on what our friendships/relationships should be based on, I found that I was confused and didn’t have a clear opinion on what I should base by relationships on. So, in attending this Seminar, I was able to understand Christs teaching on the matter, and establishing my own perspective on what the foundations of a truly great friendship/relationship should be built on.
I went along to Fr Dave Callaghan’s talk, “Training Ground” for Seminar 2. This talk was directed at the guys. Fr Dave made us look and think about what kind of man we wanted to be in 20 years’ time, and what we have to do to achieve that goal. Society’s view on masculinity is very different to the churches teaching. So, it can be confusing, growing up in a world with so many different examples of men. We identified men in our lives that we looked up to, and thought about what it was in particular, that made them such exemplar men of God. This talk really got me thinking about what kind of man God is calling me to be, especially at this point in time, where I’m in my mid 20’s and trying to find my direction in life.
The night sessions every night of the week were the highlights of each day. They usually consisted of some top quality praise and worship, followed by a testimony, a teaching and some prayerful time to contemplate the lessons learnt. These followed the theme “River of Grace.” Each night was built up from the previous night, with Thursday’s baptism in the Holy Spirit being the pinnacle of the week. For me the best memory I have of Summer School 2017, was the mass we had before the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Thursday night. You could feel the electricity in the air during the mass. When we renewed our baptismal promises, as a group, I could hear that everyone meant each word they were saying. It was like a drum. That energy and enthusiasm was just infectious.
You really had to be there to feel it.
My time in between each of the main fixtures usually consisted of resting in a cool shaded area and indulging in the odd board/card game to avoid the heat. Adeline Bock was generous enough to run three of her Graceful Fitness exercise and rosary sessions during the week. I went and attended two of the sessions, and would highly recommend her programs. On the Saturday night, we had the Summer School Concert/talent show, where anyone could do a performance and show off their God given talents. It was so beautiful to see just how talented some people were. Acts ranged from breathtaking singing performances, to the hilarious skits that will live on in Summer School history.
As I said earlier, I was assigned the role of share group leader prior to attending. It was a daunting task, knowing, how I am as a share group leader, will directly affect the experiences of those in my share group. However, God blessed me by putting some truly great young men of God in my group. Our sharing sessions were just awesome as we delved into some really juicy discussion on questions raised in the talks we attended. I felt enlightened, and privileged to have journeyed throughout Summer School with my boys (you know who you are ;P).
Overall, the Summer School of Evangelisation for 2017 gave me everything I wanted to take out of it and so much more. I feel like I now have a healthy hunger to learn and do more for the church. That is exactly what I needed to start off my year. Now I have the motivation, inspiration and friends around me I need to tackle whatever 2017 can through at me. To anyone who has never been to a Summer School of Evangelisation, I strongly encourage you to give it serious thought for 2018. 2017’s Summer School changed my life, and I had the privilege of witnessing it change other people’s lives. So come along for the ride and see just how much it can change yours. See you there next year 🙂
by Christian Jaswan