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Sunday, June 16, 2024

SEARCH Retreats Offer Youth a Deeper Faith Life

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Suzanne Hammons
Suzanne Hammonshttp://dioceseofgallup.org
Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

This summer, a special retreat was held for young people who gathered for a weekend of fellowship and talks centered on the theme of living as a model of Christ. This retreat was for those who had already participated in a program called Search, short for Search for Christian Maturity. Similar to the Cursillo movement, but geared toward people of high school and college age, Search has been present in Dioceses throughout the United States and in our own Gallup Diocese for nearly 50 years.

“The Search is a strong program which helps young Catholics to take up the Holy Father’s challenge, to be the future evangelizers in the Church,” said Mari Arreguin, the director of the local diocesan program. “[It] came in the late 1960s from the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) of San Francisco, CA. In the following years the Search program was initiated in over 75 Dioceses in the United States as well as in other countries, and it is one of the first youth retreats to grow out of the Cursillo movement with a peer ministry approach. Fr. Dennet and Fr. Gilbert, two Franciscan priests, brought the Search program to the Gallup Diocese in the late 60s. The Search program has four weekends scheduled in a year, and each one held in a different area of our vast diocese.”

Each Search retreat is numbered, and Arreguin said she began her leadership in the program after making Search #136 in Farmington, NM. She helped to run Search #143 in St. Michaels, AZ, after which she was asked to become a board member, and, eventually, program director.

“I feel so blessed being a part of this wonderful ministry because looking back, it never crossed my mind that I would one day be a director nor that I would have the courage to stand in front of a group of ‘strangers’ and talk about my personal life, because that was never my goal. I only felt called to volunteer in whatever the Search needed and in return I feel that God has rewarded me with wonderful people who play an important role in my life.”

Shane Tsosie, a board member for the Search program from Arizona, reflected on how the retreats have linked his faith with his native culture.

“I am Navajo, from Ft. Defiance, AZ.  I was born into the Catholic Church, but didn’t grasp the meaning of being Catholic until I joined the Search. I embrace my traditional and Catholic beliefs in unison, because they both make up my spiritual identity. From the way I see it, both beliefs intertwine with each other, making them stronger than they were alone. I am trying to bring in the Navajo youth into the program, [covering] the areas of St. Michael, Ft. Defiance,  Sawmill, and Navajo.  My reason to help bring them into the program is to bring some diversity – a chance to blend cultures together and bring them all to God as brothers and sisters of Christ. I didn’t have a role-model to show me the way when I first joined, and this is my chance to help other Native youths who wish to follow my path of faith.”

Arreguin and Tsosie both agree that along with the reflections on faith, the Search weekends bring together friends and strangers alike into a close, supportive group.

“This is the place where we realize that we belong to a larger community, not just to our parish at home but to a community that extends throughout the world,” said Arreguin.  “By the end of Search we are no longer strangers but friends for life. I personally have met some of the most wonderful people here and I am blessed to say that they are part of my family.”

If you are interested in making a Search retreat, or know a young person who would be interested, contact Mari Arreguin at [email protected].

Some participants in the summer retreat at Sacred Heart Church in Farmington, NM share their reflections on the weekend:

“I think that [the] gentle voice that my friends and I experienced over the weekend signals a new stage in our spiritual path. Many of us, when we are first touched by God, may be likened to having a blazing flame of faith, strong and ready to go out and take the world by fire. Yet, we will all inevitably experience a gradual dimming of this flame that, if we are not careful, may die away completely. This weekend I believe gave us more fuel to kindle our flames. Yet, as I mentioned above, these flames cannot be compared to a blazing, consuming flame, but rather a more constant and gentle glow. This, I believe, is a natural progression in the spiritual journey that for many of us began at a Search weekend and that is now continuing after being strengthened at the Re-Search.”  – Brie Bahe, Farmington NM

After Mass we went to the conference room and sang a bunch of songs. I thought I was going to lose my voice! We finally got to the part of the night that I had been very anxious for, adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. We had music playing softly and we just prayed. I felt at peace with God. It’s [something] that I wish everyone could experience.” – David Rodriguez, Farmington NM

To me my sweet 16 meant I was finally able to make a Search. Being a part of it myself the past several years has been a huge blessing in my life. The Fourth Day Retreat was an experience I’ll always cherish. The retreat not only allowed me to see old friends, but meet new ones, and rekindle the fire that was set ablaze at my first Search (#148). Although the weekend was shorter than others, it was a perfect way to refocus my heart on The Lord and His plan for my life.” – Stephanie Loyosa, Bloomfield NM

The times of prayer and silence allowed me to reflect on the time I have spent since the last Search. It not only allowed me to notice the changes I have made in my Christian lifestyle, but it also allowed me to see the changes I have not yet made in order to become a better Catholic. It allowed me to reexamine my priorities in life, and it helped me to see what I still have to work on to live as God wants me to live.There was so much more to Re-search than just learning. I got to see old friends from past searches and meet entirely new people, who, almost immediately became my good friends due to our shared experience at search. Going to the Re-search retreat was almost like going to a family reunion. There was so much joy in just spending time with my old friends and with the Lord.” – Ryan Stoer, Farmington NM



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