Spirituality as strong as silver adhesive


Photo by Peter G. Sánchez

youthretreat-webInfant Jesus Youth Life Team leader Nikki Varalli hangs duct-taped to a tree, much to the delight of youth minister Jessica Fahy and fellow team leader Monica Bogan, on Sunday, Sept. 2, in West Deptford, as part of the Adventure Day Retreat for Youth Life Team Leaders.

WEST DEPTFORD — Seven teens came together here in prayer and duct tape to be formally vested as Team Leaders for the Infant Jesus, Woodbury Heights, Youth Life Team.

The Youth Life team at Infant Jesus is made up of eight youth and two adults, who have made a year-long commitment to bring Jesus’ message to their peers and support their fellow team members along the way. As well, the team is strengthened by its three pillars: to be Eucharist-centered, have a love and obedience for the church, and be devoted to Mary.

“The youth are taking initiative in stepping forth and taking their faith seriously,” said Jessica Fahy, Infant Jesus Youth Minister.

“They feel empowered, and they know they have a voice,” she added, saying that the leaders will “encourage one another and hold each other accountable to be disciples of Christ.”

The day-long event, held Sept. 7 at the home of Infant Jesus parishioners Hugh and Colleen Phifer, included team-bonding activities such as suspending members (and one youth minister) to a tree using duct tape, and making a square with a rope while blindfolded; and time for prayerful reflection, saying the rosary, and faith sharing.

Father Joseph Szolack, Infant Jesus pastor, celebrated Mass with the youth, and Greg Coogan, director of Youth Ministries for the Diocese, spoke with the team, encouraging them in their work.

At day’s end, the youth were “inducted” into the lead team, as they responded to God’s call for them to evangelize, given T-shirts, and stamping their painted hands on the Lead Team poster.

Olivia Pagan, a team leader and senior at Gloucester Catholic High School, called the day one “to prepare ourselves to bring the Gospel to (fellow) youth, showing the light of Christ through our actions and words.”

“We came as strangers, but now we’re family,” said team leader Ryan Phifer, an eighth grader at St. Margaret’s School in Woodbury Heights.