Column: Mission Impossible — vocation retreat for teens

by Father Pat Murphy, CS

On Dec. 8 I awoke at 6 a.m. and was anxious to see what had happened with the weather. I immediately turned on the Weather Channel and within a few minutes of watching I heard those dreadful words that bring a jolt to the heart of all who live in the Kansas City area: “The forecast for today is freezing rain followed by more freezing rain.”

It now seemed like our Mission Impossible project, namely organizing a bilingual vocation retreat for Hispanic teens, had now just become a bit more impossible.

Our retreat day was to begin at 9 a.m. at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan., and our team of 30 volunteers was to gather at 8 a.m. And so at 7:30 a.m., together with our retreat director Father Giovanni, we began our slippery journey.

I was expecting the worst, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I-70 was not that bad. It was then that I began the first of many private conversations of that day, saying: Hey, the roads are not that bad, so maybe we can still salvage this Mission Impossible — that is, if only 30-40 teens show up.

We arrived at our destination at 8 a.m. and found 15 team members enthusiastically setting things up as if they expected about 100 teens. Once again I thought to myself: Aren’t they the enthusiastic bunch? I just hope they won’t feel too devastated when only 30 teens show up for the day.

Just as I finished this little conversation in my mind, I noticed that the first group of 11 young people had arrived all the way from St. Catherine’s in Emporia. I went over to speak to Fausto, their very dedicated youth leader, who apologized to me saying: “I am really sorry we did not bring more teens, but the weather is quite bad and that scared off some of the families.”

I immediately felt a surge of optimism shoot through my body, just as if I had just gulped down a double espresso. And so I began to think to myself: Well, if they can make it all the way from Emporia, just maybe this Mission Impossible can be saved.

In the next hour my optimism would continue to grow leaps and bounds as the teens just kept pouring in from the four corners of our archdiocese. When all was said and done, our Mission Impossible Vocation Retreat for Hispanic Teens was a huge success, as we had a total of 120 young people from the 10 parishes where we have active Hispanic ministry.

At the end of the day, I had one more conversation with myself that went something like this: If 120 Hispanic teens show up for a vocation retreat on a day of freezing rain, just maybe the Mission Impossible Vocation Project is not so impossible after all.

Father Pat Murphy is the archdiocesan animator for the office of Hispanic ministry.

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