Teen program proves a spiritual energizer for youth

Juliana Alvey, a member of Our Lady of Unity Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, attended her first TEC retreat when a 15-year-old sophomore at St. James Academy, Lenexa. Since that first weekend, she has participated in more than 15 TEC retreats as a volunteer before eventually becoming a co-director of TEC weekends. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — There are some things so powerful in a spiritual sense that they draw a person back again and again.

For Juliana Alvey, that thing is TEC — Teens Encounter Christ.

The 25-year-old Alvey, a member of Our Lady of Unity Parish in Kansas City, Kansas, attended her first TEC retreat when she was a 15-year-old sophomore at St. James Academy in Lenexa.

“What my own mom said, after I came back, was that I was renewed [in my faith] and had a new outlook,” said Alvey. “I was more focused on my faith.”

Of course, TEC wasn’t the only spiritual influence in her life as she grew up, but it was a profound one. Since that first weekend, she has participated in more than 15 TEC retreats as a volunteer and has played many roles, eventually becoming a co-director of TEC weekends.

“I think I keep coming back for two reasons,” she said. “One is community. I met some of the most amazing people through TEC, and I very much love those relationships. They’re very strong because they’re built solely on faith.”

“Also, the way TEC is structured allows for a genuine experience of the Holy Spirit in a true experience of immersion,” Alvey continued. “That’s not exclusive to TEC and you can have that in other places, but TEC has consistently provided that throughout my life.

“There’s never an age where you get tired of that kind of communion with the Lord and your fellow Christians.”

TEC retreats are held over a three-day weekend and focus on the paschal mystery — the dying and rising of Christ. The program is for high school-age teens and college-age young adults ages 15 to 20.

This is not a new program. This Catholic movement of spirituality, which is international, began in 1965. The first TEC weekend in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas was held in 1977.

The local TEC ministry in the archdiocese — Sunflower TEC — conducts three or four TEC weekends a year. They are held at either Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, or at Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg.

One more TEC retreat is scheduled this year in November, and there are two planned for January and March of 2019. (See sidebar.)

TEC is different in many ways from other retreat experiences a youth might have at his or her parish or Catholic school.

“The thing that sets TEC apart is the fact that you are with other Catholics from all over the archdiocese,” she said. “It pulls in people from everywhere and broadens one’s perspective. It encourages you to experience your community of Catholicism as something bigger than your parish, and it connects you to the archdiocese in a really cool way.”

The cost to go on TEC is $90, but no one has been turned away because of finances, and scholarships are available. Participants must register online through the archdiocesan website.

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