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The Way of the Cross Retreat 2017

The Way of the Cross Retreat took place on March 10-12 at Whispering Winds Catholic Retreat Center in Julian, California. The retreat was led by Fr. Simon Esshaki and his group of leaders for FAM High School Youth Group. Altogether the leaders and retreatants totaled 82 people. It was a weekend full of spiritual reflections, discussions and activities where the youth had the opportunity to grow closer to God and meditate on his suffering and Resurrection.

Here are some reflections by the retreatants who attended:

I came on this retreat with the intention to grow my faith, but I honestly did not think it would have this big of an impact on me. It opened my eyes and showed me God’s grace. I realized that God has a plan for everyone and to always trust in him. I also learned to not judge anyone because you never know what they are going through. The things that we go through on a daily basis are nothing compared to what Jesus went through, so we should always be thankful for what we have.
-Ryan Farida

I feel that the retreat has made a huge impact on my life. It has not only made me grow closer to God but has made me become a better person in just a matter of a couple days. This retreat has made me realize that bad things can happen but they usually happen for a reason because in the end it will always get better if you just trust in not only God’s plan but yourself.
-Serena Hirmez

The retreat really opened my eyes and made me a lot more aware of my actions and how my sins not only affect myself but my relationship with God. it has made a huge impact on my life, and i truly see a difference in myself and my mentality. I feel so blessed to have experienced something so life changing and beautiful. the entire time i felt a sense of peace and genuine happiness. not only did my love and appreciation for God grow, but it also grew for life.
– Stephanie Jabro

This past weekend I was looking for the whole “Holy High” I obtained last year, but it never hit me as hard as it did the first time. I, of course feel very spiritual and close to God and am now aware of when that feeling is going to diminish. Being the second time I’ve had this feeling, I can help myself build on my relationship with God rather than letting it go away just because the “Holy High” did. Something I admired the most about this weekend was how much effort the leaders put in and made us their first priority in every situation. Having Raniya as my small group leader is what impacted my weekend the most. She told us how one form communication she has with God is journaling. It seemed like such a great idea and told us to start our entries with “Dear Jesus”. It is probably one of the most creative and best forms of prayer I have ever been introduced to and I haven’t been able to put my pen down since. Every talk, every skit, and every reflection was truly inspiring and emotional for every person there, even if they didn’t want to be affected. Being disconnected from my phone and the world is something I was looking forward to most and now I realize I shouldn’t be held up with social media and friends and should spend more time talking to God. Even though I knew a little about what to expect, it was still one of the most empowering experiences I’ve ever had.
-Savanna Asker

Experiencing this humbling retreat for the third time has given me another opportunity to strengthen my faith and the many friendships that formed. During this retreat, I had the chance to truly experience Christ’s suffering and his genuine unconditional love for us. I definitely recommend this retreat to anyone seeking a deeper meaning to their spiritual life.
-Rita Daniel

I’ve always thought that I’ve had a relationship with Christ but after the retreat I realized that there was no relationship because I would always be hurting him but after seeing the pain and suffering that he truly went through, I know that I need to be committed to getting closer to him through prayer and journaling. I’ve also learned a lot about my personal suffering and how I can always go to him or to my family to relieve some of that pain.
-Eveet Gabriel

The retreat was really fun and it inspired me to do good and it really opened my eyes to know what Jesus went through, like I know what he did but it’s just different seeing it Infront of you and it was really cool and I can’t wait to come again next year!
-Mariam Zaia

The retreat changed my whole life. I became closer to God and I became a better person than before. I really liked this retreat because the retreat is very powerful and it really can change you if you really pay attention. What I learned in the retreat that if your going through tough times right now at the end it will always get better because it’s all in Gods plan.
-Jack Gandour

The retreat was a great experience that I wasn’t expecting to have at first. It opened my eyes about many things and brought me closer to God and our faith. It has taught me to not judge people without knowing them because everyone has a story and you don’t know what they could be going thru. Also I learned that our daily struggles are no where near in comparison to what Jesus sacrificed for us, so we should be more grateful for what we have. And lastly the trip helped me learn to respect others more and avoid disobeying my elders.
-Brandon Mansour

Over the weekend i experienced many great things. This retreat really opened up my eyes to see the beauty in God. The retreat pulled me into god like a magnet and allowed me to realize the true meaning of love and happiness. I am so glad i went because i now understand that god is there to guide me through the right path and help me through the suffering i will endure on my journey to salvation. I really gained alot of respect for everyone and learned not to judge anyone because you don’t know their story. God is Great!
– Jimmy Zillo

When I heard about this retreat from Father Simon, I wasn’t planning on coming at all. Even an hour before I left the house I was changing my mind, but my mom made me go. The first day I was there was kind of boring. But, the two last days were just amazing. I loved all the talks and skits that were shared with us. I loved all the new relationships I made with the people there. I had amazing leaders Kayla, my room leader and Brittany, my small group leader. I had such an amazing time there. It opened my eyes to the world and I cane back a changed person! This truly was a great experience that I have never had in my whole life! I can’t wait until next year and I would like to thank Father Simon for telling me about it and for all the leaders that did everything just to make us happy and understand what life is really about with God. My faith is now stronger than when I got there and I put all my faith and problems with God!
-Celine Shauia

The retreat was an amazing experience. I learned about Jesus’ suffering that he went through for all of us. I also learned about Virgin Mary’s suffering watching her son suffer. I also got closer to my friends and made many new friends! Everything overall was extremely eye-opening and opened up my soul. I can’t wait to go next year and get that amazing experience againā¤
-Tania Murad

From the way of the cross retreat I was able to spiritually connect with God and finally realize all the suffering he went through for us. No suffering we go through now or will ever go to will be as great as His. In every activity we did I realized something whether it be about how I’ve been living, friends, family, myself, etc. My small group allowed me to open up even more because of how comfortable I felt with everyone and was willing to share my story and reflect. The letter to God very much touched me as I was writing it and now I have begin to write to God and pray the Bible all the time. This retreat has changed me a lot and help me realize everything I was doing wrong in life. I’m happy to say I left with a spiritual high that I wish would never fade off. Thank you for such a great experience Father Simon I’ve truly been touched by God emotionally and spiritually.
-Hailey Bahoura