Children’s Holy Week Retreat

By Linda Watkins,
Youth Formation Director

During Holy Week, our children and youth from the St. Elizabeth Seton Religious Education (R.E.) program were invited to attend a special retreat instead of their normal classes, which was held on Wednesday, March 27th. We wanted to give them an opportunity to experience Jesus’ last day before He was arrested and crucified. We had to condense our seven classes into four groups. Those four groups would be taking a journey into the various events of Jesus’ last evening and follow what took place on Good Friday. To give them this wonderful experience, they would attend four Sessions: The Washing of Feet, The Last Supper, The Agony in the Garden, and The Stations of the Cross.

At six o’clock our students gathered and prayed as a group and began their journey. Forty-six students and our volunteer catechists and assistants were able to lead these children to each Session and explain, through stories and experiences, the last days of Jesus’ life before He died on the cross.

When they went into our Library, the students were able to hear the story of how Jesus washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper and how He explained to the apostles that He came to serve and that they should too. Jesus asks us to serve others and help others that need help. All our children in that session kneeled to wash and dry each other’s feet, just as Jesus did. They discussed how we can serve God through our words and actions.

There was a table set up in the Deacon Tone room, twelve inches off the floor, decorated with a brownish tablecloth, small plates with unleavened bread, and cups with wine (grape juice). Around the table were name cards of Jesus and the twelve apostles. This was a representation of the Last Supper. The children were invited to take a place at the table by sitting on the floor and listening while the Gospel story was read. They heard the words that Jesus said to his apostles at the Last Supper and what Judas said and did before leaving the table to betray Jesus. They realized that Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him that night, but His apostles did not. The children were also invited to share in that meal by eating the bread and drinking the juice, after they heard the words of Jesus. They were able to ask questions and realized that the priest says these same words at the consecration at every Mass. And the people who receive communion are actually receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus.

For the Agony of the Garden, the group walked outside to the big pine tree and memorial area off our courtyard. They heard how Jesus and His apostles went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. While Jesus was praying to His heavenly Father, the apostles fell asleep. Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him that night, but He was willing to experience all the pain and agony because God the Father said it was necessary to do that for the salvation of mankind. Jesus invited them to stay awake while He prayed more, but they fell asleep again. Then the children heard how Judas came with an angry mob and gave Jesus a kiss to betray Him. The students know that Jesus did all of this out of love for all of us so we could have everlastingly life with Him!

Our last session was in the hall with the Stations of the Cross. Pictures of the fourteen stations were placed on the walls around the hall. Our students in the 6th,7th, and 8th grade classes had also designed a special picture of some of the stations, and these were displayed as well. When the students arrived in this area, they were led around the hall by Mr. Rich, one of our catechists. He explained each picture to the group about what was happening to Jesus in a manner that the different ages of students could understand each one’s meaning. They had all made that journey from the trial to the crucifixion and death of Jesus. They saw Jesus taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of his mother Mary, then placed in a tomb. But they also talked about the Resurrection on the Third day!

At 7:25 PM, the groups joined each other at the back of the hall, facing a beautiful cross made and designed by a wonderful volunteer and parishioner. All the students received a palm-sized wooden cross to hold to help remember that God Loved us so much that He sent his only Son Jesus to suffer and die, to save us from our sins and bring us life everlasting with Him. We held our crosses up in thanksgiving and told Jesus how much we love Him, and then prayed the Our Father. 

It was a wonderful evening to refresh and renew our knowledge of all that Jesus endured just to save us. It was made possible through the love and devotion of our awesome volunteers, who are serving the Lord by bringing the love of Christ to our children and youth.  We thank them for serving God in this ministry. All the volunteers were happy with this retreat, and they expressed their desire to continue this retreat each year during Holy Week, saying that it really helped our children and youth to know, love, and serve God! 


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