‘Abide in Me’ diocese-wide retreat helps youth draw near to Jesus and Mary

Mia Birk of St. Philomena Parish in Peoria places a crown of flowers on a statue of Mary during the diocese-wide "Abide in Me" youth retreat at St. Mary of Lourdes Parish in Germantown Hills on Nov. 4. (The Catholic Post/Paul Thomas Moore)

By Paul Thomas Moore

GERMANTOWN HILLS — Mia Birk had the honor of crowning Mary at the “Abide in Me” diocese-wide youth retreat at St. Mary of Lourdes Parish on Nov. 4. Once down from the stepladder, it was time to join the other students for a group game and break time before Mass.

“I go to public school, and so I don’t really get to spend time with other Catholic kids, so it’s really nice to have that connection,” said Birk, a freshman and member of St. Philomena Parish in Peoria.

Students and retreat volunteers gather for a group photo at the Marian grotto at St. Mary of Lourdes Parish in Germantown Hills during the diocese-wide “Abide in Me” youth retreat on Nov. 4. (The Catholic Post/Paul Thomas Moore)

Underlining the critical importance of that fellowship in faith was Station XII, which provided praise music for the day. Trish and Mat Koszarek of Sacred Heart Parish in Peoria were on hand with the group, as were Paul Lindsey of St. Jude Parish and Ali Dixon of St. Mark Parish, both in Peoria. Szymon Koszarek was down from Chicago. All had established a common connection through the St. Joseph Newman Center at Bradley University in Peoria.

Father Eric Bolek, administrator at St. Mary of Lourdes Parish, has been a prime mover behind the retreat since its inception in 2017 (and which missed only one year, 2020, due to COVID).

Karley Bates-Weck of St. Jude Parish in Peoria, one of the retreat coordinators, said 30 students attended “Abide in Me 2023,” down somewhat from previous years. “We competed with some sports and some school plays this year,” she explained. The students who were in attendance benefitted from the efforts of a dedicated group of supportive adults including core team members, parish volunteers, chaperones, priests, and religious.

The retreat name, “Abide in Me,” is from John 15:7: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Among the retreat speakers outlining the implications of that heavenly equation was Sister Teresa Paul Selamat, OSF. She likened the individual invitations that God extends to every person with the one delivered by the angel Gabriel to Mary.


“God has chosen you, specifically you, for a special mission,” she said. “Just like Mary, sometimes God asks us to do something that seems impossible, illogical to our human brain, but not to him.”

In his homily at the parish Mass attended by “Abide in Me” youth retreatants, St. Mary of Lourdes administrator Father Eric Bolek addressed some common questions Catholics are asked. Holding placards with a sampling of those questions are retreatants, from left, David Kirchgessner of St. Mary Parish, Metamora; John Onderko of St. Jude Parish, Peoria; and Emily Geisz and Lydia Engstrom, both of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Morton. (The Catholic Post/Paul Thomas Moore)

The impossible is seeming much more probable these days to Eric Errisuris of Sacred Heart Parish in Granville. He will begin discerning a vocation to the priesthood by joining the Capuchin Franciscan community in Chicago in January. “I never thought in my life I would feel this call to the priesthood,” Eric said. “It’s amazing how God has transformed my life.” He described “Abide in Me” as about “being in the quiet, not being in the noise of the world.”

Elements of the day-long program included talks, a vocation panel, the sacrament of reconciliation, the rosary and crowning of Mary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, time for sharing and — of course — ice cream. However, Bates-Weck said the abiding focus of “Abide in Me” is the Eucharist, made present through exposition, eucharistic procession, solemn benediction, and the Mass.

“If we’re bringing people to the true presence of Christ, then that’s . . . everything,” she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the retreat have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.


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