LaValla Weekend Retreat
The Annual LaValla Weekend is sponsored by the combined efforts of the Office of Marist Youth, the Office for the Promotion of New Members, and the Marist Brothers Center at Esopus.
On Friday night, Matt Fallon and Br. Owen Ormsby welcomed the students to Esopus and introduced them to the program for the weekend. The Marist Young Adult and Adult Teams were introduced as the group leaders for the program. Students from Archbishop Molloy, Christopher Columbus, Marist Bayonne, Marist Chicago, Mount. St. Michael, St. Joseph Academy, St. Joseph Montvale, and Roselle Catholic participated.
Small Group / "Family Name" Presentations
Following the opening ceremony, students participated in an icebreaker activity led by Br. Todd Patenaude. After this, they were split into their small groups -- "families" -- they would be working with for the remainder of the weekend. Each group had to choose a family name, and assign each member a different role to assume during the simulation activity taking place on Saturday.
Video Message from the New Superior General
Last Tuesday, Br. Ernesto Sanchez was elected the new Superior General of the Marist Institute at the 22nd General Chapter Meeting. In his first video message as Superior General, Br. Ernesto sent a video message to the students gathered at LaValla weekend!
Friday Night Prayer
Morning Prayer at the River
In a morning prayer service led by Mrs. Maureen Hagan, Director of Adult Formation for the USA Province, the students gathered overlooking the river.
For most of the day on Saturday, students and their Marist Young Adult/Adult Team leaders participated in a hurricane simulation coordinated by Ed Kennedy, the Director of Outdoor Adventure Activities at the MBCE.
The hurricane simulation was based off of a previously used simulation experience, "Passages", a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees simulation game. The simulation works by creating simplified yet dynamic models of realities while providing an effective way for participants to live-in and feel remote situations. Simulation experiences are used to help create awareness, arouse emotions, and encourage participants to be comfortable taking action on behalf of those going through traumatic experiences.
Throughout the simulation program, students had numerous opportunities to debrief and share their insights and reflections. The program had a tremendous impact on the students and gave them a much deeper understanding of the difficulties and frustrations encountered by millions of people in our world.
After opportunities for personal reflection time, small & large group processing of the simulation experience, the group gathered around a campfire. Matt Fallon entertained the group with stories of Esopus history and legends before roasting marshmallows and relaxing.
Water-Mingling Prayer Service
Sunday Morning Prayer
Sunday morning's prayer service gave the students an opportunity to see the Marist Brothers' Cemetery. Br. Owen, Maureen Hagan, and Timmy Hagan all led the prayer while students spread out amongst the cemetery grounds.
In following the tradition of past LaValla Weekend Retreats, students were then assigned to different service projects around the Esopus property. Br. Owen made a point to distinguish that while the work they were each doing was important, the bond they have with the people they are doing it with is equally as important.
Mass at the Chapel in the Woods
Fr. Richard LaMorte, an affiliate of the USA Province, celebrated liturgy on Sunday evening for everyone involved in the LaValla weekend. The mass was held at the Chapel in the Woods, which was built by students during a previous LaValla Weekend Retreat.
Matt Fallon showed the students a video detailing the aftermath of the recent hurricanes and earthquakes which have happened in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Followed by this was a video message from Br. Patrick McNamara, Provincial of the USA, where he challenged students to take what they've learned from the simulation experience and bring it back to their school communities in order to raise money during the month-long campaign the Province started last week.
Br. Owen then explained that each school group would be receiving $100 from Esopus to be put towards their fundraising efforts. He told students that they could hold onto the $100 and send it back in one month, or they could invest it in their efforts to double or triple it by the end of the month -- it was up to them. Each school group was able to meet for a planning session before the end of the weekend to strategize how they will engage as many students as possible to participate in the fundraising campaign during the rest of October.
Sunday Night Prayer
To close Sunday night, students were led to the labyrinth for prayer. Maureen Hagan led the group through the God Circle exercise, in which students were reminded to bless and learn from their weaknesses in order to not be overcome by them.
Final Commissioning Ceremony
Matt Fallon and Br. Owen led the final commissioning ceremony on Monday morning. Each school was presented with a letter from Br. Patrick and the $100 from Esopus to be put towards fundraising efforts during October. Each school also received a small bottle of water from the bowl of the collective waters from all of our Marist communities that was gathered during the water-mingling prayer service. The students were sent off as the official ambassadors for the fundraising campaign for their individual schools.