This year's annual LaValla Weekend brought together students from Central Catholic High School (Lawrence, MA), Saint Joseph Regional High School (Montvale, NJ), Christopher Columbus High School (Miami, FL), Saint Joseph Academy (Brownsville, TX), Marist High School (Chicago, IL), Mount Saint Michael Academy (Bronx, NY), Archbishop Molloy High School (Queens, NY), Roselle Catholic High School (Roselle, NJ), and Ecole Secondaire Marcellin Champagnat (Quebec, Canada), and ten Marist Young Adults. Students spent time in an experience of solidarity and provided service work to the Marist Brothers Center at Esopus community.
WELCOME / HOUSE RULES
After all of the groups arrived and settled in, they joined in the dining hall for dinner. Following dinner, Matt Fallon and Tim Hagan, Director of Operations at the Marist Brothers Center in Esopus, welcomed the group to the property, gave an overview of the weekend, and went over "house rules."
"A FOUNDATION ON LAUDATO SI"
After an icebreaker activity, students gathered for a presentation on Pope Francis' Laudato Si Action Platform, given by Mr. Sam King, Director of Ecology and Sustainability for the Marist Brothers USA Province.
GATHERING PRAYER - WATER MINGLING & BLESSING
To end the first night of the retreat the group participated the the "mingling of the waters" ritual. Every school group arrived with a bottle filled with water symbolic of their local areas. During the prayer, water from Esopus, the Gier River near l'Hermitage in France, as well as from each school group was poured into a large fountain to symbolize our joint Marist heritage.
SIMULATION: PART 1Students were divided into groups (families). Each family was asked to build a structure on the ball fields in Esopus that symbolically represented all things that are important to their home and life. The students were then led through a number of activities that simulated what flood victims would encounter, such as filling and carrying sand bags, needing to cross flooded areas in rafts, walking to find and bring back supplies (water, toiletries, food, etc). After the conclusion of these activities, students returned to their ‘symbolic homes’ to find that they had all been destroyed. This experience allowed the young people to have a small glimpse of what flood victims would go through during a natural disaster. "REAL PEOPLE, REAL STORIES"Mr. Josh VanCleef joined the group virtually after part one of the simulation to share real life stories of many people in the Eastern Kentucky area who recently lost homes and whose lives were devastated by floods. Josh is currently assisting the Diocese of Lexington’s response to the more than 17,000 people who have been affected by these floods. The USA Province will be sponsoring a service trip in the spring to assist some of these families in helping to rebuild their lives.
SIMULATION: PART 2
In the afternoon session, students were divided into eight focus groups that allowed them the opportunity to look at global warming and natural disasters through different lenses, including government, church and relief services, counselors for disasters, environmental scientists, victims, media, business interests/corporations. It was noted that the one focus group that was not utilized was “young people”. The session ended with the hope that young people would be the best interest group to battle these issues moving into the future.
The group participated in Eucharistic Adoration on Saturday night, led by Matt Fallon and accompanied by Larry Kupferman for music ministry. Students were allowed to remain in Adoration as long as they wished.
The group walked down to the river on Sunday for morning prayer led by Mrs. Maureen Hagan, Director of Adult Formation for the Marist Brothers USA Province.
In following the tradition of past LaValla Weekends, students were assigned to different service projects around the Esopus property, including the creation of a pollinator garden and the revitalization of the outdoor chapel, Champagnat walk, and labyrinth. Students were reminded that while the work they were each doing was important, the bonds they form with one another while doing it is equally as important.
Fr. Richard LaMorte celebrated liturgy on Sunday evening for everyone involved in the LaValla weekend. A huge THANK YOU to the 18 Marist Brothers who were able to be present!
After opportunities for personal reflection time, small & large group processing, the group gathered around a campfire. Matt Fallon entertained the group with stories of Esopus history and legends before roasting marshmallows and relaxing.
To wind down from the campfire, everyone gathered outside and reflected on God's creation and beauty, led by Maureen Hagan.
Matt Fallon led the final commissioning ceremony on Monday morning. Each school received a small bottle of water from the fountain of the collective waters from all of our Marist communities that was gathered during the water-mingling prayer service.