Eighty young adults from throughout the Diocese of Orlando and as far as South Florida came together for a faith-filled journey in Christ during the Diocese of Orlando’s first New Hearts Retreat, held Aug. 16-18 at the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park. The retreat was centered on the Scripture passage Ezekiel 36:26, which states, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
“Just like any other retreat, the goal was that those attending would grow in their faith,” said Adam Marchese, a third-year seminarian at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, who organized the event. “It was through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, celebration of the holy Mass, and communion with the Universal Church through the divine office that retreatants were challenged to go out into the world and sanctify it.”
Bishop John Noonan celebrated Mass and he urged the young adults to make a difference in the world. He referred to the ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a group of priests who brought peace to the crime-ridden community of Moyross, Ireland, by teaching the children of Christ’s love for them.
“Sometimes, when we are in need, you never know where that person comes from that reaches out to you,” he said. “We, in turn, have to reach out to the world. We don’t know where those situations, where those very difficult moments will come in our lives. But yet, if we, too, are like Jesus, welcoming and willing to share the love of Christ with others, then, we, too, can change the world.”
The event is also an example of the increased effort among the diocese’s young adults to come together for Christ-centered fellowship.
“I was excited to organize the event because it is through these retreats that young adults are able to grow in their faith, make lasting friendships, and network with other young adult groups around the diocese,” Marchese said.
His efforts were well received, as several participants exclaimed how the retreat had touched their hearts.
“I came to be with Jesus, and it has been amazing,” said Drew Byrnes, a parishioner of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs, who attended with his girlfriend, Julie Caserta, from St. Andrews Catholic Church in Coral Springs, part of the Archdiocese of Miami. “We have had time for prayer and reflection as well as community time and time with our peers.”
Maria Romano of St. James Cathedral in Orlando echoed the sentiment.
“I came to hear God’s voice so I can continue discerning his will in my life and to spend time in fellowship,” she said. “God is doing a lot in my heart and it has been great.”
“It amazes me how much the Holy Spirit worked during the retreat,” Marchese said. “People shared graces before we had the final blessing on Sunday, and there were very moving stories. No matter how much you plan a retreat, there is no replacing the way the Holy Spirit moves through the people.”