By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Last week 29 teens traded in their smartphones and laptops for a week of team-building activities and sessions on leadership skills.
They were taking part in the Christian Leadership Institute (CLI) held at the Flaget Center, 1925 Lewiston Drive, July 8 to 12.
The annual retreat encourages high school-age students to discover and use their skills to help others, said Mary Emrich, director of CLI.
“We want to empower the youth to use their talents not just to better their own lives but to serve others,” said Emrich, who also is the director of campus ministry at Trinity High School.
At the beginning of a session July 9 centered around planning skills, Chad Bader, the coordinator for campus ministry at DeSales High School, told the students they were not at the
retreat by accident.
“You were chosen to be here by a leader at your parish or school because they thought ‘this young person has gifts that need to be nurtured’,” Bader said.
In the planning skills session the teen participants were given a step-by-step process that they could use to plan events back at their school or parish.
The goal of the session, Emrich said, was to give the teens the basic tools for planning an event from beginning to end.
Following that session, the CLI participants were given the task of planning some of the remaining activities of the week, including mealtimes and prayer services.
In other sessions, participants heard presentations about group facilitation skills, decision-making skills, different types of prayer and group dynamics.
Ally Beckham, 14, a student at Assumption High School, noted that she enjoyed the presentation on communication skills. She said she would be able to use those skills when she is a leader at Vacation Bible School at her parish, St. Gabriel Church.
“These skills will help with that,” she said.
Emrich also said that an important component of the week-long retreat is community building.
“Now, more than ever, they are so wired to technology. This gives them the opportunity to build a community face to face rather than through Facebook,” she said.
Willie Schurfranz, 16, a student at DeSales High School, said he really enjoyed meeting the other participants.
“When I first got here I didn’t know anyone but I met some people and by the end of the night we were hanging out,” said Schurfranz, a member of St. Rita Church.
Emrich said she hopes the students take away the sense that their contributions really do matter.
“I hope they recognize the gifts that they have, no matter how small, make a difference,” she said. “When we work together we really do make a difference.”
About a dozen other volunteers helped lead the retreat including various youth ministers from parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville, two seminarians and Father Jerry Bell, the pastor of St. Luke Church. Father Bell served as the retreat’s chaplain.