Around the ArchdioceseFaith Formation

Guttenberg area parishes’ youth deepen their faith through retreat

By Ken Davis
Special to The Witness

GUTTENBERG — How do you grow people’s personal relationship with Jesus, while improving their use of the ­Bible and building a stronger faith community — all at the same time? Hold a youth retreat!

That’s exactly what was done and that’s exactly what was accomplished when ­Joanne Hedemann, the principal of the St. Mary-Immaculate Conception School in Guttenberg; Stephanie Hornes, the faith formation director; Robert Kies, the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Council 4148; and Father Marvin Bries, pastor of St. Mary in Guttenberg, St. ­Joseph in Garnavillo and Immaculate Conception in North Buena Vista, decided to hold a middle school retreat. God’s hand was all over it!

Attendees have been saying that God’s hand was evident in so many ways. Super sessions were given by parish volunteers with little to no experience that challenged everyone to develop a deeper personal relationship with God, guided them in the importance of prayer and how to pray, and taught them about how to dig into their Bibles to see what God is saying to them and that built relationships through faith-based small groups in order to stand united in this secular world.

A group of fifth- through eighth-­graders that have extremely high energy took part in the retreat, held Oct. 5-6 for the first time in the parishes’ history. The youth went crazy on breaks but were calm and interactive in sessions. Participants grew in faith while having fun with pizza, pancake sausages dipped in syrup, dunking for donuts contests, bean bag toss, football, and who could forget the movie “The War Room”?

Nine Knights along with the Parish Life Task Force put it together and executed the retreat.

It was completely funded thanks to the Knights of Columbus. The event had a fabulous turnout of 16 youth and nine adults, where “ALL” learned and grew in their faith. Caring parishioners opened their home to use as the site of the retreat.

The retreat had an impact not just on the 25 people directly involved in it or the 35 people (including parents) that attended the outdoor Mass. It also touched the many, many other people who were praying for God to work in everyone involved. An outdoor Mass overlooking the Mississippi River Valley was celebrated by Father Bries. A number of the participants commented that it was one of his best homilies and services ever. When Father Bries asked the youth, “Should we do this again?” there was a resounding “YES” yelled as a  response!

It doesn’t get any better than that! All this was done in the name of growing our personal relationship with Jesus, digging into the Bible and building Christ-center­ed relationships. Thank you, God … for blessing everyone involved.

Davis is a member of St. Mary Parish in Guttenberg and Knights of Columbus Council 4148.


Middle school students in the sixth through eighth grades participated in the first ever youth retreat offered by the parishes of St. Mary, Guttenberg; St. Joseph, Garnavillo; and Immaculate Conception, North Buena Vista. The youth are shown in the photo above along with some of the adults who organized the event. (Photo by Deacon James Pfaffly)