Every summer for the past 12 years or so, we have brought a group from our parish to one of the Steubenville Conferences. It was always a very fun and faith-filled weekend, but in the past few years our numbers began to dwindle. Our youth director decided that we needed a change, and after receiving an Alive in You flyer and checking out the website, we both agreed that this looked like the change we wanted.
So last Tuesday I left behind my husband and kids, we loaded up about 24 teens, 3 moms, 1 grandma, and a priest, and headed down to New Orleans for 6 days. We arrived at the St. Clement of Rome school and unloaded our bags---suitcases, sleeping bags, and air mattresses. We found our PreK classroom and began blowing up all the air mattresses. I am NOT a fan of air mattresses, so I rolled out a camping mat and my new sleeping bag. I had forgotten my pillow along with many other things! (Last minute packing = failed)
|Wall to wall girls & air mattresses (29 to be exact)|
We were blessed again with our assignments. We worked at the Museum of Art in their Sculpture Garden in the mornings pulling weeds under this nice shady tree.
|Father Jeff was determined to get it all cut.|
Our afternoon assignment was cleaning and more weeding at the Sisters of the Holy Family Convent. Our crew jumped in and followed all of Sister Anne's orders without blinking an eye. Some continued outdoor work in the sisters' gardens. Others followed Sister upstairs to the bathrooms and began cleaning the tubs, showers, floors, walls, and toilets without any complaint. Another group spent the entire afternoon cleaning the numerous windows on all three floors and wiping down all the blinds in the three story convent. These kids did these tedious and unpleasant jobs for three days without any grumbling, but rather with a lot of joyful singing and beautiful smiles!
|A group of window wipers|
|Sr. Josephine loved wheeling around chatting with the kids.|
|Identical twin sister Sisters|
After three days of hard work, these Sisters decided to do something for us. Before we left on Friday afternoon, they made fresh homemade shrimp po-boys and had some local men boil crawfish for us. There was one other group working there with us from Florida, and they wanted to give them a taste of "real" Louisiana cooking. All 70 of us were treated to a half of a shrimp po-boy and a quart sized bag of boiled crawfish. They were so excited to be able to do something for us after we gave the convent a good ole' fashioned Spring cleaning.
Our evenings were spent having crazy themed dinners, competing in crazy competitions, listening to testimonies, and singing praises to God.
|One of our teens leading the rosary|
|Stache Bash Dinner|
|One of the competitions|
On Saturday, we had some free time to spend enjoying the sights of New Orleans. Our group decided to do a pilgrimage to Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos' shrine at St. Mary's Assumption Church. I had first heard of Father Seelos at a retreat a few years back and had prayed to him many times for his intercession for family members' healings. I was anxious to go and find our more about him and to ask for his help once again.
His story was amazing and really touched me. The stories of the known miracles and the beatification process were also captivating. The church and its history was just as beautiful as the stories. We all had a chance to pray to Blessed Seelos and the crucified Jesus for whatever was on our hearts. It was such a blessed morning.
Afterwards, we headed down to the Riverwalk for some lunch, beignets, ice cream, and fudge! We ended the day with Adoration. The conference ended Sunday with a closing Mass which I missed because I got up very early and headed home to surprise my husband and kids on Father's Day. The look on their faces when they woke up to mine was priceless!