Joe Reinkemeyer knows the power of the CHRISTpower retreat he led last week because he experienced it in the past as a participant.
"For me, it was a little overwhelming. I didn't come expecting to learn so much, both from the people I was serving during the day and from the core team who was teaching us," Reinkemeyer recalled.
"It amazed me because of how many high-schoolers there were around Central Missouri who were kind of on fire for their faith, like I was," he said.
Counting two years as a participant, Reinkemeyer's service last week as the lay director for this year's CHRISTpower retreat for high school students in the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City was the eighth year he's been involved with the retreat.
Participating youth spent a week working at service sites in the area during the day, then praying and reflecting in community at Helias Catholic High School at night.
Twenty-one students participated this year, Diocesan Director of Youth Ministry John DeLaporte said.
DeLaporte said the sites this year were Immaculate Conception Church, Little Explorers Discovery Center, The Salvation Army, Capitol Projects and the Samaritan Center.
"I think (youth) come oftentimes because it's an opportunity for community service. They come for that — that heart of service is something they all seem to share," Reinkemeyer said. As the week goes on, he added, the experience can become more about the community that grows among the high-schoolers.
"I think for them it's a very rich and fulfilling experience. All these various aspects of our Catholic faith and our Catholic life are lived out really fully and really intentionally," DeLaporte said.
In the last day or two of the retreat, he said, the focus becomes about how the young people can take their experiences from the week and carry them forward into their daily lives — "talking through 'What does this mean for me going forward? What's going to be my plan? How's my life going to be different, given what I've experienced this week?'"
"We talk about that they've grown as a small community together this week, but really encouraging them to continue with that heart of service and always look for where they can grow in relationship with Christ," Reinkemeyer said.
"I think when they come out on the other side of this week, they are stronger disciples and they are stronger Catholics for it," DeLaporte said.