Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Mount 2000 Reflection
The Light Shines in the Darkness
A Teenager’s Weekend with the Eucharistic Lord
By: Hannah Rose Sneeringer
“Praised be Jesus Christ … now and forever!” These were the words getting teenagers pumped to
praise Christ in all that we did last weekend at the annual Mount 2000 Eucharistic Youth Retreat at
Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Over 1,500 young men and women from
various parishes in different parts of the country gathered for three days of prayer and worship. There
were talks about the power of God through prayer and the Eucharist, as well as Mass every day and
the near constant availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This was my first time going on this retreat and I never felt such an intimate connection with the
presence of Christ. Joining my friends from Good Shepherd Church (and a few other parishes), we
traveled as a group with the intent to grow closer to God. A few had attended this retreat in past
years, so they knew somewhat what to look forward to on the weekend; but the rest of us didn’t really
know what to expect. I knew there was going to be Mass, and I assumed we would spend some time
in Adoration (considering that there was a monstrance in the logo for this year’s retreat), but beyond
that, I had no idea.
There were an incredible amount of people there, and not just youth. I saw numerous seminarians
and priests, religious brothers and sisters. Retreatant Mark Hoppel said that his “favorite part of Mt.
2000 was the interesting people you could meet there, such as the speakers, and the religious.” For
me personally, it was a life-changing experience.
This year’s theme was “The Light Shines in the Darkness” (John 1:5), which could not have been
more appropriate given the age in which we live. At times our world appears so full of the darkness
of evil that it seems rare for people to see the Light of Christ. Between what the media constantly
puts out and the new HHS mandate, we need that Light to be more present. I saw the Light this
weekend, not only through Adoration and participation in the Mass, but through the Sacrament of
Reconciliation, of which more than 1,200 people participated – truly dispelling the darkness of sin.
The speakers’ presentations were very profound. Chris Stefanick gave a talk on the power of the
Mass. He said that the love that we have for God must go beyond our own personal devotion to Him.
We must take that love to Mass every Sunday and receive Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the
Eucharist, allowing Him to enter within us, to fill us with His love and save us from our sins. His
beautiful description of how the Eucharist fills us with hope in God for the world and of His eternal
plan for us is one I will not soon forget.
Speaker Mary Bielski talked about Jesus Christ, describing not only how He loves us, but how He
longs for us to love him back. She encouraged us to take hold of our faith and to “get out of the
boat and walk on the water with Christ,” saying that truly trusting Christ is the one of the greatest
things we can do in our lives, and it will lead us to eternal happiness. Ms. Bielski also gave a very
passionate talk on the power of Our Lady describing how we can fly to Christ’s mother, our mother
in heaven, when we need her and she will intercede unfailingly for us to her Son. Mary is such an
inspiring figure for all, saying “YES” to God without hesitation when she was only about fifteen, just
a year younger than I am now.
Powerful music was abundant. Josh Blakesley and his band astounded us with their love for Christ,
through their lyrics and performance. They led us in prayer during daily Eucharistic Adoration,
singing soft hymns that never took attention away from the True Presence. Their Saturday night
concert, while loud and wild, always kept Christ respectfully at the forefront of my mind, whether
I was dancing like crazy to the song “Undignified” or clapping in the pattern of a cross with my
friends. Everything about their music spoke of love for God, even when we danced to a slightly less
traditional version of the “hokey-pokey” when Josh took out the line “that’s what it’s all about” -
because the hokey-pokey is definitely NOT what it’s all about.
But the most incredible, the most awe-inspiring highlight of the weekend was the Eucharistic
Procession – the literal embodiment of the theme of the retreat. The huge gymnasium that housed the
Masses and talks of the retreat was completely darkened, save for some candlelight. A lone spotlight
shone on the monstrance containing our Eucharistic Lord as the deacon carrying it made his way
around the dark room. From the moment the Eucharist entered the room I was sobbing, both in
complete wonder and from my heart bursting with love. I was so engrossed in adoring our Lord that I
never realized until much later that the actual procession was about one hour long! Two deacons took
turns carrying the ornate monstrance around the darkened gym. They walked slowly, allowing every
person to take in the joy of Christ’s presence and to be blessed by Him. Everyone was kneeling, even
though the thin foam mats provided almost no relief from the hard floor. In the Bible, we read that
people reached out to touch Christ as He passed through crowds. I never thought I would find myself
being one of those people, but I was. Every time He passed, I found myself reaching out with both
hands, my arms to their full extent, just trying to touch Him. It brings tears to my eyes just to think of
the moment when He was so close that if I had stretched out a little higher or a little farther I could
have done so.
I wasn’t the only one profoundly moved by the experience. Retreatant John Merkel said that the
procession “was my most intimate experience with Jesus Christ so far in my life”. Chaperone Lisa
Tellup said, “I think that the thing that amazed me the most was how serious all 1,500 of the youth
were about their faith. They all knelt silently for over an hour during the Eucharistic Procession, and
then most stayed in adoration after the procession was finished. I'm inspired by their dedication.”
Retreatant Nicholas Andrulewicz described the procession as “the most meaningful experience of my
life” saying that he “felt Jesus' presence right in front of me as the Blessed Sacrament passed by our
group. I saw people crying and reacting in so many ways and I knew they felt like I did. I would like
for all my friends to have this experience”. And joy was radiating off the face of retreatant Danielle
Hoppel as Christ passed us. “It was awesome to be that close to God,” she said.
Following the retreat weekend, Mark Patrick, a seminarian from Good Shepherd Church in
Perryville, Maryland, blogged: “I got a great deal of inspiration and knowledge out of the talks,
worship, and adoration, but as I drove away from Mount St. Mary's Seminary [Sunday] morning I
realized that I got so much, too, from the young people and their parents in attendance at this great
event. To see their worship, to experience their love for the Lord, Our Lady, and the Church was
breathtaking. To see them weep before the Blessed Sacrament, the King of the universe before
them, inspired me to want to grow ever deeper in that love for Jesus and His Church.” Retreatant
John Andrews said, “I had been expecting the weekend to be wild and exciting (which it was), but I
actually found it to be quite relaxing, especially during adoration. It was a chance to get away from
the trials of life, and spend some time with Jesus.” And chaperone Jennifer Merkel also reported
being moved both by her experience, and by how devoted the Catholic youth that were present were
to God. She said, “I am only beginning to process all the incredible experiences that I had this past
weekend. […] there are no words that can express my thoughts correctly... I guess I would have to
say the Eucharistic Procession was, for me, a profound encounter with Christ and His church. To be
there, with Him, as He came among his children and became their only focus, well, it still moves me
tears two days later.”
Chaperone Mathias Andrulewicz, Sr. described the weekend saying, “In addition to the incredible
personal experience we all had with our Creator, it was also a blessing to be able to observe the
dramatic impact such an encounter had on all the youth. It was awesome to be able to witness our
youth coming to the realization that our faith, the Mass and the Eucharist can be extraordinarily
exhilarating and emotional.” And his son, retreatant Mathias Andrulewicz, Jr., said, “Mount 2000
once again offered one of the most influential experiences of my entire faith journey. The emphasis
on the Holy Eucharist throughout the whole weekend was so beneficial to many of the youth in
attendance, including myself, especially during the procession and all night adoration. It was so
amazing to watch the Living Jesus make His way around the room and touch the soul of everyone He
passed. I would definitely recommend this retreat to ANY high school student.”
In conclusion, it seems too simple to say that the weekend was the best of my life – but in truth it
was. I experienced so many new things that have only made me stronger in my faith and love of God.
Some memories may fade with time, but the feeling of how close God was to me will never fade. It
is my fervent hope that more teens will participate in events like Mount 2000. Together we can truly
reflect the Light of Christ into a world in desperate need of hope. A hope that can only be filled in
Hannah Sneeringer writes from Elkton, Maryland. She is a 10th grade home school student and a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church.