Thursday, August 03, 2006

KERALA: 2000 Youth at "Power 2006" - Divine Retreat Centre

Young Catholics On Retreat Celebrate Life, Mystery Of The Church

August 3, 2006

MURINGOOR, India (UCAN) -- About 2,000 young Catholics from India and other countries are taking part in a spiritual retreat aimed at helping one another experience the power of God and escape the power of evil.

The "Power 2006" retreat is running July 30-Aug. 4 at Divine Retreat Center, based in Muringoor, a village in Kerala, about 2,560 kilometers south of New Delhi. The participants, aged 15-40, are mainly Indians, but the others are 500 youths from Persian Gulf nations, 400 from Sri Lanka, 60 from Canada, 25 from Germany and 50 from the United States. The organizers say most expatriate retreatants are children of Indians who settled in those nations.

The center, managed by the Vincentian Congregation, claims to be the world's largest Catholic retreat center. About 20,000 people take part in every six-day retreat at the center, totaling about 1 million or so during a single year.

According to Vincentian Father Augustine Vallooran, the retreat leader, the organizers planned the event to celebrate youth, to experience "the great mystery of the Church" and to find personal fulfillment after a long search.

The priest told UCA News young people, the Church's hope and life, are often misguided and forced to lead a life without conviction. "Here, we give them an opportunity to transform themselves" and create "a world of love and respect," he said. He added that the program aims to build a worldwide network of youths to "experience the power of God and help them escape the power of evil."

At the opening session, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly urged the retreatants to "combine faith and reason" while seeking God. He criticized modern media for pushing consumerism and materialistic ideologies, asserting, "Media have great influence on young people, but they are not helping young people make a positive change." During the six-day program, he said, they will pray, sing and share their experiences of God.

According to Raphy Francis Vazhapilly, the international coordinator of the program, the retreat grew out of a global network that connects thousands of youths to "God and His Word." Vazhapilly, 36, lives in the Black Forest region of Germany, but he attended a retreat at the Divine Retreat Center in 1994 and thereafter helped set up Divine Youth, the retreat center's youth ministry.

He told UCA News that the 1994 retreat helped him experience God and changed his priorities. He shared his experiences with some friends who attended other retreats at the center. "We decided to tell other youths about our experiences," he said, and in 12 years, the ministry has spread to most continents.

"Yes, it's God's work and we were only tools," declared Vazhapilly, who says he is a former student leader once fascinated by communist ideologies.

Father Vallooran said the youth retreat, drawing participants from all over the world, is the first of its kind conducted by his 29-year-old center.

Maria Sangeetha, national coordinator of Divine Youth, told UCA News that the ministry has organized youth retreats at the national level and the number of retreats has been increasing each year along with the network.

"We have never advertised or campaigned for it," said the 29-year-old communication specialist, who is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, 700 kilometers northeast of Muringoor. "People who attended the retreat spread our message by word of mouth. They brought new people to us and they started the ministry in their own towns and villages when they went back. So we decided to organize at the international level."

Preparations for "Power 2006" began six months ago. Each participant from abroad registered online by paying 1,000 rupees (around US$22), while Indian participants each paid a registration fee of 300 rupees (around US$6).

Since 1990, the center has conducted six-day retreats in seven languages every week, and about 10 million people from all over the world have attended them. The center also conducted a retreat for young people from Asia in 1999.
Reproduced by
Konkani Catholics with permission from UCAN(

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