1st Encounter Retreat Prayerful, Fun
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
July 4, 2019
ROCKFORD— The first of three Encounter Retreats to be held this summer welcomed young women from seventh grade through college to Bishop Lane Retreat Center June 23-26.
Encounter retreats are being offered this year in place of the traditional summer vocation camps sponsored by the diocesan Vocation Office. This first encounter retreat brought women religious from near and far to provide the program. 
It began with Mass with Bishop David Malloy on Sunday evening for the 38 retreatants and their families. Mass was followed by ice breaker activities and night prayers.
Monday and Tuesday featured prayers four times a day, an activity mentioned by college freshman Jasmine Marquez as her favorite part of the retreat.
Those recited prayers, she says, “help you include God” in your day, and it is “an easy way to pray.”
It was Marquez’ third year at the summer camp and retreat, and her first to be among the 18-and-older women. The older girls had several separate events just for them alone and stayed at the Bishop Lane Retreat Center building instead of the youth building with younger participants.
This year Marquez encouraged her friend, Hayley Soria, to attend. Soria mentioned the “small group talks with girls our age” was a favorite for her.
“It’s inspired me to involve God more in my daily life,” she says, adding her appreciation for having some separate activities for ages 18-plus.
Although prayer was an important part of the retreat, there also was time for fun, and many of the sisters jumped right into spontaneous line dancing and a spirited game based on the board game called “Hungry, Hungry Hippos.”
Salesian Sister Theresa Lee of New Jersey was one of them. She also served as master of ceremonies at the retreat. It was her third summer at the Rockford event.
“What is impressive,” Sister Theresa Lee says, “is that the diocese promotes vocations and invests people and resources.”
She mentions also the family support of their daughters and the “openness, courage and generosity of the girls” to be willing to consider religious life. 
She happily noted that the Salesians of St. John Bosco, her religious order, was discovered by a past vocations camper, Sister Molly Heine, who recently made her first vows. Sister Theresa Lee called it “amazing” for girls as young as seventh grade to be beginning discernment of God’s will for them.
Two of those younger campers/retreatants are Edna Godinez and Sophia Santoyo, eighth graders from St. Joseph Parish in Elgin. Both were returning for their second summer, and both said how much fun it was and how they liked seeing that religious sisters like to have fun. Watching them, they agreed, makes religious life more attractive.
“It’s a great retreat!” Sophia concludes.