Saturday, March 19, 2016

Another blessed day at SHAS

Another blessed day at SHAS!
We spent the entire day at SHAS today. There is so much to do!  The property sits on approximately 2 acres, with an outdoor soccer field, lake, and a court yard. Inside the main building you have 3 chapels, dining room, multiple family rooms, offices, multiple classrooms, including a Biology lab, 2 dorm areas, 2 prep rooms, showers There are also 2 gyms, band room/theatre room, conference room, and a game room.

This morning, some of our boys attended the 6:40a morning meditation presented by Fr. Michael. In my opinion, this is a great day to start the day. For today's reflection was about starting the day off During the meditation, 
We then had Mass at 7a. We have gone to Mass for 6 days in a row! Woo hoo!
For breakfast, the SHAS cooks prepared for us ygreen colored eggs in honor of St. Patrick's day! What a thoughtful gesture!
During the breakfast, a group of Canadian boys, which were also visiting SHAS, asked for everyone's attention and personally thank SHAS for their hospitality and generosity. In addition, one of the Canadian boys, greeted our boys and for some weird reason decided to state the following comment: Texas is "average" in sports.
Our boys' reactions were one of "oh no you didn't!". Some of our boys were like "bring it!"What came next was inevitable. Sports competition Canadians vs. Texans!!  
Fr. Robert and Fr. Ronald arranged some competitions between the Canadian and the Texas boys which included: American football, soccer, and  hockey.
Or boys lost to the Canadians in football, but beat them in soccer and in hockey! Yeah!! Our boys were so pumped and excited! 

Later that day, the Dads had a Q/A session with the SHAS faculty. The following subjects are taught at SHAS: math, English, writing (including cursive), typing, world history, religion, 3 languages Latin, Spanish, and Greek. The students also learn to perform the liberal arts  for example reciting plays and poems, singing in the choir.
The students also have an intense prayer life (morning mediation, Mass, examination of conscience, Rosary, Eucharistic adoration, and night prayers).  In addition, the boys also have to do house work, assist in the kitchen, serve as waiters during eating times and maintain the outside 
gardens.  The students also learn multiple sports like soccer, basketball, hockey, American football, and other random games.
The faculty explained that the type of education the students receive at SHAS is a wholistic approach to education in order to form the entire person. The goal for SHAS is for the student to be great in everything and not just one subject.
The faculty also informed us that 
SHAS students perform extremely well in the SATs and that SHAS graduates who decide not to enter the novitiate (1st year of seminary) perform very well in all colleges and universities!
Fr. Darren also added that all SHAS faculty complete a yearly background check.  Faculty also have to learn to teach multiple subjects in case a faculty member is not available to teach that day.

In the evening, a special ECYD ceremony was prepared for the boys who were wanting to pledge publicly a friendship or renew their friendship with Our Lord Jesus Christ.  This ceremony took place in the SHAS chapel, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. The boys' conviction to Christ's friendship was real and showed in their serious and mature demeanor.

After the ceremony, we all went to visit a beautiful statue of Mary out in the courtyard. We said good night to Mary and went to bed.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Shrine of Christ's Passion in St. Joseph, Indiana

The first outing of the day was to The Shrine of Christ's Passion in St. John, Indiana.  The Shrine sets on 30 beautifully landscaped acres made to look and feel like the Holy Land.  As you journey this multimedia, interactive prayer trail you can experience the life of Jesus Christ from the Last Supper through His glorious Ascension. All of the sculptures are life size and made out of bronze.  
It was a cold and windy day, however, our boys did not complain this time.  The boys were in awe when they encountered the sculptures.  As we were walking through the prayer trail, it was extremely inspiring to see the boys showing much reverence. The boys would sit down, look at each sculpture of Jesus and meditate on it as they were listening to the thoughtful meditation playing through a speaker at each station. Some would sit down, some would stand, but all were definitely capturing a special moment with Jesus.  The boys were also practicing silence so as to not to disturb others who were visiting the Shrine.  Our boys also showed signs of maturity by not horse playing throughout the entire prayer trail journey.  I am extremely proud!
The Shrine had an amazing and beautiful gift shop!  There were so many wonderful, religious items to choose from.  Although, in my opinion, somewhat expensive, one boy expressed to me that even though some of the items were a little expensive, he was still going to buy religious items from this gift shop because all of the sales are used to maintain the Shrine and not charge a fee to all visitors who want to come and experience the Shrine.  Such wisdom and unselfishness. Needless to say, I also purchased a few items.  The owners of the gift shop were very welcoming and actually let us use their tables and chairs so that we could eat our lunch inside since it was still windy outside.
Next stop, Sky Zone indoor Trampoline park!!!
Sky Zone was a blast!!
The boys had multiple trampoline areas to choose from: volleyball, dodgeball, basketball dunking, and/or simply bouncing, flipping, and landing in a pit full of 10,000 foam cubes!! How fun and wow, what a workout!!
After Sky Zone, we went to a local ice cream place and 
Fr. Michael Vanderbeek bought everyone ice cream!!  Thank you Father!
After ice cream we drive back to SHAS for dinner.
Throughout the day, I have seen more and more of the boys making new friends with other boys that they did not know at the beginning of our trip. Also, due to the fact that our boys have been dining, praying, playing, and mingling with the apostolics and not to mention the fact that the apostolics are very welcoming and easily approachable, our boys have made friendships with many of the apostolic students! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Another amazing day in Indiana

Another amazing day in Indiana!
Every morning at SHAS, Fr. Alejandro, gives a morning reflection to the apostolic students at 6:30 in the morning. For the second day in a row, a small group of our boys have attended these reflections, even though it is not part of our trip schedule.  How beautiful it is to see these boys sacrifice at least 30 minutes of their sleep to attend the morning reflections!
After morning reflection there is mass. All the boys wake up 15 minutes before mass, wash their face, brush their teeth, comb their hair, put on their mass clothes and off they go. Each of the boys are encouraged to situate themselves next to an apostolic student. It's inspiring to see how the apostolic students invite our boys to engage in the mass by sharing their hymmnal and prayer books so that they can sing and pray together during mass.
During breakfast, our boys are also encouraged to sit with the apostolics. There is a lot of conversations going on regarding the "life" of an apostolic student and also many trivial conversations like "what is your favorite sport, food, etc?"
After breakfast, Fr. Mathew had a gospel reflection for our boys in the crypt, which is a small chapel in the basement directly underneath the main chapel. Fr. Mathew also shared with our boys how he was also an apostolic student before becoming an LC priest. 
Next on the agenda was a trip to the University of Notre Dame in South bend, Indiana.
Dr. Peter Kilpatrick, Dean of the Office of engineering at N.D. and also a Regnum Christi member gave us an inspiring tour of N.D. starting with the basilica. Being the tallest building in N.D., the basilica was amazingly beautiful with all of its stained glass windows, paintings, statues, relics, and a magnificent tabernacle, needless to say, there were many selfies and father/son pics.
Another beautiful and holy place at N.D. is the Our Lady of Lourdes grotto. The grotto is a smaller scale replica of the grotto in Lourdes, France. Within the grotto, there are many prayer candles in which the public can light up. Many of the boys lit up candles for their families back home. In front of the grotto is a kneeling area where we all knelt and prayed a decade of the rosary, asking Mary to continue watching over us on our trip.  
Dr. Kilpatrick had arranged lunch for us in one of the Notre Dame conference rooms. What generosity!
The boys were so grateful for the tour and lunch that they left the conference room spotless picking up their trash after eating.
After our tour we headed over to the Icebox skating rink...hockey time!!!
SHAS provided the boys with hockey sticks, helmets, and ice skates! Mostly all the boys geared up and hit the ice immediately! The younger boys and first time skaters were assisted by the LC priests, brothers and dads.  After a 30 minute warm up, Fr. Darren divided the group into 4 teams and the hockey round robin tournament began. Talk about intense! Some of the boys that already knew how to play, were seriously competing against the LC priests and brothers! The games got even more intense because some of the priests, brothers, and apostolics from SHAS, joined us and played as well!
After the hockey games, we drove back to SHAS and had an outdoor soccer game with our  boys, apostolics, and brothers. Boy, was I tired after that!
We then showered up and get ready to pray a rosary in the chapel before dinner.
SHAS provided us with so much delicious food! We were so thankful, especially because we were hungry, lol!!
After dinner, the dads had a Q/A session with Fr. Timothy, SHAS rector to address any questions and/or concerns we had about SHAS.
The boys also had a Q/A session, however, it was with the apostolic students to address any questions about SHAS and what it's like to be an apostolic at SHAS.
After the sessions it was time for bed.
I am sure that everyone slept like a baby last night.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Arrived safely in Rolling Prairie, Indiana

Wow! What a wonderful day it has been!
Started the morning off with mass at St. Clement of Rome Catholic Church in St. Louis, Mo. The Pastor of the church announced to the congregation that our group was from Texas on our way to SHAS and that he would be praying for a safe trip and also for our boys to listen and discern to see of Our Lord is calling them to become a student at SHAS.  How kind of him!
After mass Mr. Daly and the Knights of Columbus cooked breakfast for us! Eggs, sausage, pancakes, OJ, coffee, for free! What generosity!
After breakfast, we packed up and went to do some sight seeing in St. Louis.
1st stop was the Gateway arch. It we amazing! I know the boys loved it because a lot of them took selfies and were making silly poses like pretending to hold the arch with 1 finger from afar.  We also had the opportunity to visit the old St. Louis courthouse museum. The kids were amazed with the inside of the building since it had a dome in the center with multiple paintings in the high ceiling. A lot of the boys bought souvenirs. The most popular souvenir was a telescope to see the paintings on the high ceiling.
We then headed towards Illinois and ate lunch at a public park. The kids were able to stretch their legs and hang out for an hour before the last driving stretch to Indiana.
We drove through some heavy rain and were able to maneuver nicely through the heavy traffic.  Once we arrived,  we were all so excited to finally reach our destination: SHAS in Rolling Prairie, Indiana!
We greeted the entire staff and SHAS had already dinner waiting for us. Thank you!
After dinner, we knew the boys were pretty ancy since we had been driving for 2 days now.
Fr. Daren gathered everyone together and decided to have an indoor soccer game inside the SHAS gym!
We were able to invite some of the SHAS students to play with us and formed 4 teams. Oh my goodness! The games were so intense! The boys definitely needed to let off some of their energy and it showed in the soccer games!  Everyone played hard and did not want to lose (that's my kind of game). After the game, Fr. Darren took the boys to visit a beautiful painting of the Virgin Mary inside  the schools grounds and prayed a decade of the Rosary. The boys then showered and it was lights out after that.
Good night.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Arrived safely in St.Louis, Mo

Good evening from St. Louis!
After some rain, heavy fog, bathroom breaks, and great driving, we have arrived safe and sound to St.Clement of Rome Catholic Church in St.Louis, Missouri.  As soon as we arrived, we were welcomed by a wonderful and generous couple from the church, Mr. and Mrs. Daly (parents of Fr. David, Rector at the LC seminary in Connecticut.  This beautiful couple presented all of us with delicious homemade pasta and sides! And not to mention a warm place to stay and rest the night.
We have kept the boys engaged by playing games, praying, and watching movies together.  At times, we had the boys ride with different boys and in different vehicles after each stop to change the dynamics of the trip.
Spiritual formation was also included: gospel reflection, mid-day examination of conscience, and night prayers.
Talk to you soon.
Good night and God bless

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Texas Conquest Weekend Camp: MISSION MERCY

Texas Conquest Weekend Camp Directors, clergy, staff, college counselors and high school jr. counselors hosted 27 middle school boys for a weekend of fun, friendship and faith. Friday evening started off with campers enjoying games and dinner with their dads who shared stories about themselves and their faith as they were growing up. Before the dads departed for the weekend, the group prayed together for the boys to experience a time away full of opportunities to draw closer to Christ.

Photo: Gabriel Zanoff

Saturday brought a full schedule beginning with an explanation of the main event, a Faith Survey. Following Mass, campers loaded up and bussed into College Station for a visit to Texas A&M University. After a picnic lunch, groups of 2-3 boys, along with a counselor, spread out around the campus to conduct Faith Surveys for anyone that would participate asking questions like: Who do you believe God is? How often do you attend church /Mass? Is the Eucharist Christ's body /symbol? Do you believe in an afterlife? Is abortion right or wrong? Ever shared faith with a non-believer? At the end of each interview, the participant was asked if they had any intentions that the boys could pray for in Adoration later in the evening. Surveys and prayer intentions were pinned to two six foot wooden crosses that were carried around the campus. After two hours, most groups weren’t ready to end their mission.

Photo: Gabriel Zanoff

Campers were treated to a private tour of the newly remodeled Kyle Field and had fun running out of the players tunnel onto the field. After playing a few games, they loaded back up for the retreat center, tired and satisfied with the day’s work. Following dinner, groups gave a summary of the surveys and discussions they had with people on campus. During Adoration, the intentions collected that afternoon were passed around and the boys mercifully offered prayers for the people the met. Counselors prepared a Texas-sized bonfire outside where all of the intentions were burned during a quiet meditation time.

Photo: Gabriel Zanoff

Photo: Gabriel Zanoff

Sunday morning arrived and families reconvened for Mass, lunch and awards. Fr. Michael Sullivan recounted the weekend for parents during his homily and paralleled the Mass readings for the day with his observances of the boys’ “transfiguration” that occurred throughout the weekend: learning true fatherhood by the example of their own dads and spiritual Fathers, overcoming fear, rejection, disagreement and mockery to experience courage, affirmation, gratitude and prayerfulness while stepping out of their comfort zone during the Faith Surveys, and experiencing Christ up close and personal during Adoration. One camper described it as the most intense time of Adoration he had ever experienced. 

MISSION accomplished!!

Photo: Gabriel Zanoff

Many thanks to our Event Directors Dr. Michael Kramr and Jonathan Nguyen, Assistant to the Directors Mark LeGros, the clergy Fr. Michael Sullivan and Fr. Daren Weisbrod and special visitors from the DC area Br Luke Rawicki and Br Domingo Fuenzalida, our tireless College Counselor staff, our newest staff of High School Junior Counselors, and our staff dads Greg Zanoff and Jose Rodriguez for manning the kitchen and feeding the boys and families. Thanks also to Mr. Craig Potts for the tour of Kyle Field, MidSouth Baking for the food donation, the RC ladies for delicious goodies, the Aggie Knights of Columbus for the use of the bar-b-que pit, and Holy Rosary Catholic Church for the retreat facilities.

Check out our website for upcoming events: www.texasconquest.com