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Did You Know That URLVD?

Hosted by St. Pat’s in Elkhorn and ultimately organized by Alex Zimmerman, URLVD is a weekend retreat for high schoolers wanting to deepen their faith. Registration for the summer 2024 retreat is open right now; scan the QR code on the attached flier or click on the link at the bottom to be taken to the sign-up form. The following is a reflection on my own experience at URLVD and includes testimony from a friend.

“Hey, did you know that you are loved?” my brother asked me on a random afternoon. I looked up to see his goofy smile as he held up a flier. Peering closer, I could make out the bolded letters in the middle of the advertisement: URLVD.

That was the first time I had ever heard of the summer/winter retreat. Because I wasn’t old enough to go when I first heard about URLVD, I got to experience the retreat through my brother. He went three times before I was able to go to my first URLVD last January. Each time, he returned afire in his Catholic faith and wouldn’t stop talking about his experience for a whole week. At every retreat, he always found something new and amazing to discuss.

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend URLVD in the winter of 2024 with my home parish, St. Columbkille. Alongside some of my closest friends, I had the faith-experience of a lifetime. The retreat begins on the bus to Ashland, Nebraska, where the program is hosted in saloon-like cabins. Unlike other retreats I’ve experienced, URLVD is led by the students rather than adult volunteers. Speeches, deep-conversational games, small groups, and prayers are organized by the people going on retreat. For example, in January my brother led a talk on the importance of Reconciliation, and a friend of mine demonstrated her family’s relationship dynamic through an interactive discussion. This allowed me to know the other kids on retreat better while also learning about the Catholic faith through the eyes of someone like me.

URLVD is also centered around the sacraments. It is highly encouraged to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament in silent Adoration, which is always available in the upstairs chapel. We celebrated the Mass multiple times together and engaged in three hours of silent prayer time. During this time, we reflected on our sin, participated in Reconciliation, and had the opportunity to discuss our faith-lives with a spiritual director.

Of course, there is time for recreation and relaxation. On the retreat grounds is a gym to play sports, walk, talk, and engage in group activities to get to know one another. However, my favorite part of the whole week was writing and receiving “affirmations notes”: little papers of kindness, love, and encouragement. Notes were dropped in people’s bags to be read at the end of the retreat. This was a great way to know the other high school students, and it was a perfect way to end the retreat!

Sophomore Jillian Walliach went to the summer URLVD in 2023. Convinced to go because of her senior friends, Wallich had the opportunity to meet other faith-filled teens her age by playing games and chatting during free time. “I didn’t get deep into the faith aspect until we had our small group discussion,” Wallich shared. After talking about her family and faith with the others, Wallich felt determined to immerse herself in God’s presence and discern what He was telling her. Wallich was particularly influenced by Adoration and observing the other teens in prayer. In her opinion, she saw that “everyone was so close to God.” Leaving URLVD on the last day was bittersweet, but Wallich was overly overjoyed to have been on this wonderful retreat!

The summer URLVD retreat for 2024 is open for all high school students. Only a few Mercy girls have gone in these past years, but if you are interested in going on this retreat, refer to the attached flier. I encourage everyone to check it out. URLVD is a great way to connect with God on a personal level. Even if you are not Catholic, URLVD is an opportunity to know other high schoolers in the Archdiocese and explore any aspect of the faith. Contact Alex Zimmerman at (520) 239-6371 for more information. I hope you are encouraged to attend and experience the joy that you are loved!

Click here to easily access the sign-up form.

AK Verdoni
MHS ‘26, XC, John 1:48
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