March 2018 was the most anticipated month as it was nearing the time when the dates for the annual National Singles Conference was to be announced.
All delegations were excited once it was revealed that July 27th – 29th 2018 were the dates for our Singles Conference, to be held at St. Joseph Vaz Spiritual Renewal Retreat Center, Goa.
On arriving at the venue, there was a beautiful scent of fresh remembrance as I recollected what I experienced in last year’s Conference. It was good to be back!
This year, the Conference was themed “Refresh” based on the Bible verse from Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
The entire Conference revolved around us being aboard a plane, where the start of the Conference brought in our Captain, Ryan Rego. He was wheeled in by his steward & stewardess, who also happened to be our hosts for the weekend, Aaron & Sunanda.
Our Captain informed us that our flight was going to be a 65-hour flight, and by the grace of God, there were 270 passengers onboard, who embarked from lands near and far. We had Singles from Bangalore North, Bangalore South, Gurgaon, Mangalore, Mumbai, Porvorim, Pune, Assam, West Bengal, Caranzalem, Margao, Calangute, and their newest flight plan included Chennai too.
As we taxied on the runway, we were led in prayer by Fr Justin, followed by Tito Constantino D’Sa, the District Servant of Goa, who then declared the Conference open.
Once we were airborne we began with the first competition of the Conference, Walkin’ Loud.
This Competition required each delegation to focus their energy, vibrancy and creativity in a manner that best brought out the pulse of their area, with a twist to it – each delegation had to depict this as a human flag. Every delegation showcased skill, creativity and originality in the uniqueness of their depiction. The winners of this competition were the delegation from Porvorim, Goa. And, a well-deserved win it was indeed!
Following this competition, we had our first session given by Joshua. He spoke about “The Invitation” that God gives to each of us. It was a great reminder that Jesus is the invitation to God and that we each receive a personal invitation to come as we are. It is when we accept this invitation that the Lord fulfils His promise in giving us rest, where fears are done away with and forgiveness becomes easy for us.
Joshua also pointed out the struggles that most of us are faced with when we attempt to rest in the Lord; what he called the 3 D’s – Distraction, Discouragement and Doubt. However, he reminded us of the reassurance that Jesus gives us and that we on our part need to truly realign our priorities and put God first so that our lives are aligned to His will for us.
After this refreshing session, lunch was served!
Everyone took this opportunity to rekindle friendships made in the past and create new ones.
Post lunch, we had the second competition of the Conference – Showdown – Venue Competitions. These were either individual or group activities which the Singles had to pre-register for. The Showdown had a total of 15 different competitions that we could participate in. We had a 2-hour window, wherein each single had to move to the respective venue, based on the competition that they had registered for. The competitions were fun and really brought out everyone’s talents.
This was followed by mass, where Fr. Henry gave a good sermon about how we must try and be in silence with the Lord in order to allow our spiritual ears to hear.
After mass, we were given time to get ready for an evening of fun and fellowship. It was time for the Fete. We were also asked to dress up in our dream costumes which would be judged at the end of the night. The hall was decorated with a carnival-like atmosphere. There were exciting game stalls on either side of the hall. There was a photo booth, a face painting stall, and so much more. There were spot prized games also played in the centre of the hall. But, what was even more exciting to see was how everyone had participated in this event. We had people dress up as a wizard, a Saint, a chef, a mountain climber, and how can I forget, even as an avocado. Rapunzel made an appearance as well, and there were many, many more! The efforts that every Single took to participate was amazing to see!
The winners of some of the Showdown competitions were announced, and the evening ended with dinner, where we were told to rise by 7 am the next morning. And that was the excitement for Day 1!
Day 2 started off with a scrumptious breakfast, after which, we headed to the main hall to begin our exciting day ahead.
We were taken on a spiritual high with the amazing Band – Throne of Praise, that led us through praise & worship each day of the Conference.
The first talk of the day was given by Biron about being “Yoked to Freedom”. He reminded us about the invitation that God sends to each of us and helped us to really understand what being yoked to Christ means. He also took us through the lies and its truths that we often fall prey to which prevents us from being yoked to Christ. He concluded by saying that in order to allow ourselves to be yoked to Christ, we ought to practice the acts that Jesus did to build His relationship with His Father.
This inspiring talk was then followed by a small tea break after which we were brought back to the main hall for our next session given by Levin on “Worship”. He spoke about when we come to Worship God, we should come with our full being and self. We need to lift all our distractions in prayer so that we can truly worship God with all our soul and strength. He encouraged us to learn more about Jesus, which will help us to know how to surrender our burdens to Him, thus enabling Jesus to give us a part of Himself. This will eventually help us to grow in the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Post lunch, the participants were divided into 2 groups. One headed to the chapel for adoration along with confession while the other group was part of a workshop Handled by Sheetal who spoke on “Praying with Scriptures through Lectio Divina”. It was a wonderful session, that gave us so much clarity on how to pray with Scripture. She took us through an example of how to carry this exercise out, thereby, enabling us to do it daily during our personal prayer time. The session helped us understand that this exercise when done with a true heart and mind, can really transform our lives and help us to truly know the heart of Jesus and eventually become His disciple.
At the end of the workshop, the groups switched and after both groups were done, we celebrated Holy mass in the chapel.
Following this, we had a time of testimonies. Several Singles came forward and testified about how God has touched and continues to work in their lives. It was an inspiring and moving time as it brought upon the realization that we’re not alone, others go through the same trials, and it’s also a reminder that God is always with each one of us, walking with us every step of our way.
The evening ended with an event that I think most Singles will agree when I say was the most amazing concert ever! ? After the testimonies, we were asked to go to the main hall. And as we walked up the stairs to the hall, we found it in total darkness with a projection on the wall at the back of the hall. Once all the Singles were assembled, the projection played, and it was a summary video of the events that took place the day before. As soon as that ended, the projection moved across the hall to the front, where another video was playing of a testimony. Once this video ended, we heard music, the lights came on and there before us on stage was the band Faith! This took us all by surprise, and what a wonderful surprise it was!
The band Faith took us through a time of worship, and led us through a time of adoration, too, when the Lord made His presence felt. After adoration, the band continued with songs of praise & worship. And the evening ended with dinner, and that concluded Day 2.
The final day of the Conference began with the Holy Mass, followed by breakfast and assembly into the hall.
The last talk of our Conference was given by Stephanie, where she touched upon the theme of the Conference, “Refresh”. She recollected the topics that were spoken of during the past 2 days and then spoke to us about what Jesus wants us to learn from Him – meekness, humility, obedience, being led by the Holy Spirit, trust and surrender. She told us that in order to inculcate these areas, we need to first look at ourselves with sober judgment and continue to seek Christ in all that we do.
Our Country Servant, Tito Jose, addressed the Singles thereafter. He spoke about how the future of the Church for the next generation is in our hands. It is up to us to go out and share the Word and Love of Christ to others so that they, in turn, may share it with others and eventually more and more people will get to experience the Love and Faithfulness that God is. He then asked the Singles if anyone had the desire to become a priest or a nun and asked them to come forward. Several Singles came forward and we all stretched out our arms and prayed for them so that the Spirit of the Lord may descend on them and have their desire come to fullness if it is the will of God for their lives.
We then had a time of pray over, where the leaders of the community prayed over the Formators, who then prayed over the Household Servants, who in turn prayed over their Household members, and we then as a community prayed over everyone who hadn’t yet received the gift of tongues. It is at this time that the presence of the Holy Spirit was felt strongly and was a most enriching time for everyone present.
As we were nearing the end of our journey, the band – Throne of Praise – led us through a praise fest where we sang and danced our hearts out in praise and thanks for the newfound rest that we had discovered in Jesus And as we bid adieu to each other, to our old and new friends, we took back with us memories and guides on how we, as Singles, can grow in knowing Jesus better and how we can learn from Him so that we can always yoke ourselves to Him no matter what the circumstance may be.
I praise God for His people who put this awe-inspiring Conference together. Until the next Conference – may we each rest in the Lord in all that we do! Amen!
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