Fred Mercadante Writes about Desert Experience

March 27, 2018
By: Fred Mercadante, M.S., Campus Minister for Retreats and Sacramental Formation

This is an excerpt from Fred Mercadante's article in the National Catholic Reporter:

It's a Sunday morning in mid-December on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Thirty-five college students from the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, arrived the evening before to participate in "A Desert Experience Retreat," five days in Death Valley. Students practice contemplation while exploring the different desert landscapes of the national park.

Arriving in the evening, we camped out at Red Rock Canyon west of the city. We planned to wake up early, go to Mass, and begin our journey to the Valley of Death.

After a cold, windy night, we packed up and got to nearby Bishop Gorman High School. Newly formed Holy Spirit Parish worships there while its new church is being built.

Moving 35 college students early on a Sunday morning is challenging, but we manage to arrive only five minutes late for the 7:30 a.m. Mass. We wait for the Alleluia. We don't want to be a distraction on entering. At the Alleluia, we briskly file in to the empty seats in the back. Dark blue and purple abound — it's Advent. This Catholic church filled the front seats first! Quite the opposite of what we are used to — the first sign of things to come.

The pastor, Fr. Bill Kenny, is presiding, yet sneaks down an aisle while the deacon proclaims the Gospel, and randomly picks one of our students, Steven, to find out who we are. Just out of pure luck, Steven is the director of the student leadership team for the retreat.

Kenny begins the homily by publicly welcoming us and inviting one of our students to come forward and explain to the community what we were doing. I give the nod to Steven again, while thinking, "Wow, I definitely picked the right church!"

Read the full article here!

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