CLAY retreats seek to mold youth

Youth who take part in a CLAY retreat relate the formation of a clay object to the formation of their lives. (Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash)

Christ’s Light in All Youth retreats are for high school freshmen, sophomores

Father H Setter has been leading CLAY retreats for twice as long as many of the youth who participate are old. But Christ’s Light in All Youth retreats are still enlightening to him, he said.

“I get so much out of them. I’ve been doing them for several decades and it seems like I grow exponentially from them. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted. But I just think, wow, what a great experience. These kids teach me so much.”

Fr. H Setter

Father Setter works with David Walker to plan, prepare, and conduct the CLAY retreats. Walker is the program coordinator for Youth & Young Adult Events for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.

Walker said CLAY is designed to get young people thinking about their relationship with God at a time when they are entering adulthood.

“We want to help them open themselves up to what God is calling them to do and who God is calling them to be. We get serious and go deep, but have a lot of fun along the way.”

The retreat is for freshmen and sophomore high school students and is different from Teens Encounter Christ, which is for high school juniors and seniors.

Father Setter, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Aleppo and St. Anthony of Padua in Garden Plain, said the acronym CLAY is used to help form the youth during the retreat.

The day-long retreat focuses on the 18th chapter of Jeremiah, he said, which refers to the potter and how God chooses to shape the people of Israel:

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, ‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce my words to you.’ Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.”

If possible, a potter is brought in during a CLAY retreat to throw a pot, he said. Otherwise, a video of a potter at work is shown.

“They explain the process of how that clay is used and how it’s worked by the hands of the potter to remove the impurities – air bubbles, etcetera – and how they put it on the wheel and have to balance it in order to create a vessel.”

During the retreat, the youth are given their own Playdough-type clay to make candle holders that are baked and later used to hold candles representing the light of Christ. They pray, go to Mass, have the opportunity for confession, listen to presentations about topics relevant to and issues that challenge adolescents, and journal about their thoughts and discussions.

Retreat target teens becoming adults

The retreats are designed for young men and women who are moving into adulthood and who will be making more adult-like decisions, Father Setter said.

“We try to help them understand the need to wait on things because they aren’t equipped yet for certain things,” he said. “For example, the whole idea of waiting for things that are adult things. Things that can damage them and hurt them as young people – such as getting into the use of alcohol or becoming sexually active. These are things that young people have to wait on because if they push that too soon into their lives, it could have catastrophic results.”

Those who participate in CLAY retreats are at a special age, Fr. Setter said. They are no longer children and are beginning to develop critical thinking skills and abilities to discern.

“It’s amazing to see what unfolds in just one day,” he said, “being with like-minded kids at that tender age. (The retreat) gives them an avenue and opportunity to seek holiness – religious things aren’t always popular these days.”