Saint Paul’s Outreach (SPO) hosted its annual Fan into Flame faith-awakening retreat this past weekend, in which over 100 college students were given the opportunity to open their lives to relationship with Christ. The retreat, held at Heartland Retreat and Conference Center in Marengo, OH, consisted of a series of teachings and testimonies from college students, with a special appearance from Josephinum Vice Rector Fr. Walter Oxley. Students met in small groups following each teaching to share their own experiences and encourage one another to go deeper in their relationship with God. Lilvia Gomez is a full-time missionary, called a “Mission Leader”, from Texas who is serving with SPO in Columbus. This was Gomez’s first Fan into Flame retreat, about which she said: “To be able to witness and experience such a powerful work that God is doing in the hearts of many beautiful people is such a treasure. I really enjoyed spending time with people and having fellowship, small groups, prayer and even dancing together! It was a wonderful experience!”
The name Fan into Flame is taken from 2 Timothy 1:6: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” and has a common theme of stirring up dormant faith and deepening faith for those on retreat. Fan into Flame is put on by Saint Paul’s Outreach chapters throughout the country, with SPO’s Texas Mission Center holding their retreat in mid-January. Student at SPO chapter campuses in New Jersey, Kansas and Minnesota will experience the retreat later this month, as will seminarians at the Pontifical College Josephinum here in Columbus.
During the weekend, students participated in Eucharistic adoration and were given the opportunity to attend confession. To the surprise of the many area priests who volunteered to provide reconciliation,confession had to be extended to allow for more time as nearly every student took the opportunity to turn back to God and ask for forgiveness. In addition to growing in faith, students also grew in fellowship through enjoying games of football and ultimate Frisbee, and even the occasional dance party.
Columbus area colleges represented included Ohio State, Ohio Dominican, Capital and Otterbien, and a few high school seniors from Westerville North, Big Walnut and Saint Charles were also in attendance. Outside of Columbus, students from SPO’s chapter at West Virginia University and seminarians from Borromeo Seminary in Cleveland attended, along with students from Seton Hall University, representing SPO’s New Jersey Mission Center.
Camille Brady is an SPO Mission Leader serving at SPO’s newest chapter campus at West Virginia University. Brady was excited to bring students from WVU to experience the retreat and found it to be an impactful weekend: “(Fan into Flame) was powerful! ...(I)t was such a blessing to witness students becoming free to worship God! One of the best moments during the weekend was getting to spend time face to face with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our prayer time during Saturday night also gave me a chance to make myself available to the Holy Spirit and commit myself more fully to His will…What a joy it was to see so many students declaring Jesus as the Lord of their lives! Praise be to God!”