BATESBURG-LEESVILLE—Rejoice is a word heard frequently during the holiday season. It appears in hymns, psalms and on the front of Christmas cards. But how many people really know what it means to rejoice and how to accomplish this in daily life?
Twenty-five high school girls learned the word’s true meaning at the annual Diocese of Charleston girls’ retreat held at Camp Kinard Dec. 4-6.
The theme “Rejoice!” was meant to help the girls focus on the joyful aspects of Catholic womanhood, according to Karla Buru, event organizer and a member of St. Joseph Church in Columbia.
She said the workshops and general sessions focused on the difference between joy and happiness, two words which might seem interchangeable if people haven’t studied their true meanings.
“Joy is something you have all the time because it’s something the Lord gives you, it fills your heart,” Buru said. “We told the girls there might be times in your life when you’re not happy, like when you fail a test or something bad happens. Even in those times, you can still have joy in knowing the Lord still has a purpose for your life, and you’re still loved by God.”
The participants were encouraged to think about things in their lives that brought them joy, and also discussed ways to increase their inner sense of joy by studying Scripture and the lives of the saints. They talked about ways to rejoice with their families, and also how joy could come from constant awareness of being a daughter of Christ.
Individual and group prayer was a big part of the weekend, as were the sacraments. Father Robert J. Sayer, parochial administrator of Corpus Christi Church in Lexington, and Father D. Anthony Droze, pastor of Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia, offered the sacrament of reconciliation on Dec. 5. Father Marcin Zahuta, from the St. Thomas More Center at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, celebrated Mass Dec. 6.
One of the most important aspects of joy that is sometimes the hardest to learn is how to rejoice in oneself, and this was a key topic in discussions about personal morality, modesty and relationships that took place on Dec. 5.
Workshop leaders cautioned the girls not to rely on relationships in order to form their identities. Too often, they said, teens make bad choices when they feel they have to have a boyfriend in order to be complete. That wholeness, they said, can only come through faith in God.
“You need to find joy in yourself before you enter into a relationship,” said Kandice Jeske, a Converse College senior and member of St. Michael military parish at Fort Jackson.
“You need to be able to rely on God for your joy, and be happy about who you are. There’s something very gratifying about being identified as someone’s girlfriend, but that’s false idolatry,” she said.
Jeske led a workshop on the concept of courtship, as opposed to dating. Courtship, she said, is a faith-centered option that some Catholics choose because it is designed to help a couple determine if their partner would be an appropriate husband or wife.
“A person would never enter into a courtship with someone they wouldn’t consider marrying,” Jeske said. “It’s really dating with the purpose of discerning whether you would marry this person.”
She said courtship could be an effective way of avoiding temptation, because it is based on mutual chastity and purity, accountability and responsibility. Courtship, she said, is also more family- and faith-oriented than dating.
Jeske told the girls that courtship was simply one of the options for them to consider, and there was nothing wrong with dating in itself as long as they stayed true to Catholic morals and worked to avoid temptation.
“I sometimes wonder why dating and serious relationships are necessary in high school, because that’s a time when you’re learning so much about yourself,” she said. “It’s really a time when you should be learning to rejoice in yourself.”
Molly Murphy, 14, a member of St. Peter Church in Beaufort, said this was her first time at a girls’ retreat.
“I’ve learned this weekend to rejoice in what I have, in bad and good times,” she said. “When I go home after this, if I’m having a bad time I now know I can still have joy inside of me because I’ve got God’s love with me.”