On Feb. 17, Mount St. Mary’s University and the Seminary welcomed over 1,200 high school students and religious men and women to campus for Mount 2000, a three-day Eucharistic retreat which allows young individuals to experience Jesus Christ in adoration.
Mount 2000 offers high school students the opportunity to encounter Christ through sacraments, influential speeches and testimonies, breakout talks, musical concerts and games. This year’s event, which reached maximum registration in just three minutes, was themed “Amazed and Afraid.”
Tyler Kline, Vice President of the Core Group which organizes the event each year says, “The theme reflects the Gospel reaction of the direct encounter with God, which inspires not only amazement and reverence but also fear and awe.”
Guest speakers included Sarah Swafford, founder of Emotional Virtue Ministries; Father Connor Danstrom, a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago and our very own Seminary professor John-Mark Miravalle. Music was provided by FOCUS Worship Team, a group of musicians from across the country who use music to energize and evangelize.
Over 30 priests and one bishop were on campus to administer confession, which was offered four times over the duration of the retreat. According to Brendan Fitzgerald, a seminarian serving on the registration committee, a grand total of 893 confessions were heard over the three-day period. At its peak on Friday night, the ARCC’s confessional area saw more than 200 people receive the sacrament in just under 45 minutes.
The retreat attracts annual participation primarily from the Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Arlington areas. This year’s event drew groups from as far as Columbus, Ohio and Hartford, Connecticut, as well as over 20 religious sisters and priests from seven different orders. Male guests were housed in Memorial Gym, and female visitors were accommodated in the field house for the first time since its roof collapsed last year.
The elaborate organization of Mount 2000 has been entrusted to the Mount St. Mary’s Seminary since the retreat’s origins in 1994. Throughout each academic year, beginning as soon as the week after Mount 2000, a gathering of seminarians known as the Core Group begins making plans and accommodations for the massive annual turnout.
“The seminarians do a fantastic job leading the retreat,” states Dr. Mike Miller, Mount Philosophy professor, and this year’s Mount 2000 chaperone for iT youth ministry in Emmitsburg. “Every time I go on Mount 2000, I leave feeling very proud to be a part of the Mount community.”
Whether they were standing in fluorescent safety jackets directing traffic and coordinating security, overseeing meals and entertainment in Patriot Hall or serving as small group leaders, all 117 seminarians performed a job which was vital to the weekend’s success. Over 100 Mount undergraduate students also provided meal, housing and security assistance.
The only retreat of its kind in the country, Mount 2000 guarantees that each small group is given a seminarian leader, granting high school students intimate interaction with those studying to become priests.
Kline articulates the value of this unique engagement for both parties: “It gives seminarians valuable experience ministering to young people, and it lets students see that seminarians are real people just like they are.”
Fostering this atmosphere of spiritual encounter and education were 10 to 15 booths lining the main lobby of the ARCC. They included anything from vendors selling commemorative books and clothing items, to advocacy groups educating attendees on important causes and local service opportunities, to religious orders providing outreach and information for curious teenagers. When students left the auditorium to eat a snack or drink from the water fountain, they were still surrounded by opportunities to become better acquainted with religious vocations and better prepared for lifelong Catholic mission.
The only monk in attendance, Brother Ignacio González, OSB from St. Anselm’s Abbey in Washington, describes the unique opportunity to have an interactive table at Mount 2000.
“As the Vocational Director for St. Anselm’s, I’m here to serve as a witness to how awesome it is to be called by God to be a Benedictine monk. Many people don’t know that my monastery even exists, let alone in the heart of our nation’s capital. But we’re out there praying and marching, and being here will allow me to open the door for young people to pray with us.”
Having first come to Mount 2000 as a youth group chaperone in 1998, González now recognizes the importance of the event in reaching out to younger generations. While smiling and giving blessed medals of Saint Benedict to passersby, he notes: “For many of the high school students here, whether they are curious about a religious vocation or seek to live a holier life, the boat’s already in the water. All it needs is a little push. That’s what I’m doing here, and that’s what Mount 2000 continues to do every year.”