'Searchers' gather to celebrate #200

SEARCH for Christian Maturity retreats began in the Diocese of Raleigh in 1976 and, since then, 200 have been held.

Lived, though, is the word those associated with SEARCH would use as the retreat is one of a kind and the longest-running youth program in the diocese. 

On Saturday, June 22 some of those affiliated with SEARCH gathered to celebrate the milestone. 

The day-long event was held at the Short Journey Center in Smithfield. It incorporated a reunion of past searchers, lunch, activities, commemorative T-shirts and time for sharing via an open mic. 

One way the reunion inspired memories was through wreaths placed on what’s known as a Christ candle. It’s a SEARCH tradition that dates back decades.

When searchers first arrive at the weekend retreats, they spend part of the Friday evening at tables. Each table receives a blank ring made of paper. They’re encouraged to draw or write something that represents themselves, said Monique Wertis, a Search leader and trainer who organized the reunion with her husband, Joe. 

“The lights are turned off, the Christ Candle is brought into the room already lit … [and] we welcome the Holy Spirit to be with us throughout the weekend,” she said. “Scripture is read … each table is then asked to send two representatives to place their wreath around the Christ candle.  It is explained that placing the wreaths around the Christ candle is a sign of our unity with Jesus.”

Those at the reunion were able to remember their retreat by taking part in a similar prayer service, including wreaths and the Christ candle.

They were also able to remember other searchers. Wertis estimates that nearly 11,000 people have attended SEARCH retreats, which have been volunteer-run since 1992.

During the reunion, eight large Jerusalem crosses were placed in the ground and featured the names of each person who lived a SEARCH retreat. They were arranged by SEARCH numbers, 1 – 200.  

Monsignor John Wall and Father Tom Tully led the faithful in celebrating Mass during the reunion.

SEARCH retreats are described as instruments “through which the Holy Spirit encounters young people through the works, actions, and lives of the Young Church (their peers). This peer-led retreat experience seeks to foster community, curiosity, discovery and trust between young people and their Catholic faith.” 

In the Diocese of Raleigh, Search 200 was held in May, and Search 201 is scheduled for October. 

More about Search in the Diocese of Raleigh


Photos by Grace Hoffman