This year, the YAG planners faced a bit of a dilemma – with the increasing numbers of eager YAGers attending every year, we are actually outgrowing Helfta Hall at St. Gertrude’s. Food prep was also becoming a bit of a problem (especially refrigerator space), not to mention finding accommodations for so many people. In the end, Mrs. Arlinghaus, of bookstore fame, found us a solution: Higher Ground Retreat Center in Indiana. All the Masses and the talks were still at St. Gertrude’s, but about half of the meals and all of the accommodations were provided by the Higher Ground campus.
And boy, did it work out nicely! We will certainly be contacting Higher Ground within the next few weeks to find out their availability for next year!
Friday night started out, as always, at St. Gertrude’s. The Confession lines were daunting, the pews were nearly filled, the choir was in good voice. Fr. McKenna gave a stirring sermon about the martyrs of York during the English persecutions. Then it was back to Helfta Hall for cheese and veggie pizza!
We then headed out to Higher Ground to get settled, enjoy a bonfire, and roast s’mores! Campus curfew was announced shortly before midnight.
Saturday morning began with Mass at 8:30 followed by a breakfast of bagels with cream cheese, yogurt, and fruit. And coffee. Lots and LOTS of coffee. After breakfast we listened to a very interesting talk by Mr. Harald Zieger, who lived under and eventually escaped Communism in East Germany after WWII.
Then it was back to Higher Ground for lunch followed by volleyball . . . except it rained. Nothing daunted, we unpacked the board games and card games and soon filled the conference room with noisy chatter while we digested the hamburgers and fries Higher Ground had provided.
Declaring that being scared of rain was for sissies, a bunch of the guys went out to play soccer on the spiffy AstroTurf football field. The amount of fun they had can be judged by the size of the blisters they came back with from playing barefoot.
The skies cleared temporarily between about 3 and 6:30 pm, allowing those who wanted to play volleyball, gagaball, and yes, MORE soccer a nice window of opportunity. Most took turns on the hay ride at 4 pm, which gave us a tour of some of the parts of the campus we had not seen.
Then it was more volleyball, and more gagaball, until it was time for dinner at 5:30. One of the real perks of being at Higher Ground is having showers on-site, so anyone who wanted to could freshen up and change before dinner and the square dance.
And then, after dinner (fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, YUMMY!), just as we were about to go outside to take the group photo in front of the dorm . . . it started raining. We decided to try the wider porch of the dining hall instead, but there were all sorts of signs and decorative light posts in the way, so after shifting positions about three times we finally settled on an arrangement, only to find that being in the shade of the porch made the photo too dark. Thankfully by then the rain had mostly let up, so we were able to spill out into the yard, take the picture, and then head over to the barn for the square dance!
We started out with an easy square dance, “Texas Star.” Once we got everyone up and dancing – we had 10 full squares on the floor at one point! – we divided into 4 lines for the Virginia Reel. After everyone was extremely hot and out of breath from that, we stopped for a water break and then came back for a much slower waltz lesson from the YAGermeister’s roommate, Mary Lynne Riopel.
In about 45 minutes, Mary Lynne not only taught about 100 people how to waltz, but she actually got them waltzing in an orderly fashion around the room! (Considering that most of those 100 people had never waltzed before, this counts as a minor, possibly even a major, miracle. We will count it toward Mary Lynne’s eventual canonization.)
After the waltzing, we learned a last square dance, “Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home,” and then stopped for ice cream. Lots and LOTS of ice cream. Then it was back to the dorm for the Rosary and bed.
The 9 am High Mass was so packed on Sunday that it was almost difficult to find a seat. YAGers joined with parishioners to sing the Ordinary and several hymns, while the men’s schola chanted the propers. After Mass everyone trickled back to Helfta Hall for a breakfast of doughnuts and leftovers, then settled in for an informative talk on expectations in courtship and marriage by Mr. Charlie Henry. Mr. Henry is a regular benefactor of the YAG and it is always great to hear from him!