Teens Are Praying Together 2019: Annual retreat draws teens to share and prayer


TAPT first

During their small group window-mirror talk, Teens Are Praying Together (TAPT) retreat participants, led by peer minister Reagan Morton (top), 17, of St. Patrick, Chesterton, share childhood memories, at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary on March 16. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)



by Anthony D. Alonzo

Northwest Indiana Catholic


        GARY – “Being at TAPT, everything is perfect, everything is open – you can say absolutely anything,” said Taylor Satoski, 16. “When you come here, anything bad happening in your life, you can get it out here. . .and it feels like it’s solved when you leave.”

        At her second Teens Are Praying Together (TAPT) retreat, this time as an OATie, or part of “our auxiliary team,” Satoski said she was fulfilling her commitment to be present and helpful to the next group of youths.

        More than 40 teens gathered as TAPTsters at the 31st annual retreat, which, for the first time, was held at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary. Twenty adults and 10 teens served as ministers and program assistants for the diocesan Office for Youth and Young Adults event on March 16-17.

        “Since the beginning of my first TAPT, I was thinking I wanted to be (like) the people who were helping me; I want to be the person who is getting these awkward teenagers to dance and open up,” Satoski explained, as she helped set up chairs at the home of the Gary SouthShore Railcats professional baseball team.

        TAPTsters and peer minsters crisscrossed the second level concourse in the hours between lunch and dinner on the first day of the retreat. Event coordinators, like program consultant Kevin Driscoll, co-director Matt Williams, and peer minster coordinator Mark Medina, each said they sought to provide participating teens with a safe and inspiring setting to share their faith life and make new friends.

        “Last year, scheduling-wise everything was based on the Camp Lawrence (layout), and it would include time for the (TAPTsters) to walk up the hill, but while we’re at (U.S. Steel Yard), we’re just down the hall,” said Williams, an Our Lady of Sorrows, South Haven, parishioner.

        What had been scenic walks in the cool late-winter or early-spring air at Camp Lawrence, turned into boisterous jaunts down an expansive hallway, with views of a baseball diamond and a lawn that boasted some green.

        At mealtime, participants gathered in a large room with windows that showcased the Gary skyline to the west. There they heard music by One Way, featuring the Kerwin family of Lowell.

        Presenting a risky-safe talk, a TAPT feature focusing on promoting good decision making, 16-year-old Ellie Lockhart told TAPTsters about how she got into a rut of an imbalanced lifestyle. Her story took a more positive tone when she described being invited to attend Mass regularly again by her family and pastors at Holy Spirit in Winfield. 

        “I just wanted to tell (TAPTsters) everybody goes through those stereotypical I’m-a-high-schooler-I-want-to-go-out-and-party (times), but it is good to keep your faith in your life no matter what the hardships,” Lockhart, a peer minster said.

        She added that returning to the fellowship of her church family, “means everything to me.”

        TAPT groups earned nicknames based on signage posted on the doors to the suites. Chicago White Sox and Cubs logos kept the theme focused on fun and teamwork.

        Yet serious and often emotional discussions of teenage life and faith journeys occurred in those private settings. Adult ministers later said some common themes that arose among the teens were parental trust, independence and how to help friends in crisis.

        Hugely impactful, Nativity of Our Savior, Portage, parishioner Anthony Bui, 15, said the small group discussions he attended helped him break out of his shell.

        “I usually don’t talk to anyone in school, but I’ve been opening up here,” Bui said. “The (TAPT) leaders help us talk and get involved.”

        Julia Wiszowaty, 15, of Holy Spirit described the 2019 TAPT retreat as the best retreat she’s ever attended.

        Ultimately, TAPT coordinators said the success of the endeavor is based on prayerful preparation. This was evident in the laying on of hands and prayers by adult ministers over peer ministers that followed TAPT alumna Rachael Joseph’s Jesus Talk.

        Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, displayed in a monstrance in a makeshift chapel at the stadium, helped re-charge leaders to assume their roles and responsibilities to the youths.

        “We have to have the ability to serve others the way that God wants,” said Williams. “Jesus served others and he asks others to serve for him.”



Rachael Joseph, of Nativity of Our Savior in Portage, delivers her Jesus talk at the Teens Are Praying Together (TAPT) retreat at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary on March 16. The talk about faith and God's intervention in our lives preceeded youths' small group discussions at the annual retreat. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)



TAPT Three

Adult ministers place their hands on the shoulders of teenage peer ministers, preparing them for the Jesus small group talk at the Teens Are Praying Together (TAPT) retreat at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary on March 16. For the first time in its 31 years, the youth retreat was held somewhere besides Camp Lawrence in Porter County. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

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