Jessi and Kevin Johnson and their son bow for a blessing from Fr. David Neuschwander at the March 18-20 High School Discipleship Weekend at Crosswoods. Jessi grew up in Cable and Kevin in Cumberland. The two met at Extreme Faith Camp as middle-schoolers, attended discipleship weekends in high school and married in 2020. The couple welcomed their son, Ethan, in 2021. (Submitted photo by Loree Nauertz)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

The March 18-20 High School Discipleship Weekend, held at Crosswoods Adventure Camp in Mason, was led by Fr. David Neuschwander and Missionaries of the Word religious sisters.

The weekend consisted of Mass, liturgy of the hours, adoration, rosary walks, a three-hour hike through the snow, formation talks, campfires, confessions, indoor and outdoor games and snowball fights. For the young attendees, the “great food” provided by Crosswoods’ staff was noted as “a big hit” by Loree Nauertz, associate director of the Office of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship, as well as the sisters introducing participants to roasted Starburst candies.
In another comment about the sisters’ presence at the Discipleship Weekend, Nauertz described them as “ministering through leisure.”

“Allowing the students to relax in a beautiful outdoor setting allows them to be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit,” she added. “The atmosphere is intentionally less structured to leave room for the Holy Spirit. The smiles and laughter of the teens and adults said it all.”
Nauertz also called the sisters’ approach “brilliant,” in light of the constant activity and busyness lived by today’s teens.

“They rarely slow down enough to realize what’s really going on around them. This weekend gives them the opportunity to disconnect and focus on the main things, their relationship with Christ and with others.”

For their part, the Missionaries of the Word – who come from Baileys Harbor in Door County, in the Diocese of Green Bay – shared it was a gift for them to spend the weekend with people of the Diocese of Superior. They specifically shared their amazement at the availability of Fr. David Neuschwander to everyone that weekend.

“What a gift his priesthood is to your diocese,” they said.

“Immersive ministry” was how the Diocese of Superior’s director of the Office of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship, Chris Hurtubise, characterized the sisters’ approach to youth ministry. He remarked it was a very different style than most, including himself, take.

“Normally we think: ‘All right, we have 40 hours with this group from Friday night until Sunday morning … we’re got to fit in as many important things as we can!’ We structure everything and schedule everything down to the minutest detail in a labor of love to craft a really rich experience.

“The sisters take the opposite track,” Hurtubise explained. “In their characteristic simplicity and trust in God’s provision, they simply seek to create an environment, or a culture, that is radically hospitable, engaging, prayerful, sacramental, steeped in Scripture and fun.

“They simply want the teens to leave the distractions and stresses of the world behind and let themselves soak in that for 40 hours. I would call that approach ‘immersive’ ministry.”

He concluded that their invitation is “simple but profound: ‘Come and just be in this culture, soaking in the peace – not peace as the world gives, but the deep, trusting, confident-in-the-love-of-the-Father peace that Jesus alone gives.”

Teen quotes from the March 18-20 High School Discipleship Weekend:

“I’m really grateful for all the new friends I met here.”
“I didn’t really want to come, but I’m really glad I did!”
“I loved the peacefulness of adoration.”
“The three-hour hike was really challenging, but I did it!”
“I learned so much here!”
“I really appreciate the reflections given by the sisters during liturgy of the hours.”
“It was super awesome to have Fr. David with us all weekend making himself available to us for confessions and just to talk.”
“I was able to enter into Mass and adoration like I have never before done.”