‘Teens Encounter Christ’ has inspired thousands
Story by Reagan Scott
(SNR) – Although Sunday, April 30 was cold and rainy, the mood at the “TEC 100” reunion that evening in McCool Junction was full of joy.
The diocese was celebrating the 100th Teens Encounter Christ retreat held in the Lincoln Diocese at Camp Kateri Saturday, April 29 through Monday, May 1.
Attendees at the reunion for the big occasion included the leadership team and candidates on the retreat, influential individuals who brought TEC to Lincoln, past TEC participants and Bishop James D. Conley. All were there for a special celebration of the landmark occasion.
TEC is a three-day retreat for high school juniors and seniors. TEC is an international organization that is active in more than 40 dioceses across North America, South America and Europe, but until the weekend of Jan. 22-24 in 1994, the Lincoln Diocese hadn’t had a TEC retreat of its own.
When Bob and Maryann Bobrowski moved to Lincoln from Chicago, they started the Godparent program (also known as the Godteen program) at St. Joseph Parish. However, they also desired to begin hosting TEC retreats in the diocese.
The couple tried to launch the program with the help of a priest who headed TEC retreats in Omaha, but the pair was unable to get a system in place before they moved to Denver. There, they were involved in Rocky Mountain TEC for six years before moving back to the Diocese of Lincoln, with a renewed desire to begin the program in the diocese.
With the help of Father Robert Barnhill, the director of the Family Life Office at the time, the couple was able to start meeting with a team of people once a month for two years.
They also had the help of Father Christopher Barak, who Father Barnhill had asked to assist the group.
The group had information from the national TEC organization about the retreat and the general format, but every diocese also has the opportunity to make the TEC retreats their own.
“We really wanted to make this Lincoln’s, and to reflect the spirituality in our diocese,” Father Barak said.
As two years of planning and meeting had passed, the Bobrowskis weren’t sure that they would ever be able to get the retreat started; but in January of 1994, their dream became a reality.
The first TEC in the Lincoln Diocese was held at St. Joseph Parish in Beatrice. Father Jamed Meysenburg was the first spiritual director of the retreat, and Marylou Wirth was chosen to be the lay director.
As a teacher at Wahoo Neumann High School, Wirth had been very involved with TEC in Omaha, and was instrumental in getting many of her students to go to TEC retreats there.
Holding the first TEC retreat would not have been possible, however, without the help of two other very influential individuals, Joe and Cindy Connolly. The Connollys had been involved with TEC in Iowa and were instrumental in getting all of the TEC manuals and starting the retreats in the diocese.
The Connollys were in charge of the first few TECs until they were relocated, and the Bobrowskis took over. They started an advisory board to head up the TEC retreats, which is still in existence today.
“The advisory board works on where we should go and who should be directing each TEC,” Jeff Schinstock, the director of the Youth Ministry Office, said.
Schinstock was a co-director for TEC 100, the 11th TEC that he has spent working as a director or co-director. In his years as director of the Youth Ministry Office, he has seen the impact that TEC has on the youth who attend and said he believes that it is important for high-schoolers to go if they can.
“It is a great opportunity to meet other people your age with the same questions, confusions, desires and hopes,” Schinstock said. “We get into routines and forget the place of God. It’s never bad to have the opportunity to reset.
“And if that doesn’t work (to convince teens to attend), there’s an opportunity to get out of school Monday!” Schinstock joked.
Currently, estimates indicate that at least 4,000 students have been on a TEC, and have had their lives impacted by the retreat.
“It’s a miracle of the Holy Spirit, it really is,” Maryann Bobrowski said.
Students aren’t the only ones who have been impacted by the retreats though.
“We had a priest come up to us at the reunion, and he told us how changed the priests are who come on TEC,” Maryann Bobrowski said.
She revealed that when she attended a national TEC conference, people she spoke to were amazed when they found out that every TEC retreat in the Lincoln Diocese has two to three priests in attendance, as well as religious sisters. All love having the opportunity to be involved.
“The Holy Spirit worked to bring TEC to our diocese, and it has touched a lot of people,” Father Barak said. “Anyone who works at TEC receives a lot of grace from God.”
As the diocese celebrates TEC 100, the Bobrowskis and all those who worked hard to make TEC a success have seen how their work has impacted the lives of thousands of students.
As family and friends mingled at the reunion, three generations of the Bobrowski family: Bob and Maryann, their daughter who had attended TEC when she was in high school and their grandson (an attendee of TEC 99), all got together to celebrate a program that, with God’s grace, will continue to last for many more years to come.