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Kujenga 2024 “Rejuvenated Belief and Understanding of the Eucharist”

June 19, 2024

Office of Black Ministry

By Zania Wilson, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Bessemer, Al

The Dioceses of Birmingham every year around the springtime host an annual retreat for the youth called Kujenga. During the celebration of Kwanza there are five principles that we honor during this weekend. Nia which means purpose, Umoja which is unity, Kujichagulia which is self-determination, Ujima which is collective work and responsibility, and Ujamaa which is cooperative economics. We go to Springville camp for the weekend to learn about these principles and what it means to be the youth and leaders of the Church. We come together and discuss what our faith means to us, and how we can continue going within our church communities.

Hi, my name is Zania Wilson, and this is my 5th year going to Kujenga. This is my experience from the retreat for the year 2024; When you arrive at the camp you come in and get ready for the weekend and meet the leaders for the retreat. We do introductions and before you say your name you have to say “JUMBO” which means hello in Swahili, and you have to say jumbo every time you speak. Next, we get to know each other, hang out, and enjoy delicious pizza that everyone loves to eat, and then, we start with our first activity of making a poster. Then we are given a principle, and we have to show what we think the principle means to us, and then everyone can stand up and present their posters and explain them to the whole group.

The next morning, we start bright and early at 6:30 to get dressed and ready for our nature walk where we walk to the trail around the campgrounds to wake everyone up and to enjoy the fresh air right before breakfast. We enjoyed our food and then we went to the conference room and got ready to hear from the lady in charge, Ms. Kesley Rembert, to talk about career development and what type of career the students will have in the future. After the slide show they get a snack break before we hear from two students from UAB about the school of dentistry and what type of career you can get from that. They do their slide show and give out prizes to the kids who guess the right answer, and then it’s time for everyone’s favorite thing which is Ed’s Pet World which is in Homewood, Alabama and he comes out and brings some animals for us to see and touch. He brings out snakes, turtles, a bearded dragon, and a gecko, but then he has a surprise animal inside of a container that nobody knows what it is, he opens it up and it’s a crocodile and it is 28 years old and has been with Ed’s pet world since she was three years old.

After that very exciting and thrilling expedition with the animals, we get ready for lunch and go on an even more thrilling ride on the zip line. The zip line goes from the top of the hill across the lake which is cool and it’s also our free time to play games or go play basketball.

After all the fun and games, we have played it's time for arts and crafts before dinner, there is always a theme for the painting this year the painting was the sacred heart of Jesus. We have a guest speaker to come and talk to us about his faith and how he was able to find the eucharist in his life and then it’s time for reconciliation and mass. The next morning is our last day before we leave the camp, and we have seniors every year, so we do something sweet for them and give them gifts that Mr. Al gives out, we also have gift cards and other prizes that are given out to the other campers to win.

The time comes near for everyone to leave but before that we do bags, and everyone puts a nice note and everyone bag to let them know how we have had a great weekend with them and can’t wait to see them at the next retreat and showing them how much we love and appreciate them and want nothing to be the best for them. Kujenga has helped me with my faith and my future, and helped me become the person I am today, I thank Mr. Watts, Ms. Rembert, and Ms. Kesley Rembert for their hard work and dedication to youth. I look forward to the time for me to step up and be one of the leaders for Kujenga I can share with the other teenagers how my experience went and what they can expect from it.