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ECHO, "Encountering Christ in Others" is a retreat program designed for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors which invites young people to learn about Christian living and God's love for them.

The ECHO program was founded in 1968 at the request of Bishop James L. Connolly, former Bishop of Fall River by the late Fr. Thomas Mayhew. The "Encountering Christ in Others" acronym was suggested by Msgr. John J. Oliveira based on a quote from Benedictine spiritual writer Dom Marmion: "Joy is the echo of God's life in us."

Originally designed for seniors at what was then Coyle High School in Taunton, ECHO later developed in the Fall River-Attleboro area and was introduced to the Cape in 1970 Father Francis B. Connors and Father Edward E. Correia. The first Cape weekend was held at the St. Francis Parish Center in Hyannis and was a boy's weekend. The first weekend for girls was held at the Craigville Conference Center and that became ECHO's home base for many years. The closings were held at Our Lady of Victory Church. . ECHO 59 in October 1975 was the last ECHO at Craigville as the program moved to the LaSalette property in Brewster for ECHO 60 with John Malloy as the rector.

For several years the ECHO weekends moved to the LaSalette property in Brewster. When it was sold ECHO moved to the Briarwood Conference Center in Monument Beach. The closings were held at St. John's Church in Pocasset. Most recently ECHO has returned to its original home at the Craigville Conference Center.

 

In the spring of 1973 ECHO was introduced to the Dover, New Hampshire area. With Mary Fuller as rectora, and Fr. Jack Andrews, affectionately known as "Father ECHO" for his devotion to the program, as spiritual advisor, ECHO 1 was held at the Franciscan Friary. Diane Black, Karen Corey, and Martha Acton served on team.

Several changes have taken place in the ECHO weekend over the years. When ECHO first began there was a Dating talk following the Marriage talk on the girls ECHO. The last dating talk was given by Tim Acton on ECHO 41 when the Board decided that the presence of a young gentleman on Saturday night was too much of a distraction. On some weekends we also had a Vocations talk following the Marriage talk. All three talks came under the title Universal Call To Holiness. ECHO 62 in February 1976 was the first time two assistants were used on a weekend.

 

A celebration of twenty years of ECHO was held on May 3, 1990 at St. John's in Pocasset with hundreds of former candidates, priests, and team members in attendance. The Anchor reported "Balloons, music, and rainbow colors set the festive tone for the evening, but one gets the impression that their absence would have done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm. The spirit of celebration radiated from within."

The main celebrant was Fr. Thomas Frechette, the first ECHO alumnus who later became a diocesan priest. In his homily Fr. Tom reflected, "No one person would place him - or herself at the core of the ECHO program - it is Christ who is at the center. We take our many gifts and talents and weave them into a beautiful whole." He concluded, "the most profound thing ECHO has given me is the understanding that Jesus works through weakness, loss, suffering - it is the weakness we all share that allows God to accomplish things through us."

Tim Acton, who was on the first Cape ECHO retreat, ECHO 6, spoke, "What a gift to be given as a young adult facing many difficult decisions resulting from peer pressure and all the choices of young adulthood. I have met many people along the way, especially older people struggling with the age old question 'what is the meaning of life? - the purpose of living, the pot at the end of the rainbow?' I believe that ECHO provides us with the answer to that question - to find Jesus, and then to develop and nurture a close relationship with him. I believe that is the greatest gift ECHO has to offer us."

Suzanne Duffy a teenager shared that she draws "strength, hope and love " from the ECHO community. This sentiment was shared by many through the wonderful evening of celebration.

On May 3, l995, a twenty-fifth celebration was held at Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville. Bishop Sean O'Malley O.F.M. who was unable to attend the celebration sent a letter of congratulations. Fr. Richard Roy was the homilist for this occasion and Sharon Acton, ECHO 20, and John Wheir ECHO 179 were the witness speakers.

A highlight of both anniversaries was a display of the names and addresses list from every weekend from the very first Cape ECHO.

On March 7, 2015, ECHO celebrated forty-five years with a special mass and dinner. Bishop Edgar daCunha celebrated mass at Christ the King in Mashpee. He became the first Bishop to ever celebrate an ECHO mass. Please check back soon for a full recap of the celebration.

ECHO has now been offering retreats to high school youth for 46 years. In that time, over 12,000 teens have participated in an ECHO weekend and 95 priests in the diocese have been part of the program. Many former candidates are involved in the Cape parishes as religious education teachers, youth ministers, parish council members, and serve as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and parish office secretaries. They have accepted the challenge on the back of the their ECHO cross, "Christ is Counting on YOU!"

 

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