Peer Partners in Ministry
Jesuit’s unique approach to retreats has lasting impact on campus culture
The Jesuit High School Student-Parent Handbook states that the purpose of the school’s retreat program is “to cultivate both deeper self-affirmation and acceptance of God’s unconditional love.” It is one thing to make this statement; it is quite another to successfully put these words into action. Yet, Jesuit is able to fulfill this mission year after year because of the school’s unique, holistic and inclusive approach to organizing and running retreats where students—specifically Seniors—lead the way.
“i feel more welcome after the retreat because now i feel like everybody cares about me. like, everything about me—my learning and my personal life.”
—Ryan Anderson ’22, Retreat Participant
Paying it forward
During their journey at Jesuit, each young man has four opportunities to participate in Campus Ministry-sponsored, peer-led retreats. Each of the retreats has a central theme and corresponding activities that are intended to help Jesuit students cultivate a deeper knowledge of one’s self, reflect on how one’s actions impact others, and foster a closer relationship with God.
These retreats are led by members of the Jesuit Senior Retreat Team (SRT) — a carefully selected group of dedicated Seniors who have a sincere desire to pay it forward by providing their fellow Marauders with meaningful retreat experiences.
The members of the SRT give generously of their time, often having to come in early for training and retreat preparations on late-start days, or performing tasks such as patrolling the hallway of Christ the King Retreat Center at midnight. However, when asked about the commitment—rather than focusing on the sacrifices of time, sleep, or the need to make up missed classwork—they’re more likely to talk about the joy of sharing the retreat experiences with their younger “brothers.” “The sense of serving shoulder to shoulder to provide others with a meaningful retreat experience permeates the spirit of the young men on the team,” said Assistant Director of Campus Ministry Kelly Barnes, “and they do it in such a way that the rising students want to join in. Each year there are many students who express a desire to serve on the SRT to provide their brothers with the opportunities to encounter themselves, each other, and God in a meaningful way.”
Freshmen are led through an overnight retreat experience by Seniors who act as big brothers to the Freshmen. The theme of the Freshman retreat is, “My life is a gift from my family, my friends, and my God; upon this I shall build.” The activities are designed to welcome the Freshmen into the brotherhood of Jesuit High School and introduce them to the call to be Men for Others.
The SRT assumes the mantle of leadership, especially when leading the Sophomores and Juniors through their retreats. During the retreats, SRT facilitates the majority of presentations and all small-group activities. The theme of the Sophomore retreat is, “The Man I Am Called to Be.” With this focus, students explore the gifts and talents they have been given as well as reflect upon potential roadblocks that may prevent them from living their true purpose. The Junior retreat builds upon the theme from Sophomore year and takes it one step further with the theme of “Justice for All.” In this theme, students are invited to reflect on how one’s individual and group decisions affect the lives of others as well as one’s own future. Here, members of the SRT talk about how to find God in all things and share a personal experience of discovering one’s true self or about how one’s decisions impacted others. The messages are impactful because Seniors are generous, open and honest in sharing stories from their lives.
“A retreat always sounded just like another day off. But after attending and then leading the sophomore and junior retreats, I saw god’s love in action through the community here at Jesuit. together in our small groups we listened to our peers’ and our own aspirations and failures so that, with god’s love guiding us, we could support each other in our growth as men. After these experiences, a retreat became more than just time off. Retreat was a time to start and then continue our journey with god to become the men we hope to be.”
—Jake Liberty ’19, Outgoing SRT Leader
Creating a campus culture of ministry
Ultimately, the impact of the contributions of the SRT are limitless. They create a commitment to ministry that persists and pervades the campus culture at Jesuit. It is through relationships that the SRT members build with other Marauders, both at retreats and in their day-to-day life, that, together, impacts all Jesuit students in strengthening their relationships with God.
“I applied for Senior Retreat Because of the great example that previous years had set. They were the men on campus that I looked up to. From my first experience at freshman overnight, all the way to junior retreat, SRT plays an integral role in my development as a ‘Man for Others’. It was that sense of service to others that I was looking to do as well.”
—Jonathan Rodrigues Fong ’20, Incoming SRT Leader