The Xavier Junior Retreat is a time to get to know yourself and one another a little better.
Toward the end of the second day Principal Brendan Donohue delivers various messages to those gathered. One of them is to come back to the school ready to share the experience with others and act upon what you’ve learned.
Human nature is such that many of us tend to be more passive in our beginning days of high school. But now the junior year is quickly going to come to an end and senior year is almost here. It’s time to lead.
And trust in God.
“Too often, we relegate the spiritual aspect of our school to boxes – religion class, retreats, prayer services, Masses,” is one of the points Principal Donohue makes. “Our spiritual growth must permeate 100 percent of what we do. Above all be holy … pray … seek God in your life … see God in others. Remember that God loves you unconditionally and will be with you always.”
The retreat, held at the aptly named Wisdom House in Litchfield, brings to mind the term “God’s Country,” often defined as those places away from the hustle and bustle and closer to nature.
This year 72 Xavier seekers and learners came to the retreat and conference center that has been providing the contemplative atmosphere for more than 70 years. Once a working farm, the Colonial Farm House (circa 1770) on the property has its original fireplace. Across the way, the old barn had solar panels on the roof for renewable energy generation.
Over the past four days the fires were stoked within the hearts and minds of Xavier juniors, and their energy could not help but be renewed. The Junior Retreat was divided into two groups of 36 students each, a Friday-Saturday gathering followed by a Sunday-Monday contingent.
There are group activities such as acting out Bible skits with no words and no props but a lot of teamwork. There are one-on-one activities such as two students sharing their answer with one another on a number of questions, ranging from “If I could ask God one question it would be ...” to “the emotion I find most difficult to control is …”
It is an action-packed two days that not only includes team-building exercises and many opportunities for self-reflection but also Mass, the Stations of the Cross, prayer, recreational time, and inspirational talks from various Xavier administrators and faculty.
On this Monday, there were Academy Award-winning Bible skits such as Jonah and the Whale and the Prodical Son, performed so well it took the audience only one guess each time.
Each group was accompanied by two seniors: On Friday and Saturday it was peer ministers Finn Dowler and Luke Lappe, and on Sunday and Monday it was peer ministers Nucci Delaney and John Tischio. Senior missed out on this last year because of COVID.
“Going on this with the juniors has been a privilege because I am experiencing it along with them, and it’s fun to get to know the kids,” Tischio said. “It’s also a good leadership opportunity heading into senior year.”
Each of the seniors talked to the juniors about setting various goals, physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual.
Tischio reminded the juniors that no one but them can make their goals happen. “It’s all about how badly you want to succeed and how much that certain goal means to you.”
His dream school was Baylor, and he’s been accepted.
When he was a freshman, Lappe said he wrote down this goal, “I will play college baseball.” He taped it above his bedroom door so he would see it every day. He is headed to North Alabama to play Division I baseball.
They both realized their goals through hard work, confidence, and faith, each reminding the juniors to also set that spiritual goal of growing closer to God.
As we left and noticed the “one way” sign in a wrap-around driveway we couldn’t help but think that one way must always be with God.