It is Saturday morning, September 28th on the 28 acres, and instead of campus being vacant, about 500 restless eyes gaze upon the school, ready to take on their first of many retreats. A highly anticipated event, the Freshman Retreat is a great bonding experience for all first-year Jesuit students because it represents their first major opportunity to really join into the community. Among other things, the retreat lays a great foundation for the Brotherhood that is built throughout the students’ Jesuit career.
The freshman counselors agree, after organizing years of freshman retreats, that most of the freshmen are nervous, anxious, or curious about what could happen at the retreat. But the small group leaders (either juniors or seniors) and Grounds Crew (sophomores) are all there to help them, after training off and on since May of last year.
Every year the freshman retreat has a theme, and this year’s theme was “Opening Doors,” which is meant “to allow the freshmen to interact and trust each
other,” said Freshman Counselor, Cory Marr. Fellow Counselor, Tim Murphy also commented on the theme saying that it focused on what it means “to be part of the Jesuit community and what it means to be a Jesuit.” In other words, the goal of the retreat was to create closer bonds within the class.
Beginning at 8:00 AM, the group leaders and members of Grounds Crew began to set up decorations. At 8:45, they attended a prayer service before the freshmen arrived. Here they prayed for the success of the Freshman Retreat, as well as for guidance to better aid them during their experience.
When the freshmen finally arrived at around 9:30, they were gathered in table groups alphabetically. They then went to a prayer service where Parker Rice ‘14, Dylan Dotter ‘14, and Miguel Sotelo ‘14 described their freshman year as well as gave advice for how to have a successful Jesuit experience. After the prayer service, the freshmen headed towards the room where they began their activities.
They started off with a series of icebreakers, which were designed to increase participation and to begin breaking down barriers between the freshmen to allow them to open up with each other. After the icebreakers, there were some game activities designed for teamwork, such as listening to the retreat’s theme song, “Chances” by Five for Fighting, then crafting a posters to embody the theme of “Opening Doors.”
Around noon, Jimmy John’s was served for lunch and the freshmen were given activity time to play ultimate Frisbee, dodge ball, and other outdoor activities. Later, recalled back into their groups, the freshmen began to embark on the spiritual part of this journey.
The activities for this part consisted of talking about prayer, in which two small groups paired up, and listening to a faculty member talk about how prayer has been a part of his or her life. The freshmen wrote letters to God and received “power bands” which had six beads, each representing the Jesuit profile of the graduate at graduation. The day concluded with a final Mass, led by Father Billy Huete S.J. Before leaving the retreat, the group leaders handed out a theme card to each freshman, which contained signatures from all small group members.
Reflecting on this retreat, Michael Huber ‘17 commented, “I thought it would be boring. I was surprised at how fun it was because all the activities we did were really enjoyable.” Mr. Marr concurred, saying that the 2013-2014 freshmen retreat was “beyond what [he] expected.” This day, though only the length of one school day, made immeasurable contributions to the class of 2017’s development and acted as a necessary stepping stone for their continuing entry into the Jesuit community.