About 40 students and faculty members filter into the chapel. There is a low buzz of conversation until the voices are hushed and a calm silence falls over the people gathered. They have reconvened on a Monday night in late April to celebrate Mass, share a meal, and reflect on what they have all just experienced a month earlier: Junior Kairos I.
On March 8th, for the first time in Jesuit’s history, a group of over 40 juniors embarked on a three day retreat usually reserved for seniors. Juniors have been attending Kairos retreats for a while, but only a few at a time would tag along with the seniors. This was the first junior-only Kairos retreat. It differed from the past retreats in that the juniors applied to attend, whereas before they were recommended by teachers.
Director of Campus Ministry and organizer of the retreat Gretchen Crowder explained, “We went down from two Kairos retreats with juniors and seniors to one that was all juniors because we wanted the juniors…to experience the same thing together.”
Luke Przybylski ’18, one of the juniors on the retreat, greatly values that experience: “It was an honor to be selected for the retreat, and I know it will have a lasting impact…because of the strong emotional bond it created with my Jesuit brothers and I.”
Juniors experience Kairos so that they can be leaders when they are seniors. Next year, the current juniors will be dispersed among their classmates to help lead the spiritual retreat. Mrs. Crowder said that, after having an all-junior Kairos, it will be easier for them to work together as leaders because of the existing bonds that they have formed this year.
“After such a great retreat, I’m anxious yet excited to guide a similarly impactful retreat experience,” said junior Ryan Macalanda.
Crowder is similarly optimistic, observing, “I think [the juniors] came back with a lot of spiritual growth but also personal growth… And [they] are really enthusiastic about coming back to the Kairos retreat.”
Reaching new spiritual highs with the winner of the Junior Kairos retreat creative group photo challenge! pic.twitter.com/o9SVtSuxQM
— Matt DuRoss (@DuTruRoss) March 11, 2017
But Junior Kairos I was not only simply geared toward preparing for next year. Like any Kairos, it had immediate, meaningful impacts on the lives of those who attended.
Macalanda recounted that “Kairos was a life-changing experience for me… [It] caused everyone to be more appreciative of their religion and of the things they usually take for granted, as well as allowing them to get to know each other and truly bond as brothers.”
This brotherhood was certainly felt across the board. “In our first opportunity to experience one of the ‘senior privleges,’ I think we all came together and witnessed both an individual deepening of faith and a deeper group unity as we prayed together,” recounted Reid Hatzmann ’18. He described it all as “breathtaking.”
It was as inspiring as it was breathtaking, and juniors like John Bowen came back ready to not just lead but to get involved in campus ministry. “I think that the experience helped me to understand my own relationship with God and definitely helped me strengthen it. The experience has inspired me to try and get more involved at Jesuit, especially with the religious and service activities,” he said.
To help the students focus, phones were put away at the beginning of the retreat. Without the outside world’s distractions, they were able to engage in inspiring and spiritual conversations.
This aspect of the retreat was very formative for students like Michael Blase ’18, who said, “Kairos truly changed the way I think about life on a day-to-day basis. The retreat tested my inner strength and my comfort level as I was pushed hard to share things that I don’t share often with my classmates.”
Overall, the retreat was a resounding success. Blase happily admitted that “the expectations that I had set for the retreat were shattered and I really enjoyed becoming closer to my classmates through this experience.”
The faculty also enjoyed the retreat. “It was a really valuable experience to get 46 guys together that were really passionate about their faith, passionate about being a leader and passionate about going on the retreat to come together and have that experience as one,” commented Mrs. Crowder.
Another Junior Kairos is already in the works for next year. A few of the members of Junior Kairos I will be able to pass on their experience to the next class at Junior Kairos II.
Future of Kairos looks good thanks to these Juniors and their Senior leaders! pic.twitter.com/XcV3J6dz0e
— Matt DuRoss (@DuTruRoss) March 10, 2017