One of the many, many benefits of attending Jesuit College Preparatory is the opportunity to go on a retreat every year with classmates. To begin their Jesuit careers, all students first attend the Freshman Retreat in which they discover the school-wide spiritual community at Jesuit. Next, near the end of their sophomore year, students go on the Midpoint Retreat where they reflect on their first half of Jesuit formation and plan for the next half. Then, Jesuit students attend the Junior Retreat, which prepares them for their upcoming leadership in the Jesuit community the following year.
At the beginning of April this year, the entire Junior class, along with many teachers and faculty members, embarked on the 45-minute drive out to Denton to reach Camp Copass, the location of the retreat for over twenty years. Everyone filed into the massive auditorium and connected with their small groups, which consisted of about eight students and one faculty member. Once everyone found their groups, the group leaders began to conduct icebreakers and other Jesuit-oriented activities for each small group. Ethan Tsao ’16, one of about thirty-five group leaders, especially enjoyed two of the activities: the funnel and the new slogan. In the funnel activity, the students verbally listed their perceived shortcomings of the junior class and then wrote them on an image of a funnel in order to symbolize the funneling out of these issues in the future. Tsao explained, “I think it is good to acknowledge the shortcomings of our class. After all, the first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging that it exists.” This positive attitude helped make Tsao an exceptional group leader who was complimented on his guidance ability during the activities.
A major point of emphasis on the retreat was the future leadership roles of the students. Mrs. Kelli Mattacchione, one of the faculty members on the retreat, commented, “I hope the juniors got a better feel for what it means to be at Jesuit College Prep. Juniors will soon be the leaders of the school and it is a job not taken lightly. What the 2016 class models will be remembered for years to come.” Mattacchione later expanded on exactly how the retreat helps to prepare the juniors for their senior year: “The talks led students through the ups and down of choices and responsibilities of seniors. It’s a wonderful experience to be able to take a moment, reflect on who you are and what you want to become and to be reassured that the faculty is here for you.” She also said that it is a unique opportunity for the faculty members to meet and interact with students outside of the classroom setting, which facilitates deeper connection between the two groups that is often difficult to organize.
After the group activities, the students listened to speeches from different members of the Jesuit faculty. Some of the speeches given included those by the junior counselors, Mr. Paul McDaniel and Mr. Dan Lingel, the principal, Mr. Tom Garrison, and many others. One of the more interesting moments during the speeches was when Mr. Garrison pulled out a full-size sword in order to help him make a point about St. Ignatius. Another major theme of these speeches was the abandonment of bad habits in order to improve as a person for senior year. Tsao again reinforced, “I think that the retreat helped the class of 2016 by allowing us to reflect and acknowledge the issues within our class. Our recognition of the problem will allow us to be conscious of the issues as they happen, allowing us to fix them.”
The retreat concluded with Mrs. Mattacchione’s favorite part of day: the Junior Cross Mass. She says that she loves seeing the students with their families at an important milestone in their Jesuit careers. At this Mass, all the students and their families, and many of their teachers pile into the Terry Center. During Mass, each student goes up to the altar where he receives his Jesuit cross from one of four men: physics teacher Mr. Max Von Schlehenried, Assistant Principal Mr. Mark Knize, Principal Mr. Garrison, or President Mr. Mike Earsing. After receiving their crosses as this ceremony, the junior class of Jesuit becomes completely ready to begin their roles as leaders of the Jesuit community.