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With thanksgiving break comes retreat week, giving freshmen and juniors a chance to relax and reflect

Campus Ministry offered a variety of retreats during the Thanksgiving retreat week, giving students the chance to reflect on their faith and grow in brotherhood with each other.

Students on Philia Retreat at Pallotine Retreat Center. Photo: Frank Kovarik.

In addition to freshman retreat, which took place last Monday for the entire freshman class, Fall Retreat Week featured a total of four retreats for juniors and seniors: two Junior Retreats , a Philia Retreat, and the Service Learning Retreat. All four retreats fulfilled the junior year retreat requirement, which stipulates that juniors must complete one Campus Ministry retreat by the end of their junior year.

Though each retreat featured different themes, the uniting principle used to guide the planning process was to help students enhance their relationship with God.

“The whole purpose of why our school exists is to help people recognize God in the world, and then to make the choice for God in the world,” said Director of Campus Ministry Matthew Stewart, SJ. “Retreats are ways of pulling back from the business of going to school, which at times can be more than a full-time job. Students take the opportunity to take a break for a couple of days and get a chance to reflect on the many gifts in their lives.”

The Philia Retreat, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Pallotine Renewal Center in Florissant, gave sophomores, juniors, and seniors a chance to examine issues of diversity and social justice through a spiritual lens. In order to qualify for the retreat, students were expected to be involved in ACES or to have had some other connection to the diversity programs while at SLUH.

True to the definition of “Philia”—Greek for “brotherly love”—the retreat was largely focused on fostering brotherhood between retreatants, allowing them to bond over their shared interests in social justice. Faculty chaperones included English teacher and ACES moderator Adam Cruz, college counselor Daniel Shields, English teachers Frank Kovarik and Chandler Love, and receptionist Anglea Sexton-Warner 

The Philia retreat zeroes in on possible racial equity problems at SLUH and how such problems would be solved through efforts such as counseling and student action. The retreat also gave seniors the chance to interact with younger students, and help to deepen their perspectives on social justice at SLUH.

“As a senior, I’ve kind of gotten the gist of how everything functions in the building,” said senior Ismael Karim. “But it was good to develop a deeper relationship with the underclassmen and to be able to talk to them about my experiences at SLUH and how I’ve tried to get things done regarding social justice and cultural awareness. For the underclassmen and juniors, I think they really had an opportunity to voice their opinions on an array of topics, and I think it got them fired up to do good work here.”

Juniors Brock Johnson, George Mikhail, and Freddy Laux on the service learning retreat. Photo: Courtesy of SLUH Twitter.

One of the most unique retreats offered by SLUH is the Service Learning Retreat, which offers juniors and seniors an opportunity to experience what it is like to be homeless in the City of St. Louis. While on the retreat, which took place on Monday and Tuesday of last week, students learned more about poverty and how their faith could lead to action.

The two Junior Retreats lasted the longest of any of the retreats this week, spanning over three days and two nights from Monday to Wednesday. 

One of the two Junior Retreats took place at the White House Retreat Center and was led by theology teacher Chris Keeven; science teachers Mary Russo and Chris Stahl, math teacher Frank Corley, and school counselor Mary Michalski also chaperoned.

As in previous Junior Retreats, the program for this session was focused on helping students to deepen their faith lives through a mixture of small group discussions, quiet time and prayer, Mass, and an opportunity to experience the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Throughout the experience, retreatants were also able to find a sense of relaxation, allowing them to take a break from the day-to-day stress that comes with being a SLUH student. 

“I enjoyed going on the retreat, and specifically getting to know some other guys in my class not only in a spiritual way but also in a personal way,” said junior Michael Baudendistel. “I liked being able to talk with them in small groups and at meals without having the pressure of the business of the school day. I would also say that I grew in my faith most significantly during our confession on Tuesday.”

With the fall set of retreats having gone off without a problem, Campus Ministry’s focus now shifts towards planning the year’s remaining retreats, which include five Kairos retreats for juniors and seniors, Sophomore Retreat (mandatory for all sophomores), and the Wilderness Retreat, all of which are set to take place across three weeks and weekends in the second semester.






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