Peer leader Ryan in a small group during freshman retreat in September. Photo courtesy of BSCHS

By Mike Cipolla and Darius Whitehurst

Every year at Bishop Sullivan the students enjoy a retreat experience. Retreats are a time to get away from the everyday stresses of school, work, sports, or anything else and to improve each individual student’s relationship with God. Having that strong relationship with God is very important to Catholics and retreats are key to that relationship being strong.   

Cate Harmeyer is the Campus Minister at Bishop Sullivan which means she is in charge of putting together each of the four retreats. She works every hard to organize and arrange each retreat along with help from science teacher Mark Loehr. There are also around twenty seniors who dedicate their time and effort into the retreats for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors as peer leaders. The peer leaders use their own retreat experiences from throughout high school to aid in making the retreats a fulfilling experience for underclassmen.

Last summer the peer leaders went on a three day retreat at Chanco on the James retreat center. The purpose of the retreat was for the peer leaders to learn how to conduct small groups and also come together as one close group to venture out on the process of leading retreats. Also, almost every weekend the peer leaders had a meeting to discuss their faith as well as plan the retreats for the underclassman.

The freshman retreat, held in September, serves as an introduction to high school for the young students. They are all brought together for one day within the school to bond as a class for the first time. Many of these students do not know each other because they come from different middle schools so this retreat introduces them to each other outside the classroom setting. The freshman play team-building games as well as participate in small groups led by the peer leaders. This year senior Jimmy Hine gave the students a talk on the hardships of entering high school and keeping God as a central part of their lives.

The sophomore retreat is a different kind of experience for students because it is separated by gender. This makes the small groups and the overall retreat more personal because sometimes young students get embarrassed to share their life experiences in front of the opposite sex. The main focus of this retreat is bringing the sophomore class closer and more understanding of each other through a more personal small group experience separated by sex to facilitate openness.   Also, the peer leaders want to help other students grow in their faith and not let God fall out of their lives as they get more busy. This retreat was a one day event held in November at Holy Trinity in Norfolk. Emily Wick and Mike Cipolla gave talks to the sophomores about staying on track in their lives and not submitting to the peer pressure that is so prevalent around them but instead finding comfort in God.          

 The junior retreat in March, also known as Kairos, is where things all come together. Kairos means God’s time and the purpose of the retreat is to “help the junior men and women grow in their relationship with God. The theme of the retreat is you’re called by love so the idea is to come to know, love, and serve Christ. Hoping to help you discover yourself as God’s Child, called to a purpose,” said Campus Minister Mrs. Harmeyer.

Mrs. Harmeyer said that “preparation is almost all year long. We have our peer ministers that we select at the end of the year and they begin their process in the summer.” According to Mrs. Harmeyer each retreat helps build the retreat ministers skills for the Kairos. Kairos is the longest retreat — three days and two nights at Triple R Ranch — because it is preparing the juniors to be good Christian leaders and help them see God more through their everyday life. The methods of this Kairos Retreat have proven to be effective.

“I found God to be more involved in my life, and I also found Him to be more involved in others lives as well,” said junior Isaiah Young.

Although the Kairos retreat is separated by gender the effect is still the same. Junior Holly Wins, even while being in a different retreat than Mr. Young,said that she grew closer to God “more than [she] expected.” Both Mr. Young and Ms. Wins agree that this was the best retreat that they have had at the school.

“Overall I thought that it was a great experience” said Ms. Wins.

The senior retreat is an overnight experience at Triple R Ranch. The theme if this retreat was to bring the senior class together as one for our last year of high school. Since the height of the Bishop Sullivan retreat experience is Kairos, the senior retreat serves more as a conclusion to high school retreats. Also, the retreat inspires the senior class to move on in their lives with a solid relationship with God outside the walls of Bishop Sullivan.

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