Senior Fall Retreat Brings Students Closer to Christ

Senior Fall Retreat Brings Students Closer to Christ

     

Nestled in the western Hudson valley at Esopus, the Marist retreat house, more than 30 students from St. Mary’s class of 2019 spent the last weekend of September growing closer to God and one another. The retreat was led by Mr. Larry Kupferman, assisted by Ms. Anna Green, Mr. Kevin White, and Fr. Jiha Lim, the school chaplain.

 

The senior fall retreat offers students a chance to consider faith without the pressure and strain that is inevitable at this time of year. Anne Balter spoke about feeling a need to get away and consider more important things. She shares how she made her decision to attend: “Instead of stressing and thinking nothing I do is enough, I should be turning to God, and those who care about me.”

 

After getting settled at Esopus, students gathered to choose their prayer partner, for whom they were to pray in secret throughout the retreat, only revealing their identity on Sunday. Students enjoyed learning about and praying for their partners, and expressed gratitude for the opportunity. Sabrina Kotliar noted that having a prayer partner meant that “not only was I focusing on the retreat, whenever I prayed, I had concern for someone else. And since we weren’t necessarily close with our prayer partners, it helped us branch out in our friendships.”

 

Also joining the retreat was Rachel Brooks, class of ‘17, who is currently studying nursing at Molloy College. On Friday evening, Rachel told the students about life beyond high school and the challenges–both personally and spiritually–that this transition can bring. Friday evening also included a film and closed with the Liturgy of the Hours, which was said in the chapel by candlelight.

 

On Saturday, students opened the day with prayer before gathering for breakfast and a series of talks. Mr. Kupferman shared his conversion experience, explaining how he turned away from a largely faith-less adolescence and embraced a love for Jesus. Ms. Green, who as a former Catholic schooler has first-hand experience in moving from adolescent to adult faith, spoke about her journey to an authentic, complete Catholic identity. Ms. Green also explained how to remain strong in faith despite the challenges of young adulthood. Both Mr. Kupferman and Ms. Green used their musical talents to glorify God during their talks.

 

Additional talks, given by Mr. Kupferman, focused on agape love: the self-giving love modeled for us by Christ. Students had the opportunity to deepen their relationship with Christ through the Holy Eucharist as they gathered for Mass at Esopus’ rustic outdoor chapel. Fr. Jiha gave a stirring homily about removing the obstacles in our life which can lead us away from holiness. Seniors Jacqueline Doody and John Amico lent their talents as cantors. Students were also given the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

 

Students engaged their minds, bodies, and hearts in frequent opportunities for both personal and communal faith reflection. Students kept a prayer journal in which they were encouraged to write frequently, and small group discussions followed each talk. During free time, students could be found traversing the bucolic grounds, hiking to the Hudson River, assembling gifts for their prayer partners, or engaging in athletic activities such as table tennis and basketball. At mealtimes, new friendships were formed and existing ones were strengthened. Saturday night’s ice cream party was definitely a highlight for many students, as was gathering to begin and end each day with prayer. Before departing Sunday, students revealed their prayer partners, offering handmade gifts that reflected the unique dignity of each person.

 

The impact of the retreat was clear both throughout and at its culmination. “I learned more about love, God, myself, and my classmates than I thought possible in a weekend,” said Rachel Worsham. Jon Mayers called the retreat “simply amazing” and “completely worthwhile.” Karl Muczynski praised its ability to “get me better in touch with my faith and my classmates and truly help me grow as a person.” Karl noted that even the games and team-building exercises brought “deeper meaning” to his faith and life.

 

The senior retreatants know that the effects of the retreat will carry forward. John Amico remarked, “The senior fall retreat brought me closer to every single person who went. Most importantly though, it brought me closer to God. It rekindled that fire in my heart. For the first time in my life, I actually feel God’s love, and I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to find that.”

 

You can view more photos from the fall retreat here