Last year Fr. Jarrod came to me and another teacher asking us if we would consider working with a group of seniors to prepare them to be the ones who put on the freshmen retreat for the next school year. We both thought it would be a great idea and we jumped all over it. However, neither of us imagined the fruit that this would bear.
Back in November we put our team of seniors together after taking several weeks to pray about it and come up with a list of names. I honestly did not know some of the senior boys I asked extremely well but I felt the Holy Spirit moving me to ask them. Aubrey would be working with the girls and I would be working with the guys. I knew five of the guys we chose fairly well from Knights of the Holy Queen but the other five I only briefly knew through other school activities and a couple of those I had taught but had only gotten to know briefly through that. When I asked these five men they all agreed although I must say a few of them seemed a little taken a back that they had been asked.
With our team assembled we began to have meetings on Wednesday mornings before school and on Saturday afternoons. The meetings were long and required a big commitment from the team. We did not just meet to plan a retreat however we did much more than that. When we met I spent almost more time building a relationship with these men and giving them formational talks and praying than we did planning the actual retreat. We grew in friendship as a group and began encountering Christ more deeply in our lives. Over the course of the two months we met to plan the retreat I began to see these guys' lives transform before my eyes. They grew in confidence, they grew in their ability and desire to pray, and they began handing their lives more fully over to Christ. Three of the five men that were not Knights of the Holy Queen become more involved in the group and came on retreat with the Knights right before we put on the freshmen retreat. One of those men was a guy I met his sophomore year when I was helping with the sophomore retreat and on that retreat I felt God put on my heart that he needed to be involved with Knights. It took me two years to get into this kids life and bring him to Knights but the Holy Spirit did a number on him by getting him involved in the freshman retreat and now with his continued involvement with Knights I see that the Holy Spirit has grabbed hold of his heart in a powerful way. Through this whole experience these ten guys have all become closer friends and developed a brotherhood amongst themselves. I see them challenging each other to grow in holiness and keep each other accountable. The transformation and fruits of the team alone made this whole experience worth it!
Then came the retreat. These men lead the day by letting the Holy Spirit lead the way. They gave incredible talks and where very real with the freshmen boys. They had the freshmen boys hanging on their every word. They were true examples to these freshmen guys. They were open and honest about the mistakes they had made in High School and how Christ had met them in their woundedness and brokenness and was working to make them whole. They truly gave the freshmen boys the message to not be afraid of their faith and to allow Christ into their lives. They emphasized the mercy of God as well, telling them that Christ was waiting for them and would wait as long as it took for them to figure it out. Every single freshman boy went to confession that day. Every single one of them received the Eucharist at mass that day. We received countless e-mails and phone calls from parents who were amazed at the fact that their freshmen sons had enjoyed the retreat and gotten so much out of it. For Senior boys to give them this message spoke volumes to them, especially when half those freshmen worship the ground these seniors walk on.
Up until now the freshmen retreat had been put on by NET. I never heard many positive comments from the freshmen after they would come back from a day with NET. I'm not knocking NET. I have many good friends who have done it and I think they do excellent work. However, teens today are much easier to reach through relationship and so I think the freshmen responded much better to kids they see in the hallways every day that they look up to giving them the message than to a bunch of college kids they have never met before. I think that this approach could begin to transform our school. The team and the freshmen are still talking about their experience and putting the things they learned into practice even two weeks after the retreat. I pray it continues. I am amazed at the work of the Holy Spirit through this and look forward to see what sort of fruit this continues to bear.
This has by far been the most rewarding and awesome thing I have done since I have returned to Carroll. I am excited to continue being a part of this process. Thank you Lord for little things like this that remind me how blessed I am to teach and be a part of the lives of the students at Bishop Carroll. I am always humbled by things like this. It amazes me that God is able to use me as an instrument in situations like this despite my own sinfulness. Thank you Lord!