August 27, 2013

Freshman retreat

We kicked off retreat season here at Trinity High School yesterday.  The freshmen, sophomores, and juniors have class retreats during the month of September as a way to kick off the year and to bring them together as a class.  I asked Ms. Foley and Ms. Zolkos of our theology department to redesign the retreats and they did an amazing job.  I am grateful to them for their hard work and execution.

The freshman retreat was held at Saint Elizabeth Seton Parish in Bedford and focused on the three pillars of Campus Ministry: prayer, mercy, and community.  The retreat was a combination of talks, activities, prayer, and a film.  One of my favorite activities was when each student made a "brick" out of a paper bag and wrote his or her talents on it.  Prior to this we read Saint Paul's letter to the Corinthians about each person having different gifts and talents but one Lord who unites us all.  The students then took their "bricks" and built a sort of house with a cornerstone that said Jesus Christ.  After all the bricks were in place, we took out the cornerstone and the house of course collapsed.  The imagery was obvious - we need Christ as our cornerstone, otherwise all of our talents and gifts mean nothing.

Following lunch I spoke to the students about our works of mercy using Pope Francis' actions and words as inspiration.  We then watched a film about Saint Francis Inn to show the students an example of our service work and to hopefully inspire them to take an active role in the many opportunities we have to show mercy to our fellow men and women.  I quoted Pope Francis who recently said, "When you meet those most in need, your heart will continue to grow bigger, bigger, and bigger!"

We then moved to the church for a final prayer service where I offered the following reflection:

I was pretty involved in my high school, mostly in Campus Ministry (shocker) but I felt I could have done more.  So when I got to Saint Anselm College I told myself that I would get involved right away and make the absolute most of my four years there.  I decided to run for Student Government and was elected a senator of my class every year.  I knew I only had four years to do things and I really wanted to make an impact.  I was assigned to serve on the student welfare committee, essentially a committee that thinks of ideas to improve daily life for the students.  I had lots of ideas and some of them were implemented, like soap dispensers and hand dryers in the dorm bathrooms.  I was at the college recently for a meeting and as I was walking down the hall in the Cushing Center I came across something that stopped me in my tracks - a phone.  When I was a student there I suggested we install a campus phone in the stairwell so students could make calls on campus (this was before cell phones were big) and they put it in.  I could not believe that almost 15 years later it was still there.  I can’t imagine anyone uses it anymore but there it was, a little tiny insignificant piece of me still on the campus of Saint Anselm College.  Now maybe they took it out by now, I don’t know but I was happy to see that it lasted so long.

A lot has been thrown at you today, a lot of stuff that will take a while for you to process.  As you think back to what we said Trinity High School is all about - prayer, service, community - what really spoke to you?  What particular facet about Trinity High School do you feel drawn to?  Because while we want you to enjoy the next four years, the clock is indeed ticking. I know you won’t believe me at 14 or 15 years old but trust me, life absolutely flies.  The next four years will be incredible but they are going to go fast.  If you want to make your mark an leave a legacy, now is the time to start working on that.  If you do, the next four years will be the most gratifying and fulfilling four years of your lives.  On the flip side, if you spend the next four years simply going through the motions, they will seem like 40.

So consider this question and I will pause for one whole minute for you to ponder your answer silently: when you graduate from Trinity High School in June, 2017, how will we know that you were here?  pause....

Will there be more trophies on the first floor wall because of you?  Will the poor be better off because of your work?  Will the students of Trinity High School have a deeper faith and commitment to a life with Jesus Christ?  Will there be a phone installed on the wall?

It’s a tired, old cliche but one person can indeed make a difference.  Are you afraid to try?

I am not sure you will change the course of human history between now and June, 2017 but you can change the course of Trinity High School...and who knows where that will lead.  We don’t have a lot of time on this planet my friends.  Jesus is patiently waiting for us and like the apostles in the reading we just heard, He has commanded us to go, to not doubt Him, to make disciples...and not to be afraid for He is always with us.  

God has a plan for each of you sitting here today.  It may be hard to see it clearly and you may not know exactly what He wants from you.  But, follow your heart, think about what made your heart burn today, and when we leave this place, do not settle, do not be mediocre, be who God has called you to be.  And do not be afraid to follow Him and the plan He has for you.  Amen.

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