Providing a Foundation for Young Men: the CBA Retreat Program
March 17, 2020
At Christian Brothers Academy, the outstanding academic curriculum, championship athletic program, lively extracurricular activities and selfless service initiatives regularly get “top-billing” throughout the school year.
However, an important foundation of the holistic educational experience at the Academy is the powerful retreat program each student participates in.
“The retreat program, which seeks to develop our students’ spirituality and faith, is absolutely central to the purpose of a De La Salle Brothers institution,” said Dean of Students Matt Meehan. “The spiritual development of our students is equally as important to our academic rigor at CBA.”
CBA’s retreat program follows the “Kairos” model of retreats, which challenges the young men to take time to consider more deeply many spiritual questions, as well as to get know themselves and others better.
“Most importantly, this model allows the boys to consider the real, concrete presence of God in their lives,” Meehan said. “It offers an opportunity for them to begin to recognize that God’s presence is within them, as seen in their gifts and talents, and that God’s presence is in the love of their parents, teachers, coaches and friends.”
Typically held in groups of about 40 students, the retreat program begins at a basic level for the freshmen. Held on campus, first-year retreats are an introduction to the teachings of the founder of the Brothers, St. John Baptist de La Salle, and CBA’s motto of “Religio, Mores, Cultura.” The students begin to understand why the motto translates into CBA graduates who are men of faith, men of character and men of action.
During sophomore year, the students experience off-campus retreats with a central theme, with this year’s being “faith, hope and love.” These retreats center on finding those values in everyday life, as well as focusing on recognizing God’s presence in both transcendent moments and deeply personal ways.
“As each retreat develops, you can see a bond between the students grow,” said Campus Minister Matt Butler. “It is nice to see them get a break from daily school life and be themselves. It’s really a judgement-free time for the students.”
Junior year retreats see the students begin to better understand their sense of self and vocation. These retreats are held off-campus at a dedicated retreat center and are viewed as an introduction to senior year retreats.
“The upperclassmen retreats not only invite the young men to see how God has loved them through others, but also challenges them to recognize that as they prepare to leave CBA, God intends them to become reflective of His presence in the world they will enter,” Meehan said.
Following up on what was learned at junior retreats, CBA students participate in overnight senior retreats as a culmination of this self-development program. Senior retreats primarily focus on developing a horizon for growth as they prepare to graduate from the Academy. Students reflect on their faith relationship with God and how it will affect how they serve their future family, colleagues and society.
This year, the seniors were able to listen to powerful guest speakers, including CBA alumni, teachers and administrators, tell their own story of personal and spiritual development. Students are encouraged to share their own experiences, including how faith and service at CBA has impacted their high school careers.
“A big reason why I became a teacher is to provide memorable and enjoyable experiences while students grapple with their young relationship with God,” Butler said. “I think during the four years of retreats, you are seeing the kids connect to the theological themes in a practical way. At the same time, they are laughing and enjoying each other’s company, like brothers.”
The retreat program ties in with both the daily spiritual life and service aspect of a CBA education. Students, especially in sophomore and junior years, are encouraged to participate in service immersion opportunities and go above and beyond the required hours of service. Most of the time, students take part in the service immersion trips and reflect positively on the experience.
Together with academic, athletic and extracurricular excellence, CBA retreats add to the development of the whole person during each student’s time at the Academy.
“Our mission is rooted in developing young men of faith who are thankful for their God-given gifts and prepared to use them for the greater good of others,” Meehan said. “The retreat program is one of the foundations that make living this mission possible.”