Senior Retreats Offer a Chance for Reflection and Discussion
February 8, 2022
Broken up in four sessions of approximately 52 students, senior retreats at Christian Brothers Academy have always offered a sense of accomplishment and acted as a segue to a new chapter in life, seeing as it is the final of four retreats during a CBA career.
In the last five years, CBA has modeled its senior retreats on the Kairos format, challenging students to set a course for a deeper, yet more practical, understanding of the presence of God in their life.
The pandemic, however, has forced the Academy to modify its typical two-day, overnight senior retreat, shortening it to a single day at the San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch.
With the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop, seniors spend the day discussing God’s presence in life and how to appropriately enter society as well-rounded Christian gentlemen. The nine hours spent together also provides an arena for decompression and reflection, with students openly sharing experiences as a group.
More than ever, the conversations at senior retreats have been important.
“This year, considering the Class of 2022 has been so impacted by the Covid-19 Pandemic, the retreat small group sessions allowed the young men time to share the challenges they have faced the last few years,” said Dean of Students Matt Meehan. “In spite of those challenges, the excellent adult and student talks that were presented, challenged the young men to see that – through the support and love of family, teachers, coaches, mentors, and close friends – God has been with them, supporting them through these unprecedented times.”
Throughout the day, seniors participate in several group discussions led by both peers and faculty members. Guest speakers, including teachers, administrators, alumni and friends of CBA, spend time addressing the students as well. There are moments for down time and reflections, as well as a group Mass before the day ends.
For some young men, it is the interaction with the faculty members in a different setting that makes a big impression.
“Most of us never learn much about a teacher’s life outside of school, so it’s interesting to hear teachers who you may have had but never got the chance to really know, or teachers who you’ve just seen around the school, talk about their hardships,” senior Shane Wedlock said. “They talk about experiences that you never could have imagined. Senior retreat left all of us feeling like we actually knew our teachers a lot better than we had before because we got to see a side of them that we had never seen before.”
It is important for CBA students to interact with each other in a more meaningful way, which is something senior Andrew Vilchez took away from his time at retreat.
“You never truly know what someone has or is going through,” Vilchez said. “You usually only ever see the good things in people’s lives, and during retreat, I finally saw that everyone around me is human and they go through similar struggles. Mr. Mazzaccaro said to ‘think of yourself as a candle, it takes nothing from you to light another.’ It takes nothing from you to help another, so why not help and check in once in a while.”
As Meehan noted, it is a main goal for students to better understand their relationship with God during these retreats. Senior Jack Frankovic made a point of the retreat helping him differentiate the “Hollywood” depiction of God and the real, genuine impact of God’s grace.
“God shows himself to us, as humans, through friendships, relationships, and other people,” Frankovic said. “Even when you think that He does not exist, He will prove to you that He is there looking over you. This takeaway was sparked from engaging conversations with peers and faculty.”
With three of four senior retreat sessions complete, there is just one remaining for early March. The four-year retreat program is essential to CBA’s holistic education, getting students out of the typical classroom setting to learn more about themselves and those around them. As freshmen are told at orientation, the Academy prepares young men to become intellectually mature and morally responsible individuals for the Church and society.
“Our senior retreatants are challenged to continue to become reflections of God’s love in the world, especially as they prepare to leave the Academy,” Meehan said.