Reconnecting with God: The Adore and Marked Retreats at Saragossa

TBy Michael Tsui ’18

The workload at Chaminade High School can be daunting for underclassmen.  Sometimes the studying  and homework feel like they will never end.  Retreats at Chaminade are vital escapes from the stress and anxiety that accompany everyday schoolwork: they allow students to forget about their academic obligations and focus on their spiritual and social lives.  All freshman and sophomore homerooms are assigned a day to attend a retreat together during the school day.  ADORE and Marked retreats are designed this way because many students are unable to fit overnight retreats in their schedules.

The students of Homeroom 1B conclude their retreat with Adoration of the Blessed Sacraments.
The students of Homeroom 1B conclude their retreat with Adoration of the Blessed Sacraments.

The ADORE retreat stands for “A Day of Retreat Experience.”  The retreat addresses two main topics.  Students discuss the social, ethical, and moral responsibilities of being a twenty-first century high school student while introducing them to important elements of the Catholic faith.  Like other retreats, the day is meant to strengthen relationships between fellow students and with God.  Mr. Michael Foley ’99 explains, “I hope that the students have a great experience.  I hope that they cultivate their relationships with God and encounter Him, and develop a sort of fraternity within their homerooms.”

While the freshman ADORE retreat focuses primarily on introducing students to basic Catholic practices, the sophomore retreat deepens the spirituality of students.  As the name “Marked” implies, the main point of the retreat is to help students become more self-aware and introspective to find their vocation.  Students work to identify the gifts and talents given to them by God and pinpoint what career path or religious vocation is meant for them.  One unique aspect of this retreat is that the students hear from two distinct speakers, one being a Marianist brother discussing his vocation, and the other being the homeroom moderator speaking about what led him to his teaching career.  During James Pham’s ’19 retreat, Bro. Ryszard Decowski, S.M., ’77 spoke about his vocation story.  James commented, “I found his speech both intriguing and inspirational.  From his travel to Poland to his supportive teachers, his story is one to remember.”

Both of these retreats are structured similarly.  The day begins with breakfast and then moves into ice breaker games and talks from faculty members.  At the very end of the retreat, the students have the opportunity to speak to God through Eucharistic Adoration.

Some upperclassmen play a role in these retreats.  A number of juniors are invited to be members of C.R.O.S.S. to help out behind the scenes and with retreat activities.  One of the most vital roles they play is in leading group discussion.  They keep the conversation flowing and contribute their own insights.  Junior Shawn Connell explained why he helps moderate the retreats.  “It’s a great experience.  I believe it is very important that the underclassmen students have someone that they can look up to.”  The student-volunteers also assist with minor tasks including cleaning up the chapel and preparing lunch.  

Last year, the retreats moved out of the AAC and into a new retreat house, Saragossa.  The house was named after a town in Spain in which Blessed William Joseph Chaminade took refuge during the French Revolution.  The house has greatly improved the the experience.  As Mr. Foley remarked, “Students always loved the program, but they still felt like they were in school with the AAC.  Saragossa truly allows students to feel like they are away from school.”  The house itself is well-suited for the retreats.  There are large rooms for the group discussion, and a chapel on the upper floor is available for silent reflection.

Retreats are an important part of the Chaminade experience, and these freshman and sophomore programs guarantee that every student can enjoy such a sacred experience.  Both ADORE and Marked allow students to forget the stress of school and focus on their own spirituality while deepening the bonds they have formed with each other.