By Jack Viscuso ’21
On Tuesday, September 25th, sophomore homeroom 2N kick-started the weekly day retreats at the Saragossa retreat house. Worries about upcoming tests and quizzes dissipated as sophomores were afforded the opportunity to take a step back from their academic obligations. The retreat program, dubbed “MARKED,” focuses on students’ vocations and how they can discover their gifts and talents from God to uncover an appropriate religious vocation or career choice.
Retreats are always an anticipated and exciting day for each homeroom. “I had a great experience as a freshman during the ADORE retreat, so this year I was looking forward to visiting Saragossa again,” exclaimed Tristan Yu ’21.
Leaving their iPads in their lockers, students walked over to the Saragossa retreat house, conveniently located next to the campus’s Activity-Athletic Center. Mr. Daniel Terzulli led the opening discussion about what vocation means and how God calls each of us to one. Afterwards, students enjoyed a breakfast consisting of Dunkin’ Donuts and Ssips Iced Tea in the cafeteria and then gathered in the chapel upstairs. Throughout the day, the lives of St. Joseph, St. Peter, and St. Francis were routinely discussed as they were exemplary models of faith. Students also learned about how they each affected society and also ways to embody their honorable characteristics.
Later, an ice-breaker game, known as Jockey Up, Jockey Down (similar to Simon Says), elaborated the importance of listening to God and his instructions. Students then watched a heart-stirring video about Ernie Johnson Jr., a host for Inside the NBA on TNT. His emotional story, which revealed the hardships of his life behind the glamour of studio lights, focused on his struggles with cancer and disabled son, Michael. The documentary highlighted the power of faith to overcome these obstacles.
Upperclassmen play a critical role in these retreats. Members of C.R.O.S.S. led small group discussions at different times of the day to reiterate the lessons of the previous activities and contribute their own insights about vocations.
Students reconvened after a chicken hero lunch, complete with chips and soda from Saragossa’s own soda fountain, to listen to teachers’ discoveries of their vocations. Brother Stephen Balletta, S.M. ’74, Meribah’s Director of Vocations, introduced the topic with a video about the Marianist community. Familiar faces from the Chaminade family illustrated the facets of life as a Marianist and revealed how they followed their callings from God. The video also offered a glimpse into the life of a Marianist.
Relating to the theme of vocations, Mr. Terzulli spoke about his college experiences, especially the community service he performed in Virginia where he encountered extreme poverty. Of all the touching moments in his speech, most students were stirred when he reflected on a young girl who bought and assembled a photo album of their times together despite her economic struggles. He revealed his vocation to become a religion teacher arose from his encounters with the revolutionizing power of faith in his early life experiences.
Homeroom 2N’s moderator, Dr. Elias Kotsovolos, then gave a speech of his own. He described his former career as a chiropractor and his transition into the educational field. He also explained how his autistic son helped develop his own spirituality and faith during the difficult times of his son’s life, and how he himself ultimately discovered his calling to be a teacher.
Many students were inspired by the faculty’s speeches about vocation, including Antonio Vecchio ’21. “The experience made me think about what my life’s vocation should be, and it was interesting to listen to the stories of our teachers,” he remarked.
The day concluded with an hour of Eucharistic adoration in the chapel, during which students had a chance to process the lessons acquired from the day and speak to God in the presence of the Eucharist. Also, Father Garrett Long, S.M. ’62 offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation for students seeking to repent for their sins.
“After the retreat, I felt that my spirituality had been nourished and my faith was enriched,” reflected Matthew Vassallo ’21 on the impact of the retreat on his Catholic faith.
Day retreats such as MARKED are an essential piece of the Chaminade experience and provide a worry-free day for students to expand on their faith and bond collectively as a homeroom. Until early February, one homeroom each week will visit Saragossa for a day of reflection and contemplation.