By Jesus Garcia ’23
At the beginning of almost every year, Chaminade students gather for an opening Mass of the Holy Spirit. The 2020-2021 school year was different, however, as COVID-19 restrictions made a conventional school-wide Mass impossible. This year, thanks to the hard work of Chaminade’s faculty, staff, and administration, the school community was once again able to celebrate this important Mass together.
As in years past, the sophomore, junior and senior classes gathered to celebrate Mass in the Activity-Athletic Center (AAC), where they were greeted by a special guest, Archbishop Christopher Cardone ’76. He is the Archbishop of the Solomon Islands, a nation located in Oceania, and he is a Chaminade alumni as well. What brought him all the way to Mineola?
As he explained to those in attendance, Archbishop Cardone tries to return to Long Island to visit family and friends when his ecclesiastical duties in the Solomon Islands permit it. However, there is only one flight a month from the Solomon Islands to John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK), and this has made attending this Mass in the past impossible. This year, the Archbishop’s return to the Solomon Islands was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Making the most of this unfortunate delay, the Archbishop took the opportunity to return to Chaminade to celebrate Mass.
The Mass of the Holy Spirit is special because it offers weary students a much needed spiritual rest from the busy weeks of academic, athletic, and social activity that mark the start of the school year. “The mass provided me with some downtime from a stressful week,” explained Ryan Renganeschi ‘23. “It felt good to take some time off and give it to God.”
While the upperclassmen enjoyed the sacraments with the Archbishop, the freshman class was introduced to another staple of spiritual life at Chaminade High School, retreats. The time provided by the Mass Assembly Schedule allowed these students to get their first taste of what a retreat is. Senior leaders and members of Chaminade’s Campus Ministry leadership club, CROSS, guided the enthusiastic homerooms through the retreat.
At the start of the retreat, students were introduced to a survival game. The survival game is a drill used by Army Rangers to test survival skills, and it forces members to work together as a team. The game begins by introducing a challenging scenario: students imagine that a plane they were taking has crash landed in Northern Canada; as survivors, students must scavenge a few everyday items to help them survive. The job of the players is to choose which five items are the most important. This imaginative exercise encourages the freshmen to bond with their fellow classmates in homeroom and strengthen their camaraderie.
After breaking the ice with the survival game, the retreat transitioned into a more spiritual mode. The survival game showed how people need many things to survive, but one of the things people in crisis need most is God. Following a short video and reflection, the freshmen homerooms and their retreat leaders went to Darby Auditorium for Adoration to close the retreat.
The ‘bite-sized’ retreat experience left a great impression on the freshman class. “One thing that I brought away from the retreat was what faith is really about and how it affects every aspect of our life,” Alexander Vilmenay ‘25 shared. “It was a time to reflect on our faith and to connect with God.” Vilmenay’s statements illustrate the positive influence these retreats have had on the student body and how they help bring people closer to God.