Last weekend, the class of 2017 gathered on the roof of the Prep and began what is affectionately known as “IgNite” our overnight, mission-focused, Freshman Retreat. 248 freshmen, led by 60 upperclassmen, and supported by 20 peers gathered to explore and better understand the Prep way of life, in light of our Catholic, Jesuit identity.
To reflect on the importance of this retreat, is really to reflect on the hard work and dedication of our student leaders, as well as the reaction from the freshmen who participated.
For months leading up to these 27 hours, the student leaders (juniors and seniors) gathered to coordinate, plan, and pray for the freshman. In our first reflection as a group, we had our leaders write what they thought the mission of the retreat was. Here is an excerpt from their writing:
“The mission of the Freshman Retreat is to indoctrinate the Class of 2017 to the culture of the Prep. We aim to build a sense of community, instill confidence, convey lessons of the Catholic-Ignatian way of life, create an environment where freshmen feel comfortable and where they belong. We want to develop a sense of brotherhood, make the Prep a home for them, help them grow in their faith, and give them the tools to be successful today and always.”
Our leaders gave up part of their summer and spent every day after school ordering and designing t-shirts, making a 30 piece puzzle, coordinating service sites, and inviting local priests to hear confessions (among other tasks) because they value and appreciate the role that the freshman retreat has (and had) in the life of the freshman class. This is one of the greatest testaments to the success and mission of “IgNite:” Prep brothers being there for each other.
In part, this retreat also showcases some of the Prep’s best assets: community, education, service and prayer. By setting aside time to welcome and encourage our freshmen, we show how willing we are to invest and advocate for these qualities as a way of life. Our small group discussions, presentations by students and professionals alike, service at 15 Catholic elementary schools, and 3.5 hours of Reconciliation are among some of the clearest examples of how this retreat takes these ideals and turns them into reality.
To articulate this point, here are two excerpts written in thank you notes from members of the class of 2017:
“Thank you for creating a great retreat, and showing me that we are all brothers at this school. My favorite moment was seeing the kids smile as we helped them during our service trip. Overall it was a great trip and was a lot of fun!” - CM ‘17
“Thank you for a great retreat! It will be an experience I will never forget. I thought the prayer service with all the candles was a special experience. Thank you again! - RL ‘17
At the end of the day, we hope that “IgNite” is a night learning about Ignatius and our Prep ideals, but even more than that, we aim to do as St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged, “to set the world on fire!” By kindling a love of community and a love God in the hearts of our freshmen, we begin to reach them where they are and lead them into 4 years of reason, faith, and service.
This blog post was written by Mr. Jonathan Jerome, Director of Campus Ministry