Class retreats are an integral part of Catholic education. Some schools go for a week, some for a day, but the goal is always the same: to grow closer to God and each other through a shared experience.
Several groups have already made their retreats this year, including Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, Cardinal Newman in Columbia, and St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken.
Kym Deer, the middle school science teacher, led the eighth graders on a two-day trip to YMCA Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie in September.
In an e-mail to The Miscellany, Deer said it was all about science and team building, with a lot of prayer.
The students immersed themselves in first-hand experiences with aquatic and wildlife ecology, and lessons in astronomy as they gazed at the stars. They also had tons of fun activities, such as climbing to the top of the Alpine tower and flying back down on the zipline.
Students said the retreat was a wonderful way to help them overcome feelings of shyness and bond with their classmates.
“When I went to Camp Thunderbird, I was nervous about having a good time,” Megan Hoffman wrote in an e-mail. “I talked to people who I may not have talked to before. I got to know many of my classmates. We learned how to work together. Our class is now much stronger in mind and in friendship.”
Another common theme for the youth was the increased power of their faith.
“The prayer services just got everyone to realize life is good! We are thankful for everything God’s done for us,” Katherine Kahle wrote.
At the end of the trip, Deer said the students received the Silver Plate Award for low food waste at all camp meals.
The annual retreat for the freshman class combined aspects of prayer and bonding with good stewardship.
Felicia Easterlin, the school’s director of development, said the students attended Mass at the school celebrated by Father Jeffrey F. Kirby and then spent the day with the Home Works program.
Youth learned new skills and a finer appreciation of teamwork as they helped make repairs on the homes of people in need.
St. Mary Help of Christians
Peggy Wertz, principal, said they wanted to do something different as a way to highlight vocations.
With that in mind, they took 12 members of St. Cecilia’s Vocations Club for Young Women to experience convent life with the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy in Charleston.
Wertz said the historical significance of the order appealed to them. The sisters are the diocesan order founded by Bishop John England, the first bishop of South Carolina.
“The minute we drove up to the convent, it was very easy to feel God’s presence. The sisters were extremely friendly from the start and were easy to talk to,” Carlee McClary wrote in an e-mail.
The group took a tour of the motherhouse on the Charleston harbor and visited with the sisters. Then Father Kirby, who taught religion while serving at St. Mary Help of Christians Church, celebrated Mass in the chapel.
Wertz said the group spent the night in cottages at James Island County Park, where they enjoyed a prayerful atmosphere and activities led by College of Charleston students.
Natalie Gorensek, a ninth-grader, said the trip was an eye-opener that taught her about vocations and “to say ‘yes’ to Christ each and every day.”