Continuing to Accompany Students
Skutt Catholic recently concluded its fourth year of personalized retreats. The differentiated retreats serve the purpose of meeting each student at their unique stage and guiding them closer to a deeper connection with Jesus.
Among the offerings this year, seven familiar programs from the previous year were revisited. Additionally, in response to the Class of 2023 being the only class without a grade-level retreat, we introduced the Senior Retreat option. Nearly two-thirds of the senior class embraced this new opportunity.
THE DIFFERENT OPTIONS
Students participated in a questionnaire to gauge where they were in their personal faith journey and then also selected the order they preferred for retreat day after seeing the descriptions. Most students got their first choice.
The following themed programs were offered:
- Beauty is for students interested in all forms of art (visual, literary, musical). Participants engaged in artistic self-expression, immersed themselves in artistic beauty, and heard from other artists about their work and lives. This year, students visited Creighton University, where they had the opportunity to interact with faculty, including the renowned sculptor Littleton Alston. They also took part in printmaking and performing arts workshops, explored the campus, viewed student art displays, and toured St. John’s Church.
- Encounter is for students who are open to faith and are looking for a shared experience in Christian faith yet still wanting to be very active. This retreat offered team-building activities, low-ropes elements, witness accounts of personal encounters with God, and opportunities for praise and worship.
- Equip is geared toward students who are very active in their Christian faith and discipleship with the Lord. Participants visited the Cloisters on the Platte for a morning of adoration, conferences, confession, Mass, and silent prayer. They also engaged in activities centered around sharing their faith with others.
- Justice is for students who enjoy serving Christ in others. This retreat included a mini-service trip and cultural immersion experience in South Omaha, relational prayer time, and discussions with people sharing their stories. This year, students learned from and served at Heartland Hope Mission and the Stephen’s Center.
- Power is for students who are interested in their faith and seeking to grow in relationship with God. Participants explored the power of the Holy Spirit, engaged in small group discussions, enjoyed praise and worship music, attended Mass, had the opportunity for confession, and have fun with their classmates at Ablaze Farms.
- Radiant is for students who are open to faith. This retreat offered a creative and experiential approach, including art, music, writing, and listening to adults share their personal encounters with God. This year’s program featured a visit to the Cathedral Arts Project, a fused glass workshop, insights from a local musical performer, an art tour of the Cathedral, and prayer time led by the Cathedral’s organist.
- Senior Retreat is tailored for seniors interested in sports and activities focused on human formation in virtues. This day emphasized bonding with fellow seniors and making up for experiences missed during the freshman retreat. Activities included various prayer opportunities, informative talks, insights from alumni on their college experiences, and free time to choose activities.
- Virtue is aimed at students who are active and sports enthusiasts. It emphasizes team-building activities and the development of human virtues. Highlights include team-buildinggames like the spider web challenge, the “stomp out the vice” balloon game, and engagement in different sports.
COLLABORATING WITH OTHERS
The Holy Spirit inspired this retreat model four years ago. The same year we switched our retreat system anotherNebraska school did as well. Several educators and priests have said that this is the best way to ensure maximal fruitfulness from a mandatory retreat. When students have choice we have seen deeper investment. We were excited to host a whole team from another Catholic high school to see the retreat model in action.
These retreats are made possible through partnerships with parishes, religious communities, and our diocesan vocation’s office. The Equip and Power retreats are run by outside priests and youth leaders andhave given people space to dive deeper into prayer. Leaders on these more faith-based retreats saw more openness and willingness from students to be present and share.
One sister shared after the retreat last year, “Thank you for the opportunity to spend the day with some of your students. It was a beautiful and simple day and we were very impressed with the women and men on retreat. Our small group time with the ladies was uplifting and encouraging and their love for Jesus and desire for holiness is genuine and beautiful. We were very inspired!”
Discussions with the Missionary Discipleship students over the years about the importance of meeting people where they are have been influential. Our hope is that using the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Thresholds of Conversion and Discipleship allows adults to understand the importance of building trust with our teens in order to lay a foundation for a future invitation to grow deeper.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
This was the first year we have been able to use speakers and activities from past retreats without repetition for students. We also relied on the strength of many leaders in the community to facilitate each program and are grateful for the partnerships we have with the Cathedral Arts Project, Creighton University, Heartland Hope Mission,
Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church, and the Stephen’s Center. We also had students at the following retreat centers: Ablaze Farm, Camp Carol Joy Holling, Camp Rivercrest, Cloisters on the Platte and the ProSanctity Retreat Center.
We had the help of over 75 leaders – some were teachers/ staff at Skutt Catholic, but we also had dozens of college leaders, mentors in our discipleship program, parish leaders, priests, religious sisters, and parents. Our leaders are incredible; they love Jesus and desire for others to grow in faith. If you ever feel a call to be present and help we invite you to “come and see.” Reach out to Christine French for more information: email@example.com.
For the past two years, due to bussing issues, students have had to return to school 45 minutes before the end of the day. We are actively exploring cost-effective solutions to ensure our students can have a full day at their respective sites.
As our annual practice, we are collecting feedback from both leaders and students to enhance their experiences. We will persist in our efforts to identify leadership opportunities for students and further solidify our partnerships with parents. Additionally, we will actively seek new partnerships throughout the city.
By Christine French, Director of Campus Ministry