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Campus Ministry Renews Spiritual Retreats

At Skutt Catholic we know that faith is a journey and we are all at different places. Nationwide there has been a one-size fits all approach to Campus Ministry, with mandatory grade level retreats. While good experiences for many students, these retreats are either geared toward class bonding or toward students who are already actively practicing their faith. 

Rather than re-working all of our existing retreats to fit new COVID-19 guidelines and policies, we decided that this was the time the Lord was providing to “make all things new” (Rev 21:5). We planned differentiated retreats based on interests and where students are in their own faith journey. Differentiated retreats would help us meet everyone where they are and walk them one step closer to Jesus.

Due to all of the challenges with COVID-19, we split our retreats and Community Involvement Day (CID) activities up in order to accommodate both. Half of our students went on retreat the first day and half on the second, alternating with CID. 

THE RETREATS

Students participated in a questionnaire to gage where they were in their personal faith journey. Results indicated which retreat would be most beneficial to each student. The following themed retreats were offered:

  • Virtue – Geared toward students that are interested in sports and activities focusing on human formation in the virtues. Students were at SCHS participating in team building activities with many engaging community leaders and SCHS parents. 
  • Emmaus – Geared toward students that are interested in their faith and seeking God. Students went to the Pro Sanctity retreat center for small group time, Bible study on the Emmaus passage, praise and worship music, Mass, confession, and time with other classmates. 
  • Beauty – Geared toward students that are interested in art, music, writing, and other forms of art. Students used the SCHS art studios to create art and listen to artists share about their lives and work. 
  • Encounter – Geared toward students that are open to faith. Students listened to adults witness to encounters they’ve had with God, learned to listen to the Lord, attended Mass, and participated in a high ropes course. 
  • Live Mercy – Geared toward students that enjoy service. Students attended Mass and had a mini-service trip/ cultural immersion with the team from St Augustine’s Indian Mission and learned about Dr. Susan la Flesche Picotte. 
  • Equip – Geared toward students that are very active in their faith life and discipleship with the Lord. Students went to Holy Family Shrine for a morning with adoration, conferences, confession, Mass, and silent prayer, and an activity discussing sharing their faith with others. 
  • One Life – Geared toward our Christian students that are not Catholic to grow in their own faith and discipleship from a non-denominational Christian perspective. Students heard faith talks, did activities, and listened to each other in discussions about life and faith. 

OUR INSPIRATION

The Holy Spirit!  It was really God’s inspiration one day in prayer – “Behold, I make all things new.” Rev 21:5. For years we have had conversations with students that didn’t like the retreats – not because of anything the staff was doing wrong, but because they feel like they can’t open up about where they are at in their faith life. 

Discussions with the Missionary Discipleship students over the years about the importance of meeting people where they are were influential. And we have been able to see how fruitful it has been in the past four years to have that course option senior year where students really feel safe to open up about their faith.  

Additionally, the work done by staff of the chancery office of the Archdiocese of Omaha in creating and teaching the Thresholds of Conversion and Discipleship has been a huge source of inspiration for us. 

MAKING IT HAPPEN

We had the help of over 100 leaders – some were teachers/ staff at Skutt Catholic but we also had dozens of college leaders, mentors in our discipleship program, parish leaders, and parents helping us out. Our leaders are incredible – they love Jesus and desire for others to grow in faith. 

We took some of the existing activities from past retreats we have done and blended them together in a new way. We also relied on the strength of many leaders in the community to facilitate each program. 

WHAT’S NEXT…

We are gathering feedback from leaders and students on how to improve the experiences for everyone. What we know for sure is that we are going to keep listening to God and to those helping to determine the best possible way to reach all students and try to inspire everyone to grow in faith. We plan on having our traditional freshman retreat and will be using some of the lessons learned this year to improve that experience. Since seniors having time with just their grade is so important we also will have a special senior morning of reflection in addition to any differentiated retreats.

By Christine French, Campus Minister

Front and back of the 2021 Retreat Day shirts. Seniors wore black; juniors wore green; sophomores wore grey; and freshmen wore white.

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