In the final week of Term 2, the Year 11 cohort embarked on their first residential retreat at Kolbe. There were some nerves, apprehension and excitement for many leading into this experience, as students were divided into five groups and would stay at different campsites for their retreat. The emphasis was on connecting with God, ourselves and others. This can be a difficult concept in a world where we are always encouraged to be distracted by a device and quiet reflection can be a foreign concept. In the gospel, Jesus asked his disciples to “Come away by yourselves to an isolated place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). This is exactly what the students and staff were encouraged to do for three days.
The retreat had many elements that made it the experience that it was. For many, it was the night campfires the brought the experience together. It was through this simple ritual that students were able to fully grasp the meaning of the retreat, ‘I call you my friends’ (John 15:9), just as Jesus told the followers that he had gathered from many walks of life. Year 11 leader Dylan reflected that “sitting around the campfire, singing songs together, people were not divided into friendship groups, everyone was just together”. This sentiment was echoed by another Year 11 student Jacynta who felt that “having new people around the campfire just talking and getting to know each other was a really good experience – you could feel the warmth not only from the campfire but from the people around you.”
The campfire seemed to bring the retreat together as students became more comfortable sharing stories and interacting with their peers. Jacynta would also reflect that “I loved spending time in our small groups as I would have never spoken to any of the people in my group, nor the teacher…. One more important aspect of the retreat was the 1-on-1 conversations – I felt that the person I was talking to really opened up, this made me feel warmth as I knew that they trusted me.”
There were many light-hearted moments on retreat also with Year 11 student Richard declaring that “the newspaper fashion show and the quiz night along with the challenges, were a highlight of the experience.” This retreat gave the Year 11s an opportunity to leave behind their everyday concerns and focus on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, this would ultimately lead to a memorable experience for both staff and students.