What did you do this summer?

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For many high school students, summer is a time to catch up on sleep, get a summer job, or travel with family and friends. For several groups of students from Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, summer was a time for nurturing their faith.

Not long after the final bell rang, a group of young women embarked on the school's first Kairos retreat. The group was comprised of juniors and seniors from the FIAT club, a club for young women seeking to follow Christ according to the Blessed Mother's example. Three students from Marymount University in Arlington and four O'Connell staff members - Sister Tracey Uphoff, Anne-Marie Funk, Kathryn Hogan and Elizabeth Rubando - accompanied them to Summit Lake Camp in Maryland. The program included activities for the participants to reflect, share and develop trust in themselves and others, focusing on their personal mission to grow in their faith.

"We left behind our technologies and distractions in order to use our time to develop a deeper connection in our faith," said Hogan.

According to Sister Tracey, who has participated in these retreats before, "The feedback we received was phenomenal, and we are already looking forward to offering this retreat - this new tradition - again in the near future."

Last month, 11 students, along with members of the youth ministries from St. Mark Church in Vienna and St. Leo the Great in Fairfax, traveled to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, for a youth conference. O'Connell Chaplain, Father Gregory Thompson, joined the group as a chaperone.

"The conference was a dynamic presentation of the Catholic faith," said Father Thompson. "There were 2,200 high school students from the United States and Canada in attendance, and the program included great speakers, inspirational music, opportunities for confession and Mass and a powerful experience of eucharistic adoration.

"It is my hope that we will be able to increase the number of students so that many more will have an opportunity to experience the dynamism of being a faith-filled Catholic," he said.

O'Connell students joined alumni and staff at the diocesan WorkCamp, where they rolled up their sleeves to improve the homes of less fortunate in Shenandoah County.

"WorkCamp is a unique opportunity for young people to step away from their everyday life, strengthen their relationship with Christ and serve those in need," said O'Connell Head of School Joseph Vorbach, who attended this year with a group from St. Ann Church in Arlington. "I was impressed by the leadership, the joyous atmosphere and the enthusiasm of all the participants.

"We had the opportunity to gather more than 50 O'Connell students, alumni and staff members for a photo op one evening," said Vorbach. "It was an impressive moment that reflected the generous spirit I see in Bishop O'Connell students and alumni every day."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015