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High schools reflect on faith, leadership

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Sixty-five student leaders from all four diocesan high schools attended the first Bethany Retreat at Camp Highroad in Middleburg Sept. 27-30.


The sophomores through seniors went beyond the classroom to the outdoors among the trees, wildlife and a ropes course. Without phones and watches, the students left the stress of school to be present to the goals of the retreat — faith and leadership.


The idea for the retreat originated with Father Stephen J. Schultz, chaplain at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, and Joyce Krolicki, coordinator of campus ministry at Paul VI. It was named after the place Jesus was welcomed and had relationships, said Father Schultz. “We have a lot of lessons we can learn from Jesus and his friends,” he said. “Jesus was able to manifest his power in Bethany.”


Chaplains at each school chose the students who participated.


“The students are the ones we see at morning Mass, who spiritually want to go deeper,” said Krolicki.


Paul VI junior Bri Montgomery is a member of the school’s Servant Leadership Association. “Leadership isn’t about being higher than other people but about being part of a team that works together,” she said.


Jack Houser, a senior from Paul VI, said he learned “not only are we leaders of the faith at our school, but that God had a plan for us, that we were chosen not only by the school, but by God.”


“Not everyone’s faith is where it wants to be, and I am a perfect example of that,” he said. “This retreat is not only helping me get back on track where I want to be, but to becoming the man I would like to see in the mirror every day.”


Father Edward J. Bresnahan, chaplain at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, said they chose students who took their faith seriously. “School itself can seem very much on the surface and as a chaplain sometimes we do broad brushes to reach a large swath of students,” he said. “Some of the students get it already, and you want to help get them the equipment on how to talk to and share the Gospel with their peers.”


Emma Boyle, the director of mission and the new evangelization at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries, said students were chosen who demonstrated an aptitude and desire to be a leader. “They showed commitment to the school and a love for the Lord,” she said.


Speakers included Father Schultz; Father Bresnahan; Father Keith D. Cummings, chaplain of John Paul the Great; Father Gregory S. Thompson, chaplain at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington; Leo Chavarria, director of youth ministry at St. Mary Church in Fredericksburg; China Briceño, a parishioner of All Saints Church in Manassas and a Catholic Herald columnist; Patrick Jacobeen, works in financial services with Primerica in Chantilly; Christina Jacobeen, program specialist and young adult coordinator in the Office of Youth, Campus, and Young Adult Ministries and with CatholicSpeakers.com; and Richard Malebranche, counselor at John Paul the Great. The schedule included reflections, talks, team-building activities, silent prayer and Masses. Father Michael C. Eisenberg, diocesan vocations director, celebrated Mass Sept. 28.


Father Cummings said Jesus took a small group and worked with them, prepared them and sent them out. “Our hope is to take a small group, and with God’s grace, they will take what they learn here and bring it to their peers,” he said.


The retreat ended Sept. 30 with Mass and a talk on how to live the fruits of the retreat when the students return to campus. Father Schultz hopes this is the first of an annual Bethany Retreat offered for the high schools.


“It was very fruitful for the students,” he said. “We will now be working to keep forming them as disciples and servant leaders to build up the relationships they have and to build their relationships with Christ.” 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018