‘Unplugging’ for a faith recharge

Each year, seniors at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington participate in an overnight retreat during November or December. They select one of two "boys-only" or "girls- only" sessions and leave Arlington by bus at 3 p.m. one day to travel to the 4-H Educational Center in Front Royal, returning at 3 p.m. the next day.

Senior retreats are always special times for reflection, away from everyday life and technology. The setting, which overlooks the Shenandoah Mountains, allows students the opportunity to unwind and focus on the little things in life. This year's outings were no different. Seniors returned from their retreat sessions with stories of hilarious antics and memories of profound group discussions and talks from galvanizing speakers.

The lack of technology may have seemed uncomfortable initially, but most came to appreciate the ability to "unplug" from the outside world.

"Disconnecting from Northern Virginia allowed us to focus on our faith and our friends," said senior Marissa Luna. "Our group was able to grow closer by opening up and sharing stories with each other."

The retreat schedule featured guest speakers, including college students and small group discussions moderated by the teachers who accompanied the seniors.

"The retreat allowed me to grow in my faith," said senior Will Aubry. "I especially appreciated our discussions with (O'Connell science and theology teacher) Father (Michele) Benetti and the other retreat leaders."

This year's senior retreats were blessed with very mild weather that allowed for more outdoor activities than usual. In their free time, students played informal sports games - dodgeball and basketball were among the favorites - or simply enjoyed the surroundings with their friends.

Inside, scheduled activities included group projects and skits. Seniors broke up into small groups, where they were given the task of acting out Scripture passages in a very collaborative and improvisational manner. Also on the schedule was time for adoration and Mass.

"I am hopeful that this retreat experience will help these seniors deepen their relationship with the Lord and prepare them to take on the challenges of being a faithful Catholic as they begin their college adventure," said Father Gregory Thompson, O'Connell chaplain.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016