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John Paul the Great students honor the feast of St. John Paul

Students, faculty and staff celebrated their namesake’s feast day at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries Oct. 20.


Students gathered in the gym where singer-songwriter Marie Miller kicked off the retreat with a performance. Following Miller’s performance, the school celebrated Mass together before they were dismissed to attend two 30-minute breakout sessions of their choice. Options included a talk with Miller, a service project and an interest meeting for students considering the summer mission trip to Banicá, Dominican Republic, with Father Keith D. Cummings, chaplain.

During the second breakout session, students had an opportunity to help the service club by packing lunches to donate to the Eleanor Kennedy Shelter in Fort Belvoir.

“Students made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, packed them with a variety of snacks and a handwritten note,” said sophomore Eleanor Brunsman, a member of the service club. “The bags would then be donated to the homeless.”

Between 40 and 45 students assisted with the project. “It was organized, very sticky, chaos,” said Anna Foster, English teacher and moderator of the service club.

 “In just under 30 minutes, we assembled (more than) 300 lunches to donate,” said junior Ciara Nalda, service club president.

Students who went on last year’s Banicá trip shared their experiences, showed photos and addressed questions and concerns from interested peers. Testifying to the spiritually transformative power of the mission trip, they encouraged their peers to seize the opportunity to experience the power of a mission trip for themselves.

Following breakout sessions and lunch, students returned to the gym for adoration, during which they focused their attention on God who was present in the “burning bush” placed in the center of the gym. Richard Malebranche, guidance counselor, led those gathered in prayerful reflection. Eight diocesan priests heard confession during this time.

“My favorite part was confession, because it was just quiet time to spend with the Lord, and to forget about any tests and quizzes I have next week,” said sophomore Alexandra Barrick. She said the retreat brought her closer to God and she was thankful for the opportunity.

After adoration, students could attend two additional breakout sessions before returning to the gym for a final procession and prayer.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017