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Record number of O'Connell students attend the spring Kairos retreat

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The Campus Ministry staff at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington facilitates a variety of retreat opportunities for its students — from mandatory grade-level retreats to voluntary retreat programs that supplement the daily spiritual experience.

One such optional retreat is the Kairos retreat, which takes place each spring and fall on the grounds of Camp St. Charles in southern Maryland.

It aims to reset the priorities of those who participate, encouraging them to live out the word of God through various faith-based activities, testimonials, adoration and Mass. The retreat is called Kairos because “Kairos time” means God’s time. When one is on the retreat they are expected to live through Kairos time as opposed to “Chronos time.”

The Kairos retreat is student-run, led by those who have attended once before, along with several faculty members. Senior Malia Stevens served as a student leader at the most recent Kairos. “As a leader, I was able to lead my small group similar to how Christ led his Twelve Apostles, with faith and love,” she said.

This spring’s retreat was the sixth Kairos hosted by O’Connell and a record number of students expressed interest.

While Kairos typically is comprised of 20-30 students, the April session welcomed 52, including 13 student leaders. Although there was concern that such a large group would prevent students from receiving the same fulfilment and experience, the result proved otherwise, with many saying it was the best Kairos yet. The students were able to open up in their small groups while also working with and learning from everyone.

“Our goal is to provide students with an experience that will help them grow in their own faith journey,” said Kathryn Haas, O’Connell’s Christian Service Coordinator, who has helped facilitate all the school’s Kairos retreats.

“Kairos was incredible for me,” said senior Nick Hidalgo. “I was able to grow in my faith life through the connections I made with my friends during the retreat.”

“Kairos was a totally eye-opening and peaceful experience,” said senior Abby Dinegar. “It was exactly what I needed at just the right time, reminding me to focus on the present and not always on what’s coming next — college.”

Students and faculty members came back from the spring Kairos renewed. During their four-day experience — with no phones, communication to the outside world or sense of time — they were able to devote their attention to their own relationship with God in their everyday lives, and develop a plan for their journey forward.

“Kairos is always a renewing experience, also for me,” said Haas. “I feel like I’ve gained spiritual growth on each retreat. Being able to have an experience, outside of a classroom — getting to know each other as people and share our own faith — is a very special treat.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018