Sophomore retreat is a day of service

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Sophomores from Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington had the opportunity to "retreat" from their daily, fast-paced lives and enter more closely into a world with Christ. This year's class retreat was centered on the importance of being stewards and serving others.

The April 12 retreat started off with a simulation of how Jesus washed His disciples' feet. After a reflection from the Gospel of John, students were instructed to wash their classmates' hands to replicate how Jesus served His disciples by washing their feet.

Theology teacher and retreat leader, Edward Fitzpatrick said, "The point of the prayer service was to give not just a reflection on the Scripture, but a real world experience of what it would be like to humble yourself as Jesus did."

From there, the sophomores moved to the gymnasium, where there were many different team-building activities set up. These activities - such as mazes, cup stacking and partner games - were meant to teach a lesson on the different types of relationships a person can have with Christ and other people.

By mid-morning, the sophomore class loaded onto buses and vans and were transported to 14 different sites across the Washington metropolitan area, where they provided hands-on service to organization such as Catholic Charities' Christ House, Cornerstones (formerly Reston Interfaith), St. Martin de Porres Senior Center, and Powhatan Nursing Home. Students participated in service opportunities at each site, including packing meals, organizing and serving food, gardening, and being a "ministry of presence" to the elderly - all of which were beneficial to those who were served, as well as to those who served.

"Even though my group wasn't face-to-face with the people who we were helping, we all still knew that what we were doing was making a difference for a lot of people," said Kathryn Sandercock. Her service group volunteered at the Capital Area Food Bank and worked on bagging potatoes and onions for the needy.

At the end of the day, the sophomores returned to campus, where their work wasn't quite done. Students wrote letters to the troops and assembled more than 500 sandwiches for Martha's Table in Washington.

"Service is an important focus of our school's mission," said Kathryn Hogan, O'Connell's Christian Service Coordinator. "We gave our students some choices on this retreat day to help them engage in service that might not have been obvious to them before. Our hope is that they can build on the experiences they gained during their sophomore service day as they develop their personal service journey over the next few years of high school and beyond."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016