By Bob Castello

Rachel Hall was struggling as a sophomore at St. Joseph’s. She had come from a public school and hadn’t “found a place” for herself.

Then, at the suggestion of her father to try something new and after an invitation from a friend, Hall attended the St. Joe’s Advent retreat.

“My life was kind of changed after that,” she said. “That retreat definitely holds a special place in my heart.”

For many seniors in the Class of 2019, the annual retreats have been high-water marks, both meaningful and memorable.

“Growing up, Catholicism wasn’t a huge part of my life, and I think these retreats have kind of gotten me closer to God and gotten me closer to the church,” Miles Murray said.

“I think it’s been important in growing my relationship with Jesus and helped me figure out what I want to do in college spiritually. It’s been a very important part of my high school career.”

Emma Nixon attended her first SJCS retreat in the sixth grade. She really enjoyed her freshman retreat, and by her junior year, she was accepted as a leader for the Kairos (God’s time) retreat.

“That was probably the most important retreat to me,” she said, “because I learned a lot about myself and what it meant to actually be a Christian leader. I’d always looked up to the people who led before me.

“It really means a lot to me, because I think Christian leadership is so important, especially to young people who are trying to make their way through high school, which is not an easy thing to do.”

Hall, a leader at Kairos this year, said that retreat is known for creating the strongest bonds.

“I can say that it’s even more special to be able to lead it and see those bonds come together through people that you would have never expected,” she said.

Murray said the bonding begins early on.

“A lot of these guys, I met on the freshman retreat, and I’ve grown closer to them,” he said. “I think it’ll help strengthen our friendships even more as the years go by. I think that has also been a huge aspect of these retreats.”

“I think (it’s) the ability we have at this school to get to know each other so well through these experiences, and just to go off for a weekend and forgot everything that’s going on back at school or at home or whatever and just be with our classmates and get to know each other and get to know the kids older than us and younger than us,” Nixon said.

“I think it has shaped me to be who I am,” said Hall. “It’s allowed me to get to know so many different people at St. Joe’s. It has allowed me to really take hold of what St. Joe’s has to offer, and I can’t be more thankful.”