On the afternoon of Saturday, October 6, following a festive Friday Night Lights and a busy morning of SAT test taking, 13 students and three adults carved out time to focus on their spiritual lives.
Accompanied by Head Chaplain The Rev. Betsy Gonzalez, Assistant Chaplain Timothy Seamans, and English teacher Lauren Echko, the students ventured to Shrine Mont – a retreat center located in the mountains of western Virginia and owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia – for an overnight spiritual retreat.
Last winter, a couple of students approached Gonzalez about organizing such an opportunity, and she was thrilled to help make their idea a reality. The retreat was offered first to seniors, 11 of whom participated, and the two remaining spots were filled by juniors.
“The ability to take some time for the students to think about where they are on their spiritual journeys is really important,” says Gonzalez, who also stressed the importance of getting away from one’s everyday environment.
“This trip was an invitation to have thoughtful conversations with peers, thoughtful conversations with yourself, and for many of the kids, thoughtful conversations with God,” she adds.
Gonzalez imagines that future retreats will be increasingly student-led, and she is excited to see where they take it. This year’s participants asked for the details of the retreat to remain a mystery, so as not to spoil some of the most meaningful moments for future attendees.
“I’m always amazed by how supportive our students are of one another, by how thoughtful they are, and by how much they carry with them,” notes Gonzales. “This was a wonderful opportunity to get to say, ‘you are wonderfully and marvelously made, and you are great just the way you are.’”
The retreat was attended by Rodolfo Bissot ’19, Natalie Block ’19, Emma Cunningham-Bradshaw ’19, Kyndall Donalson ’19, Sam Fanning ’19, Payton Leeby ’19, John Moses ’19, Alina Ovcharenko ’20, Calyle Peyton ’19, Will Smith ’19, Logan Tyler ’19, Didi Tyree ’19, and Natasha Wanjiru ’20.