Most area Catholic high schools, as part of their spiritual development, organize a retreat—or other type of spiritual send-off—for students during their senior year. Senior retreats, or special projects, are highlighted below.
Bishop Machebeuf High School
Machebeuf seniors took a three-day retreat with their entire class to ignite their faith and grow closer to Christ.
The class left in February to travel to Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center in Larkspur to experience a series of talks and activities centered on John 1:5: “The light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it.”
School campus ministry director Sara Sahlezghi said the seniors received the sacraments and worked to a deeper conversion to Christ.
“We had a speaker come in and give talks about living in the freedom of Christ and about his light shining in the darkness of our own hearts,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see them engage in their faith in a deeper way.”
It wasn’t the first school retreat for the seniors, but it may have been the most impactful.
Senior Caroline Paciaroni, 18, said she had a “crazy, awesome adoration experience.”
“I really felt God’s voice in my life,” she said. “I was really stressed out about college. Honestly, for the first time in a retreat, I actually gave everything to God.”
She said she had a spiritual experience after letting go of her fear of the future. She later shared her experience with classmates.
“It helped my prayer life,” Paciaroni said. “It was by far the best retreat I’ve ever been on.”
Mullen High School
As part of a senior’s transition from their last year at Mullen High School, the pastoral office developed a retreat experience to support this “final passage from high school,” according to Carl Unrein, president.
This year’s retreat was held at Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center near Larkspur, and about 80 seniors attended the event.
“The focus of the retreat is one of reflection, connection and vision,” Unrein said.
For one of the addresses to students, they welcomed back one of their own: Mullen alumni from the class of 2013, Nick Diercks. Diercks shared with the teens his own experience and insights as a college freshman and the importance of “grounding oneself in faith the first year out of high school.”
Another highlight was celebration of the Palm Sunday liturgy with Holy Cross Father Don Dilg, who served as the group’s spiritual director. The class of 2014 also heard from a Mullen parent on the family dynamics of letting a son and daughter go from home-to-college life. The retreat ended with the class enjoying the snow and tubing down a mountain.
Regis Jesuit High School, girls and boys divisions
Seniors at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora have the opportunity to choose a retreat that suits their personalities and interests during their final year of high school.
“The offerings include hiking, arts and silent retreats,” explained Charisse Broderick King, director of communications, “as well as opportunities to travel to events like the March for Life, or the Ignatian Family Teach-In.”
In addition, each senior completes a capstone project based on reflection and exploration around the Jesuit hallmarks of the graduate including: intellectual competence, openness to growth, being loving, becoming religious, and commitment to doing justice.
“The capstone is meant to express the culmination of the student’s growth during his or her years at Regis Jesuit in a tangible form,” Broderick King said. “The most important aspect of it is reflection, and ultimately, the project should answer the question: How is the student different because of his or her experiences at Regis Jesuit High School?”
The school community also has a spiritual send-off for seniors and departing faculty members each year, praying over them at an end-of-year Mass of thanksgiving. This year’s Mass was celebrated on campus May 1.