Seniors retreat before they advance

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.


COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash