“Today we’re climbing a mountain” said Thomas More sophomore Elizabeth Zuranski. “Really? Sweet! Let’s go” piped up several high school boys from the back row. “Well,” said Elizabeth, “not literally.”
Last Saturday, November 9th, nine undergraduates from Thomas More College made their way to Saint Patrick’s Parish in nearby Nashua. The student body regularly makes an appearance at Saint Patrick’s on Sundays, and the parish’s priest-in-residence, Father John Healey, has been a longtime chaplain for the College. Needless to say, both the college and Saint Patrick’s have benefited from each other. Thomas More students have assisted as altar servers, in the choir, and as catechists for Saint Patrick’s CCD program. Last Saturday, however, brought a new chance to carry the fruits of a liberal arts education to the larger Catholic community: leading a weekend retreat for high school students.
Several weeks before the retreat, Kelly Lockwood—Saint Patrick’s director of religious education—came to the College seeking recruits. The goal? A day-long retreat for Catholic high schoolers either preparing for Confirmation or already Confirmed but needing a chance to reflect more seriously on their faith. The theme of the retreat was taken from the Gospel of John: “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” Thomas More students volunteered to assist at the retreat, leading group discussions, giving talks, and generally providing a witness for young Catholics in the midst of a culture often antithetical to their faith.
“I wan’t sure how it’d go at first,” admitted junior Ian Kosko. “I was supposed to give a talk on my own experience of being a Catholic, but as a convert, I wasn’t sure if they’d get how important it is for them to seriously consider their faith—I mean not treating it for granted.” The sentiment was shared, to some extent. For most of the Thomas More students who volunteered, this was the first time giving a retreat. “It was a little awkward at first,” said senior Joshua Keatley. “But as the morning went on, the kids at the retreat became more comfortable. Attentive even, asking good questions, things like that. Most of the time.”
Themes during the retreat included topics such as prayer, confession and the conscience, life in the sacraments, and other challenges and hopes for young Catholics today. Although the talks centered on serious subjects, the general atmosphere of the retreat was reflective and joyful. In between talks, time was taken to let off some energy, as Thomas More students took on the high school boys in an impromptu football match.
After a long day of talks, group discussions, and breaks for pizza and games, the retreat reached a climax as everyone made their way over to the church for Confession—if desired—and Holy Mass. Before the scheduled time for Confession began, sophomore Alison Welton led the retreatants in a silent examination of conscience. After Mass, the evening concluded with a final talk given by sophomore Joe MacDonald, followed by a spaghetti supper finished off with ice cream. By the buzz of conversation and laughter among those present, it was clear that the retreat was a great success.
Like their College’s patron, Thomas More students often have the opportunity to proclaim their Catholic Faith by sharing the fruits of a liberal education with the larger community. Like Saint Thomas More, too, they do so not strictly out of obligation, but from the joy that follows from the certainty of truth.