By Dr. Patrick Slattery, Executive Director, XBSS
WEST HARTFORD, CT – “You are my life!” exclaimed Brother Brian Davis. He stood before a group of students at the Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools annual Junior Retreat at the Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford, CT, from March 8-12. Davis asked students to reflect on the fact that so many Xaverian Brothers dedicated their entire lives and careers to students just like them. His statement emphasized his point and students took the sentiment to heart all week, garnering an even greater appreciation for the opportunities that exist for them in their schools as a result of the dedication and love of all Xaverian Brothers over the years.
Students from across the network, along with teacher-leaders from each school, gathered to realize their “connectedness” to the Xaverian charism, the ministry of XBSS, and their mission as it is lived out in stewardship in the global community. Fr. David Choquette, a graduate of Xavier High School, celebrated the opening Mass. Other diocesan priests and XBSS educators were present throughout the week to assist with reconciliation services, offer talks centered on themes taken from the Fundamental Principals, and help facilitate various large group activities. Deacon Greg Thompson, Director of Liturgy and Music at St. John’s Catholic Church in Madison, Alabama shared his powerful life story of overcoming disabilities and recognizing that he was “made in God’s image and according to God’s likeness.” His annual talk was a highlight of the retreat week, and the standing ovation afforded him when finished surely evidenced the impact his message had on the students.
Students engaged in service opportunities around the greater Harford area. From service work at area food pantries, homeless shelters, and inner-city schools, students embraced the daily theme of “manifesting God’s love to the People’s of the World.”
Dr. Patrick Slattery, Executive Director of XBSS, concluded the retreat by showing a photo of the statue of St. Francis Xavier perched above St. Walburgis’ Church in Bruges, where Theodore Ryken would often pass in his daily travels. The statue shows St. Francis Xavier “standing ready” with his left foot moving from the perch, symbolic of taking action. Dr. Slattery asked the students to place themselves in Theodore Ryken’s footsteps, looking up at St. Francis Xavier. How often did Ryken question if he had the fortitude to accomplish that which God was calling him to do? How often did he consider that he was maybe ill-prepared for the task ahead? Yet, that statue of St. Francis Xavier must have inspired Ryken.
“We all have our shortcomings, but God calls us to action,” said Slattery. “He calls us to step forward off that perch. We are called to give our gifts as a gift to others.”
With that theme in mind, Slattery challenged the XBSS students to trust in God and have confidence in their God-given gifts. He challenged them to return to their communities and make a difference, just like Ryken did and St. Francis Xavier before him.