Pictured above: A screenshot from the 2021 XBSS virtual retreat held online via Zoom throughout the month of March.

“You are here because God wants you to be here,” affirmed Aaron Bau, a senior at Malden Catholic, addressing the 2021 XBSS Student Leadership virtual retreat. In light of the pandemic, this year’s program was adapted to occur over five online sessions spread out over the month of March rather than the usual four day in-person stretch.

“The flexibility of a virtual format gave us the opportunity to bring in more voices from across our network and expand flexibility with the topics we cover,” said Benjamin Horgan, XBSS Formation Director and coordinator of the retreat.

While nothing could replace an in-person experience, this year’s format allowed students to build relationships with their peers across the network over a longer period of time. 140 students and staff from across the 13 XBSS schools gathered online for the virtual program aimed at reflecting on the mission and charism of the Xaverian Brothers, building collaborative relationships, and empowering students to become faith-filled leaders in their school communities.

Some students shared that the virtual retreat was the best experience they had on Zoom since the start of the pandemic nearly a year ago. Faculty members thanked the XBSS  office for providing such a wonderful retreat for students and congratulated the superb work of the planning team.

Having started over 30 years ago under Brother Charles Moran, then Director of Sponsorship, and Michael Welch, then Administrator at Xaverian Brothers High School, this year’s program featured a greater focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Retreatants and leaders kept in vigilant prayer over the month across the network.

“God puts people on your path for a reason,” Nick DeSousa, a Malden Catholic alum and retreat speaker shared with students via Zoom. “You are here for a reason.”

Chad Puclowski, an adult leader from Xaverian Brothers High School concurred. “God has called each of you to be here,” he said.

Modified for cyberspace, Deacon Greg Thompson, a long-time presenter on the XBSS retreats, led funny icebreaker activities for students as they acquainted themselves with the digital format.

Dr. Shari Berga of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School and Mr. Steve Ruemenapp of St. John’s Prep led students in a series of reflections and activities that raised a collective awareness of those experiencing injustice and guided the retreatants on ways to respond as a Xaverian community.

Students developed prayer services and presentations as seniors from last year ministered to the juniors.

Each school was asked to develop a leadership project for their school group to take back and implement in their community with the aim of enhancing their school’s Xaverian-Catholic identity. At the retreat’s conclusion, students presented their proposed leadership projects to their peers via Zoom.

New friendships were forged, and connections were made, albeit digitally, but with a newfound appreciation, excitement and enthusiasm to one day meet face-to-face.

“You were called to be here,” said Mike Driscoll, an adult leader from St. John’s Prep. “There is a purpose, I assure you.”

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