The days were long and meaningful. One morning began with an 8:00 a.m. breakfast and an 8:30 prayer service. It would end with a 10:30 p.m. prayer service. The Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools Student Leadership Retreat, March 6-10, at the Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center in West Hartford, CT, managed to pack a lot into its time frame.
After hosting a virtual XBSS Retreat in 2021 due to the pandemic, our schools were thrilled to return in-person, to spend time together, learn, grow, and embrace what so many others who have gone before them experienced.
Small group discussions, guest speakers, thought-provoking activities, shared meals, and daily prayer were just a few highlights of the retreat for the 78 high school juniors, 13 seniors, and 18 adults. Service, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the Xaverian tradition were all explored to create an experience in which students came to realize their “connectedness” to the Xaverian charism.
“Charity is fantastic,” said one presenter. “It is what you all do on a regular basis. You address the problem head on. We go to the soup kitchen, the shelter, we serve in those capacities and then we go home. The justice part is stopping the root cause, why we have to go to those charities, those homes, those shelters… stopping it in its tracks, and today we will learn about how to do that, at least beginning to talk about that.”
A variety of cultures, backgrounds and experiences were represented by all of the students. Each of the 13 XBSS schools were challenged as to how they should think and how best to serve their respective communities, seeking that justice while serving the marginalized and forgotten.
Ben Horgan, XBSS Formation Director, opened the session on diversity and relayed a few historical stories from the school network, including the time St. Xavier in Louisville reached out and played Louisville Central in football before Kentucky integrated. Central was an all-black school that, at the time, could not play other local schools. The bold move by St. Xavier showcased a deeply rooted belief of the Xaverian Brothers, as stated in the ‘Fundamental Principles’, of the inherit worth and value that all people are created in God’s image.
The retreat, which brought together servant leaders from all across the school network, both called and energized students to return to their home communities to empower others, promote justice, and initiate change.
“One of the most meaningful aspects of the retreat is a sense of being part of something bigger than yourselves,” said Jim Conley, longtime Campus Ministry Director at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, MA. “It is connecting with the larger XBSS community, and the relationships that result from that, as well as the exchange of ideas about what is happening at the different schools, and giving the students an opportunity to bring those things back to their own school.”
Joe Cucinotta, a senior at Xaverian Brothers High School, was the videographer for this year’s retreat which can be viewed on here YouTube.
“Thank you for this lifechanging experience,” he said. “Much love.”