By Archbishop Mitty
High School Staff
One of the greatest challenges for the 1,000 plus Monarchs from Archbishop Mitty High School who participate in retreats each year is setting down their smartphones for a weekend. But the community that follows when students put down technology and engage in thoughtful, meaningful conversation with classmates brings students closer to friends, family, and God.
“Asking students to put down their cell phones for a few days allows them the time and space to slow down,” said Director of Campus Ministry Tim Wesmiller. “It enables them to deeply reflect on daily experiences that sometimes pass by too quickly. At first, many students are reluctant to let go, but in final reflections, it’s universally true that they profoundly appreciate being more present to their experiences on retreat.”
Retreats, by their very nature, require students to step away from the demands of daily life — homework, music lessons, sports practices — and engage in the present moment. Sometimes that engagement comes in the form of appreciating nature. Other times, it comes from a much-needed conversation with a friend or classmate.
Monarchs have a chance to participate in at least four retreats during high school: Awakenings for freshmen, Agape for sophomores, Quest for juniors, and Kairos for seniors. Each retreat has a different Biblical reading and focus. None of the retreats permit the use of cell phones, iPads, or laptops. The retreats are led mostly by students with upperclassmen leading the freshman, sophomore, and junior retreats and recent alumni returning to campus to guide senior retreats.
In a world where teenagers are constantly bombarded by texts and notifications from Instagram and SnapChat, a retreat provides a break from the noise and a chance to reflect on the kinds of relationships that form IRL…in real life. Small group discussions allow students who normally don’t interact to reflect together and realize they have more in common than they ever imagined. Sometimes, these meetings spark new, lifelong friendships. Other times, small groups remind Monarchs they’re not alone in their struggles, and they have a community of people who want to support them.
Perhaps the greatest gift of retreats is that Monarchs get this time to think without distraction. As students reflect and focus on the present moment, they become acutely aware of the beautiful community that is all around them, ready to help them in everything they pursue. By putting down their phones, Monarchs see the people who surround them, ready to support them as they make the world more beautiful and whole.