Eager to make new friends and build connections, students at the 2023 Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools Leadership Retreat arrived at the Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center in West Hartford, CT, with open hearts, ready to receive.
Building upon the momentum of last year’s retreat which reunited students in-person after a virtual session was held in 2021 due to the pandemic, an amplified thrill to connect across the network was on the top of everyone’s mind.
“My favorite part was just meeting everyone,” said one student from Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore, MD. “I absolutely love meeting new friends.”
Each day, packed with meaning, laughter, and wisdom, was meticulously designed to leave students with an unforgettable bonding experience and deepened sense of faith. Through daily prayers, guest speakers, shared meals, thought-provoking activities, and group discussions, 121 students experienced their “connectedness” to the Xaverian charism firsthand.
Dr. Ben Horgan, XBSS Formation Director and Saint John’s High School alum addressed the students.
“Nothing special is achieved without much labor, effort, and zeal,” he stated, quoting the Fundamental Principles of the Xaverian Brothers. “Xaverian spirituality, finding God in the common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life… these words directly relate to our founder, Theodore James Ryken. He was common, he was ordinary, and despite that, look, we’re all here today in this room.”
Ben went on to share the meek and mighty ways God uses people, and how He responds to humble hearts.
“You’re all here for a reason,” he assured the students. “God wanted you to be in this place with your peers from Xaverian schools across the country.”
Inclusion, belonging, diversity, and service were all themes explored during the retreat while a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and life experiences were represented by attendees. Edification, encouragement, and building each other up was central to each day.
“The groups really started to come together,” stated one student. “It’s so incredible to meet students from so many different states, and I’m just really grateful for that experience.”
All 13 XBSS schools were challenged to think about how they could creatively serve the marginalized and forgotten in their respective communities by using their specific God-given gifts, talents, passions, and interests.
“Many of you might underestimate the influence that you have in your communities,” said Dr. Patrick Slattery, XBSS Executive Director, to a crowd of students. “You have a lot of folks that think quite highly of you. When you have that many people seeing something in you, that want to awaken that greatness and potential in you, that’s God speaking to you. There will be moments when God gives you great opportunity to step up and use that leadership. You’re called to something more; to do more, to give more, to give that gift that you have as a gift to others.”
Patrick emphasized how retreats often lead to decisions and asked the students how they could help lead by going back to their schools and communities to pour out what’s been poured into them.
The retreat forged and sharpened servant leaders from across the school network and lit a fire in the hearts of students to return to their communities, empower others, promote justice, serve the marginalized, live as agents of God’s love, and lead the way for lasting change.
Jack McCormick, a student at Loyola University in Baltimore, MD, and graduate of Xavierian Brothers High School in Westwood, MA, was the videographer for this year’s retreat which can be viewed here.
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