Retreats are opportunities to withdrawal from the regular routine to afford time to pray, strengthen faith and grow spiritually. Every year students participate in a retreat day designed for their grade level. These retreats are held off campus so that it is a “time out” to focus on God’s love and grace in our lives. Attendance at class retreats is a requirement as part of the religion curriculum.
The freshman retreat takes place in September and provides the students the opportunity to meet their new classmates. This retreat takes the form of a pilgrimage to the many sacred shrines in Loreto and to learn the history of the beginnings of our diocese. Students journey from the Carmelite Monastery, to the beautiful gardens and shrines of the Schwab estate, then to the shrine of Our Lady of the Alleghenies. Prince (Father) Demetrius Gallitzin is the most significant person in the formation of the diocese. After hearing his story, students tour his rectory, visit his tomb and end with Mass at the basilica built where his first church stood. It’s an inspiring day. What a sacred little town with so much history.
The sophomore retreat also takes place in the fall and is held at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson. The retreat focus is “Do you know where you’re going to?” Through prayer, some fun activities, presentation, a group panel, and an opportunity to talk with college students as they show them the campus, students have a chance to consider some of the possibilities for their future. During the retreat, students are reminded to keep God’s guidance primary in all their decision. Students are intrigued with the unique, monastic style of Our Lady of Mercy chapel and like the opportunity to celebrate Mass with just “their” class.
The junior class retreat is held at St. Francis University in Loretto in the spring. The title of the retreat is "Making Connections." The connections that are made are sharing faith and self with others, then, sharing self with God and letting God respond. The day consists of large and small group activities, letter writing, prayer, Mass in the college chapel and a campus tour. Because the retreat is held in the spring, the reflective letter writing takes place outside on the beautiful campus lawn (weather permitting). In a concrete memo, the "message" from God continues to sustain the students after the retreat.
The senior class retreat is held in May and begins with Mass at a local parish. This retreat is a day of celebration at a picnic facility. It is a day of thanking God for the years the class has had at McCort and the bonds they’ve made with each other over the years.
Kairos is an optional week-end retreat for junior and senior class members. It is held in the spring at Antiochian Village Retreat and Conference Center in Ligonier. This retreat invites everyone to enter into “God’s time” without concern for clock time, homework, phones, etc. Through peer ministry, participants experience Christian leadership, support, and community. Participants are invited to grow in understanding of themselves, of how God “fits into” their lives, and the beauty of having deeper relationships with others and God. Kairos retreats are conducted at many high schools and college campuses. It has become very popular with our students.
Each year the administration, faculty and staff spend a day of retreat together. As Catholic school educators, we, too, recognize the value of taking time to grow in our faith through prayer and reflection. If our faith doesn’t continue to be rekindled, we cannot hand it on to our students and that is part of our mission as Catholic school teachers.