Impacting Lives One Retreat at a Time

Alyssa Buchheit, Editor in Chief

Each year of high school, St. Dominic students go on a retreat. From freshman and sophomore year retreats to Kairos and senior overnight retreats, students get a chance to grow closer to God and each other.

Senior Sam Schilling has just returned from leading a senior overnight retreat last week, and he loved every second of it.

“Leading my retreat through peer ministry really felt like something I was meant to do, and I thoroughly enjoyed creating an environment that influences growth and bonding with the people we are surrounded by. The retreats here have made me realize how little we actually know about each other and how alike each and every one of us is. They also put life into perspective and make you realize everyone has a story about how they got to be who they are now, so don’t judge a book by its cover,” Schilling said.

Schilling’s favorite retreat was his junior year Kairos retreat, and the impact of the three days and two nights at King’s House Retreat & Renewal Center in Belleville, Illinois has altered his life tremendously.

“Kairos was a pivotal point in my life. It is a huge part of who I am now and has influenced the relationships I have with my peers,” Schilling said.

Science and engineering teacher Bob Hennekes has attended numerous Kairos retreats with St. Dominic, and he cherishes the time he gets to spend out of the classroom with students.

“For me, I wanted to go on retreats because they give me the opportunity to talk to kids and get to know them… They allow me to be very, very honest and not worry about the relationship of a teacher with a student but instead worry about the relationship of two people who love God,” Hennekes said.

Mr. Hennekes loves seeing the camaraderie between St. Dominic students on retreats and seeing that camaraderie translate back to everyday life.

“I think what happens on retreats is kids get away from school and from everything else they’re used to in their lives, and because of that, they get more in touch with themselves and others… I love seeing friendships bud that you would never expect, and you see people coming to know and understand their parents, God and their friends in a little bit of a different way,” Hennekes said.

One of our campus ministers, Mr. Andrew Struttmann, agrees with Mr. Hennekes that getting out of our day-to-day environment promotes self-growth.

“I think our retreats help students grow closer to their faith by providing opportunities to open up to God’s grace. When we take the time out of our daily life to center ourselves with God, He is going to tug on our hearts in different ways. I think that happens on retreat a lot when students are open to it,” Struttmann said.

One of Mr. Struttmann’s biggest wishes is for students to come into retreats with realistic expectations.

“If we expect too little, we can be taken aback by the experience. If we expect too much, the experience will be very underwhelming. Going in with an open heart and an open mind, but with realistic expectations, is very important for making the experience beneficial and memorable,” Struttmann said.

Like Schilling, senior Halie Hebron just returned from her senior overnight retreat, and she is so excited to share her faith with others.

“For the last two retreats I’ve been on, I came off them with a Jesus high. That is obviously awesome, but after senior retreat I now have a different understanding of how Jesus wants to be intimate with us. It was really cool to have that revelation,” Hebron said.

Hebron cannot wait to dive deeper into her faith, and she wants to start by giving retreat advice to underclassmen.

“Keep an open mind, because a lot of retreats, especially freshman and sophomore, aren’t going to be as exciting as others. You’re probably going to think they’re a little weird, but they’re preparing you for your Kairos and senior retreats, which are more intimate. Just keep an open mind, keep an open heart and get excited for what’s coming,” Hebron said.

Schilling also had some input about younger students going on retreats.

“If I would go on retreats again as a freshman, sophomore or junior, I would definitely share more, contribute more towards conversations and not be too shy to be a part of the community I’m surrounded by. It makes your retreats so much more meaningful and fun,” Schilling said.

Religion teacher Mr. Winkelmann agrees with Schilling, telling students that the more you put into it, the more you will get out. He also believes that nobody is ever “too cool” or better than a retreat.

“My personal favorite thing about going on retreat is how much I get out of it. It’s a great time to step away from the craziness of life and just take a few breaths and relax. I really feel God deeply at them,” Winkelmann said.

Mr. Winkelmann believes all students can have faith experiences, and just being excited to get off school for a while can dramatically change into feeling like God understands you in a genuine and personal way.

Assistant principal Mrs. Nikki Schuler has also gone on several retreats. She loves seeing Christ reveal Himself in students and other faculty. On retreats, it’s almost impossible not to draw closer to Him when you see the way He is working in others.

“I think the biggest way I’ve seen retreats impact students is with the unexpected. Students get to spend time with peers and staff whom they might not normally. They get to hear stories, struggles and testimony from many they may not normally interact with. This allows students and staff to realize that they are truly not alone,” Schuler said.

Whether you’ve gone on zero or twenty retreats, you can always count on God to be working through St. Dominic retreats. Be open to His work and savor all the moments you experience, big and small.