In the spring of 1994, ten McNicholas High School juniors embarked on a retreat with Fenwick High School students, leading to one of McNick’s most beloved traditions: the Kairos retreat.
McNick has continued this tradition over the past 20 years, and this August, 34 seniors attended the 100th McNicholas Kairos retreat. To honor the past 100 retreats, Kairos alumni, teachers, and family members gathered for a mass and reception at McNick to reflect on the bonds they had created through the Kairos.
The Kairos retreat was first started by the Xaverian Brothers in the 1970s and initiated at McNick by former theology teacher Donna Bambach and Fr. Jan Schmidt. Current disciplinarian and past theology teacher Mr. Gerard Kissel, who had personally experienced a Kairos retreat while in high school, suggested that they begin a Kairos program at McNick. “Kairos impacts students because it’s real. It’s not theory. The speakers are talking with you, not at you and so you are able to become a part of the retreat,” Kissel said.
Kairos alum Emily Chambers ‘04, said Kairos affects so many students because it provides them the chance to tell their story in a safe and judgment-free environment. McNick graduate Kristina Rouster O’Connor ’95, who attended the first McNick Kairos retreat, recalled Kairos’ ability to bring the community together. “(Kairos) is a remarkable experience because you get to connect with your classmates in a new, spiritual way,” O’Connor said.
Students have their first chance to attend Kairos each spring as juniors and most look forward to attending as seniors. Kairos retreats, which have always been surrounded by an air of secrecy is something that every student speculates about until they attend. Some are told to bring pumpkins or watermelons and even extra socks, but the last and most important advice that Kairos alums gave for future students was that they ‘‘participate, don’t anticipate.’’
“Go in with an open mind,” said English teacher and Kairos alum Julie Muething. “Take everything as it comes.”