Extending Kairos retreat experience to juniors beneficial

The 2019/2020 school years concluded its first quarter with yet another pending change to the natural order of operation at McNicholas: extending the Kairos retreat experience to juniors. The ultimate goal is to replace junior retreat with Kairos in coming years.

While change is notorious for being uncomfortable, offering an extended overnight retreat experience, such as Kairos, to younger students earlier in their academic career has underlying benefits which aid in personal development prior to the start of senior year.

The Kairos retreat is designed to give space for inward reflection in a safe and small community setting to instill a greater sense of self, whereas retreat experiences such as Appalachia are fundamentally based on taking that inner recognition of self and going out into the world to share it in a large community setting. Therefore, extending the invitation to participate in Kairos to juniors would better enable McNicholas students to, as written above the doors at the end of Theology hallway, “go forth and set the world on fire.”

The shift would look to replace junior retreat with Kairos. “I’ve heard from students, and I’ve heard from parents of students numerous times over the years, you have this powerful retreat experience in essentially what is the last of your eight semesters here,” Theology teacher Jeff Hutchinson-Smyth said. “And the fruit of that, the movement of the spirit in your life, self-awareness, and that big leap forward in faith growth, comes when you have one eighth of your high school life left. I think the idea of helping to locate that path at an earlier point has the capacity to improve the quality of life and take that growth even farther.”

Theology teacher Mary-Beth Sandmann has been the lead coordinator of the Kairos retreat since 2010. “I think for senior year [Kairos] opens a lot of doors to live out what it means to be a follower of Jesus and live like Jesus lived. In this community we expect a kind of ‘stepping up,’ and I think that we’ll see that,” Sandmann said.

Traditionally, Kairos has been offered to seniors in the fall and spring, rising seniors in August, and one group of juniors in March. “I think going as a junior gave me a boost in self-confidence, and I realized that there are all these great people around me. I feel like I can go out and be involved. Kairos builds community,” March Kairos participant and senior Donald Noble said.

A change such as this, according to Hutchinson-Smyth, could leave room for more off campus service retreat experiences for seniors. Offering Kairos to juniors is a step in the direction of McNicholas high school’s mission: Helping youth attain full stature in Christ.

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In the past, the only junior Kairos has been the March Kairos. The transition of moving Kairos to junior year exclusively will begin with the 2019/2020 school year. “The seniors that are going in January don’t get to keep all the friendships they make when they are there. I went as a junior, so I got to keep all those friendships as a senior,” senior Ellie Rudolph said.

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