Joy to the Heart: An Essay on the January Sophomore Retreat

Adrian Font ‘26 (right) with Danny Chung-A-Fung ‘24, one of the retreat leaders, at the Little Portion Farm.

When one “retreats”, it is a form of reconnecting with something foundational, whether it be with internal conflicts or external influences.  Retreating, in its essence, serves as a powerful means of rediscovering and reinforcing connections. To me, the January Sophomore Retreat was a journey of reconnecting with the profound roots embedded in Xaverian history and Charism, and after experiencing that retreat I felt reconnected with that Xavierian history. Stepping out of the routine of our everyday lives provided a rare opportunity to delve into profound reflections on our true motives and how we live our lives and prioritize what truly matters.

As we know by now, the Xaverian values are woven into the framework of the Good Counsel Community. These values serve as the philosophy that contributes to the cultivation of individuals striving to become the best versions of themselves. In this retreat, we had the opportunity to focus on the Xaverian value of Zeal. To me, opening mass with Father Tom was a humbling experience where I could practice my faith. Usually, we go to Mass every Sunday with different intentions in mind, but this Mass felt different and we were nurturing different parts of ourselves. I feel that is the reason why this mass was implemented in the retreat because it contributed to our retreating.

We then had the opportunity to connect with our fellow sophomores in small groups. While we were in our small groups, we went around the room and shared our strengths and weaknesses, and it felt nice seeing others make themselves vulnerable and more relatable. One of the members in my group sang a song as her talent and it was shocking to find out that she was that talented at singing because I didn’t know that before. I think I was able to have zeal in the moments I shared with my small group because of the different environment in contrast to school. Even though I was not friends with most of the people in my small group, I was able to get to know them better- because again, a retreat is all about reconnecting.

We also played this “Xaverian Values Game” where we had to express one of the Xaverian Values by acting it out or conveying it in some sort of way. For example, to represent trust, we conducted a trust fall, which surprisingly did not convey the value well enough for the person to guess!

For most, one of the more resonating moments in this retreat was the outdoor community work at the Little Portion Farm, located on the property of the Shrine. We originally thought that we would be able to work with power tools and construct tables, but we ended up working in the fields trimming asparagus and okra crops. It felt nice to give back to the Little Portion Farm because the farm was a medium to give back to those in need, and I was happy to be a small part of it.

During our closing prayer service, the responsorial psalm came from Psalm 19:8, which says, “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” Directing my energy towards providing for something or someone other than myself felt good and satisfying- it’s almost as if it brought joy to my heart.  I believe that Sophomore Retreat was an event that resonated uniquely with each sophomore, whether they were happy to be there, or would have rather been in a classroom at school. This retreat offered a diverse array of takeaways through the activities my retreat group took part in. The setting of the retreat was very tranquil and distracted from all the other worries I had been having.

Carving out time for reflection and connection is essential for leading more meaningful lives. I hope that each individual recognizes how much retreating and having a sense of community helps bring joy to the heart.

By Adrian Font, staff writer, The Talon, the student newspaper of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, located in Olney, Maryland.

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