Annual retreat welcomes new freshman class to high school

posted on October 1, 2012

Last Thursday morning, members of the class of 2016 gathered with their teachers and other chaperones at the “medicine wheel” (prayer circle) on the school campus, just east of the church. Then, having prayed for a positive and fulfilling day, they boarded buses for the 15-mile trip to the community of Oglala.

The retreat took place at Our Lady of the Sioux Church, where it has been held annually for the past several years. Retreats are a longstanding tradition at Red Cloud High School, and they are organized by the high school’s Spiritual Formation department. These experiences are intended to build unity in the freshman class, show care and support from the staff, and pique the students’ interest in a deeper exploration of spirituality.

This year’s freshman class includes 51 students, all of whom were present at the retreat. Also in attendance were ten staff and nine upperclassmen. Those students – seven seniors and two juniors – are members of the high school’s Spiritual Leadership Team; students who work with teachers in the Spiritual Formation department on retreats, planning all-school masses, and the like.

The theme of this year’s retreat was "Where are you from? Where are you going?" The retreat’s activities were led by the Spiritual Leadership Team students. After leading some rollicking ice-breakers, they facilitated small group discussions with the freshmen about their highs and lows of the year so far, and had them explore the question of where each of them come from (not just physically).

Later in the day, one senior gave the “RCHS Journey” talk to give the freshmen inspiration and courage to get involved even if they are timid and scared as they begin their journey through high school. The seniors also formed a panel to answer any questions that the freshmen had.

In one of the central freshman retreat traditions, Alvin Slow Bear, a Lakota elder and former teacher at RCHS, spoke to the freshmen about growing in their spirituality. He ended his talk with inviting the students to think about all the intentions for which they could pray, and then to remember these while they made Lakota prayer flags.

The retreat was coordinated by Sister Connie Schmidt and Russ Cournoyer, freshman and sophomore spiritual formation teachers. Looking back on the event, Sr. Connie said,

“I can attest that the Spiritual Leadership Team did an awesome job as leaders during this retreat. They reached out to the freshmen and showed great sensitivity to their present situation of being in transition into high school. Also, three freshmen came up to me after the retreat and asked how they themselves could be part of the Spiritual Leadership Team. They wanted serve in ways such as they saw the juniors and seniors doing for them on the retreat. What a witness the upperclassmen were to the freshmen!”

The members of the class of 2016 reported that they found retreat to be extremely enjoyable, informative, and beneficial overall. One girl said, “The best part for me was getting to know my other classmates. Surprisingly, I enjoyed hanging out with new people other than my usual group.” As a vehicle for fostering class unity, the retreat was definitely a success.

The rest of the Red Cloud High School students and staff look forward to the class of 2016 taking a full and active role in the social, academic, and spiritual life of the school community!

For a photo gallery of images from freshman retreat, go HERE.