Senior year ushers in many milestones for young adults. Final athletics seasons, last homecoming and prom dances, college applications and acceptance letters, and, of course, graduation.
But for those who have the blessing to experience a Catholic education, seniors get to look forward to Kairos, a multiple day retreat where students and faculty connect on a powerful, deep level and explore their relationship with one another as well as their relationship with God. Chaminade Julienne alumni often say that they consider the Kairos retreat a spiritually powerful component of their high school experience.
Ministry and service staff were committed to innovating the Kairos experience to abide by new safety guidelines and protocols without sacrificing the spiritual and emotional connection that Kairos grants students and chaperones.
“As is everything this year, our first Kairos of 2020 looked a little different,” said Fr. Bob Jones, SM, Chaplain. “It was shortened from four days to three. We were socially distanced and wearing masks, which meant there were none of the usual hugs. Everyone had their own room to sleep in. Witness talks were pre-recorded by alums and shown as videos. And we ate all our meals with only two people at either end of the table.”
Building a strong community and commitment to developing a mission-driven culture are crucial to CJ, and even more crucial now as events like Kairos pivot from traditional practices in 2020. CJ is driven to maintain the spirit of these events despite them looking a bit different.
“At the same time, however, many things were the same,” said Fr. Jones. “We could still pray with each other and celebrate the Eucharist. There were many small group discussions (most of them happening outside in the beautiful fall-like weather). Faculty and staff participated and chaperoned. And the Holy Spirit was still active in the hearts of the retreatants as they grew in knowledge of God's love for them.”
From a student prospective, the first Kairos retreat of this year helped foster a connection with peers, staff, and God that is paramount as everyone adjusts to social distancing requirements, business shutdowns and activity postponements.
“On this retreat, I experienced God's love in a way I never thought possible,” said Mikayla Jette, a class of 2021 senior at CJ.
Mikayla was feeling distant and somewhat broken down before going on Kairos. She mentioned struggling with bringing peace to her mind and bringing herself to the current moment, and that she saw others experiencing God’s grace but found it difficult to know when her grace was coming.
“I tried to tell myself that I was there for a reason, that something big was coming,” said Jette. “I tried to keep the mentality of ‘be here now.’”
Focusing on the moment allowed Jette to truly listen to the witness talks and participate in small group discussions without half-thinking of all that she can’t control.
“I connected with the messages shared and my small group was right by my side the whole time,” said Jette. “I was able to make connections and gain new perspectives of my peers. I began to feel my walls coming down and heart opening up to the grace of God. The talks focused a lot on knowing where you are at and how that impacts your relationship with God. Each time a leader spoke their message really hit home. I was able to learn alot about myself on this retreat.”
God’s plan is not always clear, especially during difficult times. Kairos allows retreatants and other participants to build lifelong bonds centered around faith that His plan will come to fruition soon enough and the CJ community will help serve as your base when you need someone to confide in or something to rely on. Coming to this realization with your Kairos group is something most will carry with them throughout their entire journey with God, long after graduation.
“God's Time is unique for everyone and you have to be willing to let your guard down and make space for the spirit,” said Jette. “You will know His presence.”