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Renowned Retreats

Renowned Retreats

Throughout their four years at Jesuit, students will experience many retreats. All freshmen participate in the Freshman Retreat, but for the next three years there is a range of retreat options to choose from, each a new opportunity for students to grow further in their faith.

"At the heart of Campus Ministry is our annual retreat program, an opportunity for students take an honest look at their lives, better understand where they stand before God, and find motivation for further growth in their faith," said Jimmy Mitchell, Jesuit's director of campus ministry.

The Kairos Retreat, a junior-year focused retreat, is one of the most memorable. Four times during the school year a Kairos (pronounced KYE-rahss) is offered, a three-day, two-night retreat led by senior Peer Ministers. There are typically a few dozen juniors and eight seniors who attend Kairos.

"Kairos has many surprise elements that lead to an unparalleled level of depth and vulnerability in small group conversations and powerful experiences in prayer and through the sacraments," Mitchell said.

Unlike other retreats, Kairos emphasizes the senior Peer Ministers leading the activities. They hold talks and prayers and lead small group discussions for the juniors during the three days. These elements, including confession, often lead to memorable experiences.

"Making a good confession is at the heart of most students' transformational experience at Kairos,” Mitchell said. “Time and time again, I've seen juniors whose lives have been totally turned around by God's merciful love through this great sacrament and their willingness to hold nothing back in the confessional.”

The first two Kairos retreats offered during the 2022 fall semester were postponed due to the two hurricanes that impacted the local Tampa Bay area. It resulted in Kairos relocating from the usual Bethany Center location in Lutz to Mary Help of Christians in east Tampa.

"Because of this pivot to Mary Help, we spontaneously hosted a Veneration of Relics on the last night of both retreats that included first class relics of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and several other great Jesuit saints,” Mitchell said. “This time of veneration was very memorable for all the students and chaperones on the retreat, in no small part because many of us felt incredibly close to these spiritual giants who have gone before us and felt a very real call to follow in their footsteps and become great saints ourselves."

The Kairos retreat at Mary Help of Christians resonated with the students.

"For the first time in my life, I got to experience a true connection with God,” said Jack Earnest '24. “Through small groups, adoration and confession, and constant prayer, I was able to grow greatly in my Catholic faith. I made goals to continue my faith outside of the retreat, so now I am striving to accomplish these goals and keep God the main part of my life.”

Ditching the cell phone is always one of the best things for students at the Kairos retreats, as it allows for true reflection and interpersonal connections.

"Don't go into the retreat with a negative mindset because you aren't going to have your phone for three days,” Earnest said. “Take advantage of the opportunity to be disconnected from the social world and be excited to grow a closer relationship with God. I would also say to be vulnerable, opening up about things is the only way to start healing."

The relationships Earnest formed during this retreat stood out from past retreats.

"The retreat was longer than any other retreat I've been on, so I had much more time to form relationships that I wouldn't have been able to on other retreats,” Earnest said. “I was also able to grow much closer to God due to having much more time for reflection and more small group talks.”

Others had a similar experience.

"It was amazing and very emotional,” said J.J. Hartman '24. “The retreat was so different and unique that I will remember it for the rest of my life.

“It really opened my heart up to God and taught me to be vulnerable in front of people, even if I have never said a word to them. It also formed new friendships and strengthened the ones that I already had."

Hartman enjoyed how interactive the retreat was during the three days, and how it helped pave the way for his spiritual journey.

"At the start I didn't want to go; I wanted to stay home and play video games,” he said. “My soul did a complete 180. I was going down a wrong path in my life at that time. This Kairos pointed me in the right direction and showed me the steps to have a more fruitful and joyful life.”

Those who have been on multiple Kairos retreats have seen such transformations firsthand on many occasions.

"The Lord does so much on these retreats, and being able to witness these graces is a tremendous privilege," said Mr. Peter Bell, S.J.

Bell has been a part of six Kairos retreats since arriving at Jesuit High School at the start of the 2021-22 school year. He believes the sports, games, and activities are a big part of the Kairos experience.

“I can interact with them in a different manner than the teacher-student dynamic,” Mr. Bell said. “I think it is important for the students to see a Jesuit playing football, basketball, or tetherball and eat some humble pie when I win.”

Hartman advises the students attending upcoming Kairos retreats to allow themselves to take in the experience.

"If you open up a little bit in the Kairos trip it will be the best decision of your life,” Hartman said. “If you don't open up you will not have the full experience and all of its fruits and gifts.

“People who I thought (would never be) interested in the faith had their hearts set on fire because they opened up a little.”

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