Forty sophomores took a break from the hustle and hardship of a typical school day at Jesuit High School to examine God's calling on their lives at their annual retreat on Tuesday (Dec. 1).
The Sophomore Retreat is one of 18 retreats made available to Jesuit's students each school year, and this was the third of its kind this year. All Jesuit students participate in at least one retreat annually.
The students spent the day at the Diocese of St. Petersburg's Bethany Center in Lutz, where they participated in talks from peer ministers, small group meetings, games, adoration, confession, and concluded with evening Mass in the St. James Chapel, which is part of the beautiful Bethany Center grounds.
Sasha Fiola '23 said that the 12-hour retreat was a powerful experience for him and his friends.
"It made me want to be closer to God," Fiola said. "It made me want to build my relationship with Him (through) daily prayer, daily Mass, whenever I'm able to pray."
Fiola's favorite part was confession.
"I felt like a burden had been lifted off of me, and that was amazing," Fiola said.
Led by Jimmy Mitchell, Jesuit's director of campus ministry, as well as assistant directors Dan Angel and Matt Kuizon '11, the retreat also was guided by eight student peer ministers: Lucas Alvarado '21, Jackson Graham '22, Matthew Justin '22, Luis Kortright '22, Gianluca Mammola '22, Christian Micko '22, Geoffery Trieloff '21, and Christian Yatsula '21.
Mitchell said the preparation and grace brought into the retreat by the peer ministers were key reasons why this Sophomore Retreat was especially successful. He said a peer minister even fasted in preparation for Tuesday.
"Imagine a 16-year-old saying, 'I'm not going to eat all day Monday,'" he said. "That's like the stuff that monks do, not 16-year-old boys."
That group of peer ministers just got a little larger. Mitchell said three sophomores approached him a short time after the retreat with the desire to join Peer Ministry.
"(The students had) just really tremendous experiences of surrendering a lot of their sin and their struggles, and just being lifted up by God's love," Mitchell said. "I know that sounds almost cheesy, but it's exactly how they described it."