The Diocese of St. Petersburg's Bethany Center in Lutz is a regular getaway for Jesuit students, hosting most of the school’s 26 retreats throughout the year.
Most recently, the Bethany Center, a beautiful, expansive place of spiritual renewal, welcomed 39 students as part of their Sophomore Retreat.
The sophomores took a break from academics to enjoy the pristine grounds and engage in a day ministry and personal reflection. Among activities such as listening to talks from peer ministers, meeting in small groups, and attending adoration and confession, the students also unwound by playing games and participating in some friendly athletic competition.
Javi Mendez ’24 said that his favorite part of the retreat was adoration in St. James Chapel, a picturesque house of prayer that sits on the bank of St. Mary’s Lake. He added that he was pleasantly surprised by how many of his fellow classmates used their free time to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
“It was much more meaningful than any other adoration I’ve had in a really long time,” Mendez said. “And grouped along with confession, it was just very powerful.”
The retreat was led by Jesuit's Director of Campus Ministry, Jimmy Mitchell, in addition to assistant directors Matthew Kuizon ’11 and Mr. Peter Bell, S.J. There were also nine upperclassmen who served as Peer Ministers: Cam Bailey ’23, Matthew Griffith ’23, Sasha Fiola ’23, Sam Valenti ’23, Jacob DiSanto ’23, Robert Johnson ’23, Jackson Graham ’22, Luis Kortright ’22, and Gianluca Mammola ’22.
Christian Changsut ’24 said that meeting in the small groups with his peer minister, Graham, was an unexpected highlight of his retreat experience.
“(Jackson) was super inclusive,” he said. “He made everyone feel like it was a private environment, so you could say anything you wanted or needed to get off of your chest.”
Changsut is a Jesuit peer minister himself, and he helped lead a freshman retreat earlier in the semester. However, he said his small-group experiences impacted his view of what it means to be in peer ministry.
“It definitely shaped how a want to connect with people on future retreats that I help lead,” Changsut said. “And it made me really excited to seek out more of them and see what kind of retreats I can go on.”
Please view below a photo slideshow from the Sophomore Retreat on Nov. 30.