On November 11th, the junior class left IHA to visit Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC) in Ridgewood for their junior retreat.
It’s no secret that junior year is one of the most challenging periods of a student’s life. Couple this with the academic and extracurricular rigor of IHA, and it’s safe to the juniors have been stressed to the max. Noticing this, Sarah Shutrop, IHA’s Campus Minister, organized the annual junior retreat around the theme of “Overwhelmed Schedules. Underwhelmed Souls.” She wanted the girls to take a step back from their busy lives and ask the questions “Why? Why are we stretching ourselves so thin? Will it really matter five years from now?”
After the ten-minute ride to OLMC, the juniors hopped off the buses and entered the parish. They sat together and listened intently as Mrs. Shutrop introduced the 11th grade members of the Campus Ministry Core Team (CMCT), responsible for planning the retreat.
She then broke up the girls into small groups, each of which was led by one or two CMCT members. The small groups were then given mason jars and strips of paper. Each student was tasked with writing down everything she did from last Sunday until that Friday, one activity per piece of paper. Then, the paper was to be put in the jar. The purpose of the activity was for the juniors to see how busy they are and then reflect on how many of those tasks they did throughout the week were really essential.
After the jar activity, Mrs. Shutrop shared the story of the Samaritan Women at the well and how she was trying to fill her “bucket” with unfulfilling things, but what she really needed was Jesus. The juniors were then questioned about what they were “filling their bucket” with and what they truly enjoyed versus what they were doing to fill a college application.
During a period when Mrs. Shutrop asked the girls various questions relating to their schedules, the juniors saw how much they have in common with each other. A revelation that shocked some of the juniors was that many of their classmates rarely ate dinner with their families, and a few of them missed dinners for activities that they didn’t even enjoy doing.
Two juniors, Emily Bommer and Carly DePhillips, gave talks during the retreat and after each talk the small groups got together to reflect upon what they just heard. Emily’s talk helped her classmates realize that this is the only time that they will ever be in high school and they don’t want to waste all that time stressed out because they have stretched themselves too thin. They need to step back and enjoy what they are doing, to volunteer because they want to and not for the service hours, to spend time with friends not just to study.
Carly DePhillips took this theme a step further and discussed how the legacy the juniors want to leave is not their record amount of extracurricular activities they were in, but rather how kind they were to one another.
Mrs. Shutrop also shared a Gospel reading with the girls about the difference between a house built on sand versus a house built on rock. She explained that our non-negotiables, things we can’t live without, are the rock. Our negotiables are the sand, and when lives are based on nonessentials, things tend to falter or are left out. However, when their lives are built around the essentials, everything falls into place. For adoration, Mrs. Shutrop asked the girls to pray about what their nonessentials and essentials are. Also during adoration, the juniors were able to empty their jars before Jesus to truly give their problems to Christ.
The day continued with a Mass that included a moving homily about scheduling, and then a pizza lunch. Before heading back to IHA, the juniors were treated with a video made by the seniors that gave them advice about how to make the most of junior year. The students were moved by the words of wisdom their older IHA sisters shared.
Reflecting on the day, Gabby Russo’18 explains “It was a good time to bond with my fellow classmates and realize we are all going through the same experiences and struggles.” On a similar note, CMCT member, Emma Hammer’18 “really enjoyed getting to work with girls who [she] never really crossed paths with before and learned [they] have a lot in common.”
Mrs. Cali, junior religion teacher and retreat chaperone, “was honored to attend the Junior Retreat. It was an amazing opportunity for the Juniors to come together and nourish their over whelmed souls. Through prayer and trust in Jesus these fabulous young women were rest assured He walks with them and helps to carry their load. It was an amazing day of reflection and bonding!”
The juniors left the retreat with a new perspective on how to handle their stress while still nurturing their relationship with God.
By Heather Farrell’18, Junior Editor-In-Chief