Freshman Retreat Reflection: How One Weekend Changed My Relationship With God

Credits to Delbarton School.

Credits to Delbarton School.

Nicolas Pelayo, Staff Writer

This story begins in November of 2018. I had just gotten back from my old public school and was doing homework at the dinner table. My brother came downstairs and informed my mom that he was going on his freshman retreat that weekend. While he was busy packing, I continued doing my homework. All the while I was wondering what this “freshman retreat” was. When my mom explained it to me, I thought that an entire weekend wasted at school would be torture. 

When I got into Delbarton, I immediately thought of the dreaded freshman retreat and just as  immediately pushed it out of my head. I didn’t want to think about that inevitable burden in a time of joy. 

Fast forward to Monday, October 21st 2019, the day that I remembered I had my retreat that weekend. I spent that whole week nervously thinking about what misery would be in store. When I spoke to other students who had already gone on the retreat, they reaffirmed my belief that the freshman retreat was a waste of time. That led me to Thursday night, when I reluctantly packed my bags and grew more anxious at the thought of this weekend. Before bed that night, I prayed a small prayer asking God to make this retreat better than my brother’s dire prediction. 

Suddenly it was Friday! The other retreat participants (or “retreatants”) made it seem like it would be awful. One fellow student said that there was going to be a three hour mass! When the school day ended, I decided to not let my emotions get the best of me. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. I tried to walk to the retreat center with a positive attitude. I checked in at the lobby, and made my way to my assigned room. I opened the door, greeted my roommate and gazed upon the room where I would sleep that night. After I changed into more comfortable clothes, my fellow retreatants and I gathered in the lobby. 

Shortly afterward, we headed to the cafeteria for snack time. As Mr. White would always say, “In order to eat, you must work”. So, in Mr. White fashion, we had to answer trivia before we could receive our meal.

After snack time, we went back to the center and met in our small groups. I was delighted to find out that one of my counselors was a Junior whom I had already met. We went to our designated areas and made our group names. My group was “The Biblical Boys”.  Another popular group name was “Mmmm. Borger”. We would be spending most of our time with these small groups during this retreat. 

Lucky for me, I enjoyed my group. We were able to build upon each other’s ideas and create new friendships within the group.  After every meeting, we met back in the basement to hear a stalk from a counselor. My counselor went first and spoke about his life and “being who we are.” After every speech, the counselor chose a song to play for the retreatants. His song was “Be as you are” by Mike Posner. It was a great song that correlated to his speech well. My other counselor would go later in the night and played “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. They were phenomenal songs and speeches and a great experience. 

On Friday, the main part of the night was Reconciliation. We went to the church for about 9o minutes to participate in this Catholic sacrament. When it was my turn to go up, I was nervous to state my sins, for fear of getting judged. However, when I sat down next to the priest, and all of my nerves immediately calmed. I released all of my pent up anxiety on him. I felt so good afterward that I prayed to God for the next 30 minutes. Some of my classmates complained about the length of the session, but looking back on it I realize that it was vital to the growth of my relationship with God. 

After a long night, we were allowed to go to bed at 12:00, midnight, after a concluding prayer. My roommate and I stayed up for an additional 30 minutes, but finally went to sleep at 12:40 because we were so exhausted. Little did we know that we were going to be woken up at 7:00 A.M that morning with a bang:  My counselor pounded 10 times as hard as he could against our room door. We both jumped out of our beds immediately. It seemed like an ominous start to the day, however the day revealed itself to be a great one. We began the day in many more small group meetings. We talked about the Delbarton Community as a whole, how to better our relationship with God, and how to keep God in our lives even though we have so much going on. After lunch, we went to our last small group gathering. This was our longest one because in this small group, we were tasked with creating a skit. Our skit was about integrity and the Delbarton honor code.  All of the groups performed and generated a lot of laughs and had fun. 

After the skits, it was time for the final part of the retreat that was held in the center. We gave our commitments to our brothers and received commitment necklaces with St. Benedict on them. It was a very profound moment to see my brothers give their commitments in front of the community. 

When the commitments were over, it was time to clean up. We all went to our rooms, tidied up, and put our bags in the lobby. One of the students broke out his “Uno” deck and we played until it was time to go to Mass with our parents in the library. We all triumphantly walked to the library and sat down in the seats for Mass.  Our parents walked in and sat down behind us as we all awaited the fitting end to our retreat. 

At the very end of the weekend, people from the groups were tasked to go up in front of everyone and summarize what their group did during this retreat. After the closing service, I connected with my parents and told them all about it. I talked to my counselor and said goodbye to him as well as thanked him for making this retreat a good experience.  The next day I was surprised that I kind-of missed my retreat. I was incredibly taken aback by how much I appreciated the retreat when I had mistakenly thought would be a bore. 

In the end, this retreat had an immense affect on me as a person and my relationships at Delbarton. I wear that necklace everyday now because it is a symbol of my commitment at my freshman retreat. Despite going into the retreat lots of negative thoughts, I tried to adopt an optimistic outlook. As a result I learned a lot about myself and connected with God. I want to be a junior counselor at this retreat because of how they inspired me to pursue my connection with God. It is important that all of the students who take part in this retreat go into it with an open and optimistic outlook to get the most of their experience. If you don’t, then you won’t fully appreciate it. I have nothing but praise for everyone working on it, and someday I hope to repay the favor.