The members of the St. Joseph’s Academy class of 2019 spent October 11 and 12 at the Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center in Forest Hill for their senior retreat. The theme of the two-day gathering was I Will Follow, based on the Chris Tomlin song of the same name and the Call of the First Disciples gospel (Matthew 4:18-22).
The retreat, organized by Campus Minister Alise Alexander, invited seniors to make the decision to follow Jesus as his disciples. The experience included prayer; icebreaker activities; journaling; reflection; small group conversations and sharing; praise and worship; and special talks by faculty and staff. Over the course of two days, the seniors reflected on the questions of Who am I?, Whose am I? and Who am I called to be?
“I can remember as an SJA senior being super secure in who I was as an SJA senior,” said Alexander, a 2012 graduate of SJA. “I had spent three years exploring activities and friend groups and had found my niche. But I was about to not be an SJA senior anymore, and the niche that gave me security would be taken away. I didn’t know who I was called to be or where my life was going, partly because I had answered the question ‘Who am I?’ incorrectly with my activities and circumstances. My hope for the seniors is that, by revisiting these questions, they remember who they are: God’s beautiful, dignified creation; and whose they are: daughters of a Good God who loves them unconditionally. Hopefully, then, they are able to more clearly see who they are called to be – disciples who imitate Him – and be encouraged to say yes to the invitation to follow Him.”
Assistant Campus Minister Mary Kay Alford said senior retreat was a great opportunity for the girls to take time away from their busy schedules and to walk away refreshed. “I always enjoy getting to see the girls step back, take it all in and grow spiritually,” she said. “I feel blessed to work with girls at SJA in ministry.”
Senior Carly Williford said she gained valuable insight and learned important life lessons. “I learned that adulthood doesn’t mean you have everything figured out; it just means you have learned to hold yourself together knowing that in actuality, you have figured out almost nothing,” she said. “We look up to our teachers, and most of the time, it never even occurs to us that they’ve gone through a lot of the stuff we’re going through now. After retreat, I see a lot of my relationships in a new light, and I have a deeper, greater appreciation for those people closest to me. Most importantly, I learned that I am never alone.”
Senior Alexandra Thibodeaux said senior retreat was an invaluable opportunity to reflect on oneself and one’s impact on their community. “I learned that the twists and turns life takes that we often view as mistakes or misfortunes are actually critical to growth,” she said. “The activities in senior retreat opened our hearts into a state of vulnerability that allowed us to be fully capable of connecting with classmates, teachers, our inner selves and God. The strongest sensation remaining in me after senior retreat is the indescribable bond I feel with teachers I had never met before and students I had hardly talked to. It’s a type of warmth that brings a complete calm and diminishes all doubt. I have never felt in this much connection with myself, my purpose, God and my school community.”
Senior Madison Boudreaux said senior retreat exceeded all expectations. “I enjoyed it beyond words,” she said. “Getting away from the stress of school and college applications for two days and simply enjoying my senior class and the beautiful Tall Timbers was a much-needed experience for me. Throughout retreat, I grew closer to the friends I already have and made new friends along the way, deepening my relationships with my senior class. My takeaway from the experience is to enjoy the little things in life and make the most of my senior year as it continues to (sadly) fly by. It was an experience unlike any other that I will cherish into the future.”
Father Ryan Hallford from St. Jude Parish offered adoration, mass and reconciliation. Faculty, staff and friends who helped facilitate the retreat were Yvette Aillet, Hugo Andricain, Stacia Andricain, Alexandra Arceneaux, Mackenzie Brown, Katie Comeaux, Kristine Davis, Michelle Dow, Cindy Downs, Catherine Durnin, Mary Beth Elfert, Liz Fontenot, Kathie Hayden, Pam Hutchinson, Mary Karam, Sheri Klemm, Brenda LeBlanc, Alan LeCoq, Sister Joan Manuel, Ghedy Matus, Jade McCune, Lily McGill, Cord McKeithen, Lauren Morris, Dana Murray, Shelly O’Dowd, Stacy Rennhoff, John Richardson, Leigh Grace Rouyer, Brianna Sommers, Jade Spears, Rebecca Stagg, deLynn Stelly and MJ Supan.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt