It’s never easy going back to school after the summer holidays but students of Crescent College Comprehensive SJ had an easier land than most with the suspension of classes and an offer of seven different two – day retreats to choose from. All of the one hundred and fifty students in sixth year took up the offers on 15 and 16 September 15. Some chose to go and work in the Eco Village at Cloughjordan. Others went on a walking pilgrimage, whilst some chose to go to the Yoga Centre in the Burren, Co.Clare. Others still chose a guided prayer and meditation retreat or learning the art of discernment in the Ignatian tradition.
The annual programme’s reputation goes before it. It is co-ordinated by religion teacher and school chaplain, Grainne Delaney. She said as soon as the students returned to school they were knocking on her door inquiring when the retreats would begin. She believes the students really appreciate the two days because they are part of the school’s ‘cura personalis’, caring for the individual in the Jesuit tradition of education. They are designed to help them develop skills that they will need in the challenging year ahead when they might feel overwhelmed or stressed. “Skills of self awareness, meditation, conversation, and prayer were explored as a means of developing the personal side of themselves,” according to Grainne.
She is grateful that the school board and indeed the parents of the pupils are so supportive of the programme that they don’t mind the students have two class – free days in such an important year. “We invited the parents to a presentation about the retreats in early September. The feedback was great and they were really supportive of what we were doing for their sons and daughters. One mother asked could we provide a similar programme for the parents!”
She says it is important to help the pupils see the worth of a good work – life balance and was grateful to the retreat centers and teachers for the work they put in to making the retreats such a success. “The message of the programme is that life requires a balance of workload and relaxation, something we could all benefit from.”
And she judges the programme by what the students learn from it. One student who went on the eco retreat said, ” It made me realise how we are interacting with creation in a way that is so damaging. There are so many alternative ways of doing things better.” Another simply enjoyed the peace – “On the pilgrimage retreat I enjoyed reflecting on life, taking a break from everything and observing the world around me.” Another student was reminded of the way they felt after a previous retreat. “My retreat brought me back to a very positive feeling, which I had after the Kairos retreat in fifth year. It was good just to have time to think and pray.”
Grainne is happy that it was a really worthwhile experience for all involved. “One student summed it up well when they said, ‘I feel set up for the year ahead and hopefully I will put the relaxation exercises and meditation into place, to help with stress.'”