The Importance of Retreats & Immersion Experiences in Catholic Schools

Students at Punmu in 2019

‘Catholic schools need to provide the best apprenticeship that they can in the Christian life.’ (Bishops’ Mandate, 59).

School retreats and immersion experiences are an integral part of the life-long faith formation of young people and form part of the distinctive character of Catholic schools. They recognise the individuality and dignity of each student by fostering their unique potential and spirituality. These occasions are a call for deep reflection where prayer, liturgy and scripture are at the centre of each experience.

Catholic school retreats are relational at heart. The Catholic school retreat aims to put students in ‘communion and intimacy with Jesus Christ’ (GDC, 80). Through the retreat experience, students come to know Christian love and are exposed to a Gospel-centred way of life. Students hear the Gospel and are empowered to connect the Gospel message to their lives and to find ways of continuing the Church’s mission. They participate in the life of the Christian community through liturgy and through activities that emphasise growth in Christian faith.

Year 10 Reflection Day, 2022

At Santa Maria College, students from Years 5-12 are offered a variety of opportunities to participate in both retreat experiences and reflection days. In Week 10, Years 7, 8 and 11, students will meet Dave Jorna, Director of Project Hatch. Dave will facilitate three Reflection Days, providing affirming experiences and opportunities for spiritual reflection while building community. His team has a passion for working with young people and provides a balance of learning and fun that works well. The program will challenge students in a fun and safe way to explore their faith and what’s important to them.

As we look ahead to Term 3, the purpose of our Year 12 Retreat is to provide students with the space to learn how to reflect on their experiences, dream for the future and to integrate these into wholeness in the present. The retreat journey is travelled individually and collectively, and students are supported by their peers and retreat facilitators throughout the process.

In a similar way, immersion programs enable senior students and staff to discover firsthand the Church at work amongst the poorest of the poor or an opportunity to reflect on the charism of the founding religious order of the school. These immersion opportunities can often have the ultimate transformative experience for those participating. To see disciples of the Church working in various communities across the globe provides motivation and a vision for the realisation of a just world where the dignity of the human person is realised.

Cambodia Immersion in 2019

The purpose of an immersion is to allow participants to experience life, faith and justice from a new perspective and to inspire them to live a personal sense of their own Catholic mission when they return home. Santa Maria College immersions have allowed numerous groups with their own unique experiences and opportunities to connect with and learn about other cultures from the people they met along the way. Participants have immersed themselves in the stories of these places and returned with a deeper appreciation, which provides the base for future commitments to promoting awareness, advocacy and change.

Jennifer Oaten offering a blessing to students attending the 2023 Punmu Immersion

The Punmu Immersion Program endeavours to foster a respect for the people, history and cultures present in remote Indigenous communities; a recognition of God’s presence in the lives and cultures of people they encounter; and a willingness to be challenged personally by the stories, experiences and relationships that are encountered on the journey.

As our 2023 participants on the Punmu Immersion begin their journey early tomorrow morning, we wish them all safe travels and look forward to the many good news stories they will tell upon their return.

We offer them this Irish blessing that has been passed down through generations.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always on your back,
May the sunshine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields and,
until your journey’s end,

May God hold you safely in the palm of his hand.

Melissa Trolio | Director of Mission

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