Pictures proudly taken by Birding Photographer, Jesuit Teacher Mr. DuRoss

The sound of hundreds of Freshman’s feet walking across the Terry Center, unknowing of the events of the day to come. The chatter between Freshman, obnoxiously playing “Among Us” or talking about the presidential debate as they wait for further instruction. Eventually, the noise dies down, the phones are set on silent, and Mr. Marr sets the tone for the day, a Jesuit tradition that each student before him has experienced as a Freshman.

The annual Freshman Retreat, a time for fresh faces on campus to meet one another, become introduced to the Jesuit Traditions with their Senior Leaders and build impactful relationships with their classmates for the years to come. Each year, Mr. Marr, Host, and Murphy prepare an elaborate Retreat for Jesuit’s newest Class, organizing them into groups, mobilizing Retreat Leaders, and compiling Retreat Packets for the day to come. Even during a pandemic, Freshman Counselors offered the leadership to prepare a day that the Class of 2024 will never forget.

Despite having to wear masks and socially distance, Jesuit Freshman, both the Blue and Gold Cohorts, met as a class for the first time on campus. Finally, virtual names were paired with faces, and classmates met each other in-person for the first time. The Retreat began with a Retreat Leader-lead Prayer Service and was accompanied by a Senior Talk, given by Nick Badovinus. Badovinus touched on the relationships he has developed with classmates while on a Spring break trip, the close mentorship he’s found with Mr. Knize, and the Jesuit experience as a whole, including the traits and experiences that make up the Jesuit community.

As Freshman soon parted ways to their retreat rooms, Retreat Leaders eagerly anticipated the seven to eight Freshman that would follow them through the Retreat. With prior training, Retreat Leaders were fully prepared to bring the underclassmen through a special Retreat. While Freshman wandered the halls, searching for their classroom, Marshall Neri ’21 blasted Darude “Sandstorm,” while Zachary Freeman played EDM for his group. The energetic, upbeat moods in the hallways helped excite Freshman for the day to come.

Once settled down in their classrooms, seated on the blankets and pillows that Retreat Leaders brought, the Freshman met each other through a series of icebreakers, including one that required a toilet paper roll. Despite the masks, the tone shifted to a reflective, contemplative atmosphere. Students were encouraged to reflect on their own lives, share their faith lives with others, and strengthen their relationships with their classmates. Even in the socially distanced environment in the classroom, students found ways to communicate their perspectives on Scripture and the Daily Examen. Later, the small groups were joined by a member of the Jesuit faculty who shared his/her Jesuit journey story. The Retreat was complete before the students knew it, as they proudly wear a dark blue bracelet and hold an affirmation card from their group.

Even in the age of COVID, Freshman Counselors and Administration were proud and excited that the iconic staple of the Jesuit experience was pulled together. In an email to Retreat Leaders, Mr. Marr stated, “the Freshman Retreat was a HUGE success. In truth, when we sat down to plan this retreat in mid-August, it was a 50-50 proposition that we could even attempt to do a retreat in September.”

Freshman Liam Rainey said “I enjoyed the retreat because it allowed us to meet new people while strengthening our relationship with God and the Jesuit community.

Furthermore, as I was a Retreat Leader, I was proud of how the Freshman, many of who had not seen each other in person before, began their friendships to last them all four years at Jesuit. The Freshman, including my small group, were very open to growth, sharing and talking with one another about their hopes for Jesuit.”