Late last month the Cornelia Connelly High School senior class set out on their final retreat together at St. Andrew’s Abbey. While previously known as Hidden Ranch, the land in Valyermo was bought by the order in 2009 and converted into a Benedictine monastery and retreat center. The students spent two days there living among the monks, dining as a group and observing some of their customs as well, such as the Grand Silence. The time of silent reflection is meant to create a time for personal contemplation and occurs during half of dinnertime and ends in the morning.
“Normally the high schoolers stay by the youth center, but all the monks very much enjoyed hosting the girls near the retreat center. I know this because they told me, and monks do not lie,” said one of the priests with a laugh after Mass.
In addition to Mass, Reconciliation, and Adoration, the students participated in five sessions addressing how they are called to transform their lives in preparation for the upcoming transition to college. To represent this transition, the sessions each focused on a different stage of the butterfly’s metamorphosis to illustrate the change about to occur in the next six months. The teachers drew from their own life experiences and offered a mix of advice and techniques for handling the transformation.
“I learned that change is good for you and a natural phenomenon— like with butterflies. We change, we grow, and we transform,” said Myra Juma, Associated Student Body vice president and retreat leader. “I learned that I need to move on from any bad changes I am going through and that I am the only person who can determine who I am or will be in the future, because nobody knows me better than myself. I choose what type of butterfly I am going to be.”
“My favorite part was when all the seniors started sharing our favorite memories with each other,” she continued. “It was nice to look back on our long journey together and reflect on all the little moments that led up to this point.”
Many other seniors agreed that while the retreat asked them to look toward the future, it also caused them to reflect on their time together. Channing Lee, ASB president and fellow retreat leader said, “It’s strange that it was our last retreat— the growth of our class since freshman year is evidence of the sisterhood present at Connelly.”
The sisterhood was indeed evident as the retreat drew to a close; the girls read notes of gratitude from their classmates and received butterfly necklaces as a memento of the last of their four retreats.
“I thought it went very well,” said Mary Perez, the senior retreat coordinator and senior religion teacher. “I hate to have expectations, so I think that it was something different than I thought it was going to be, but marvelous all the same. I hope that the girls got a sense of joy, a sense of praise, and certainly, a sense that when they leave Connelly, they have all the tools they need to succeed.”