By Maria Trizzino
“As a teenager, there is a stigma around talking about your religious beliefs, even if one attends a Catholic school. My goal is to obliterate that stigma.”
At St. Edmund Prep in Sheepshead Bay, our Catholic identity is at the core of all activities. Because of this, the religious retreats that are offered through the Faith in Action program are greatly valued throughout the school community.
The Emmaus Retreat program is a wonderful spiritual experience that resonates with students, faculty and alumni. Students have the opportunity to attend this three-day retreat at the Capuchin Youth & Families Ministries Center (CYFM) in Garrison, N.Y., for the first time as juniors or seniors. The name “Emmaus Retreat” is based on the Bible passage of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus from Luke 24:13-35. At first, the two men do not recognize Jesus, but in the breaking of the bread, they are enlightened that it is Him. This story parallels the recurring themes of retreat: discovery, discipleship, acceptance and growth.
One of the best parts about retreat is that everyone is placed slightly outside of their comfort zone. Each student spends a whole weekend communicating and participating in activities with people that they would otherwise never expect to form a bond with, including the faculty! During the little tasks, such as washing dishes, setting the table or preparing a meal together, each person creates special relationships with one another that are unforgettable. In addition, we are allowed free time to do whatever we want, such as playing basketball, jenga, mini foosball, using hoola hoops, or even using pool noodles in a makeshift sword fight! It is so fun to immerse ourselves in a joyful atmosphere.
Another truly incredible aspect of Emmaus is the ability to get away from our hectic day-to-day lives. Each member is asked to part from technology for the weekend and fully detach from the outside world. This is not only a wonderful break, allowing for a full “retreat” from society, but a major part of the reason why everyone is able to connect with one another, rather than connecting to the internet.
If a student attends the Emmaus Retreat for the first time as a junior and he/she loves the experience that much (most do!), he/she is invited to apply to be a Team Leader. That is exactly what I did, and luckily I was accepted! This responsibility of leadership in the Emmaus program extends to 16 seniors – eight young men and eight young women – who are deemed exemplary characters of faith and service.
From Sept. 15-17, the Senior Team went to the CYFM Center with nine adult leaders to be trained so we could learn how to give the incoming juniors a retreat experience as great as our own. This was such a touching weekend because we were able to form that unique bond with even more classmates that we may not have originally experienced the retreat with. Plus, rather than it being a weekend of only girls or only boys, all 16 of us were able connect and share with each other about what made us so passionate about the retreat program, and how we felt God’s call to lead others.
(Photos: St. Edmund Prep H.S.)
On Team retreat, I established an inseparable bond with 24 other men and women. Sitting down together to pray, share a meal or reflect on our lives allowed us to discover so many fascinating things about one another. We discussed the different gifts that we would like to impart on the upcoming retreatants and how we want to be a source of comfort and love in their lives.
As a teenager, there is a stigma around talking about your religious beliefs, even if one attends a Catholic school. My goal is to obliterate that stigma. When I learned that I will be a leader this December for Emmaus LXI, I decided that I not only want to provide a comfortable environment for the retreatants, but I also want to share about the experiences that led to my complete faith in God. Similar to how no one has shame talking about his/her favorite movies or TV series, no teenager should be afraid to express his/her beliefs, ask questions, or make their values known to others. Whether the girls of Emmaus LXI are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or any other faith for that matter, I want them to know that their opinions are valid.
I could not be more grateful that I went on retreat as junior and became a Team Leader this year. Because of these opportunities, I have enriched my relationships with my peers and with God. I can confidently say that going on retreat has been one of the best decisions I have made in my high school career at St. Edmund Prep and in my life.
Maria Trizzino is a senior at St. Edmund Prep H.S., Sheepshead Bay.