"And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." - John 1:5
The Class of 2019 gathered at Day Spring Retreat Center for two days of faith and community at the annual AHN Senior Retreat. Academy’s retreat program provides spiritual direction and guidance for the students. It is a reflective experience designed to help them take an honest look at their lives, to know more clearly how they stand before God, and to provide tools for the further growth and development of their interior lives.
This year’s theme, “Live in the Light”, challenged the students to recognize God’s light in their lives, to respond to that presence, and to grow closer to their classmates as sisters. It brought together all of the high schools’ seniors under one roof and included elements of modern praise music, dynamic speakers, and Eucharistic adoration and mass.
The opening talk was given by Academy teacher Megan Dubee, who gave the participants an understanding of what it means to live in the light instead of darkness, and to understand that Christ is the light we need to transform our lives. Dubee stated, “...because despite the pain and darkness, I survived. And more than simply surviving, I realized that even in my pain, being visible was worth it. Putting up walls and being invisible may keep you from getting hurt, but it also keeps you from living, from being able to receive love, and so many other good things in life. So, my dear sisters, be brave, stand in the light, and be visible."
The theme of stepping into the light continued as Justin Lantz, the music minister from St. Timothy’s parish in Lutz, led the students in praise and worship throughout the retreat. The girls sang, jumped, danced, and praised throughout the two days, growing stronger in their faith and as a class.
Father Curtis Carro from Christ the King took time out of his week to provide confession and lead the group in adoration. These moments of quiet contemplation allowed the girls the time to look inwardly and reflect on the light in their own lives.
This year’s keynote speaker was Leah Darrow, a national Catholic speaker and former fashion model who spoke about love, forgiveness, and preserving one’s dignity and light. Her story concerned finding a definition of true love. “Everything you do will depend on how you define love, and how you live a life of truth and light,” she said. She spoke of the darkness in her own past, and how she went astray from her faith and was living in a “tomb.” The key takeaway was for the girls to always remember that no amount of darkness can ever dim the light of Christ within them.
During the small group discussions following the talks, students decorated personal votive candles as keepsakes to remind them of God’s light in their lives. Each unique candle represented the different qualities they each bring to their class. Taking time to “toast” each other, they spent time sharing in groups how each of their sisters have been Christ’s light during their time at the Academy.
To close out the retreat, Father Curtis celebrated Mass in the outdoor chapel, and the girls saw each of their candles on display in front of the altar.
The Senior Retreat led to a deeper experience with Christ, through prayer, liturgies, talks, and small group discussions. The retreat has been known to be one of the most memorable and powerful experiences Academy students have in their four years. It is a way for students to deepen their faith, grow in the confidence that they are indeed loved, and solidify their bonds of sisterhood.