Submitted by Archbishop Ryan High School English teacher Joseph McFadden
Each summer, it is common to find teenagers engaged in a myriad of activities at the Jersey Shore. From tanning to working to hanging out with friends, the Shore becomes the ultimate symbol of carefree relaxation.
However, for students, alumni and faculty from Archbishop Ryan High School, a yearly visit to Cape May Point involves a weekend of prayerful retreat and communal service as a way of supporting one another in living out their Kairos retreat.
As Johnny Langan, a 2008 Ryan graduate, stated, “The Kairos experience is an all-out great one, but adding community service to this weekend just makes me feel all the more capable of making a difference.”
Five years ago, students who had been Kairos leaders at Ryan asked if they could have a retreat to help them live out the Fourth Day of their Kairos retreat. The previous year, some students and teachers helped the Sisters of Saint Joseph open their retreat house. Awareness of the two needs began a weekend partnership between the SSJ and the students.
Andrew McLaughlin, class of 2009, said, “For me, Leaders’ Kairos is the kickoff weekend of the summer season. For the past two years, it has given me the opportunity to not only help myself, but also to help the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Life would have been a lot harder if I did not have these retreats to reconnect with both old friends and with God.”
Since 2005, this group of alumni, students and teachers, led by Sister Eileen Cooke, SSJ., have completed a weekend of service, prayer, and community. Each May, many old and new members have come to Saint Mary’s by the Sea to gather for this experience.
Through the years, the group has performed various tasks: cleaning, preparing the chapel and dining room for the summer months, carrying new mattresses to the bedrooms, helping to open some of the 200 rooms, sanding and wiping new fire doors, painting, laying pavement and gardening. This year’s group included 27 young adults and 10 teachers.
This year students rebuilt a gardening wall, helped to open the house and cleaned trash out of the dunes while three teachers, including the husband of one teacher who came down to help, worked on updating the porch with vinyl and trex decking.
The sense of community is what encourages students to return each year, usually bringing new students and former leaders along to ensure the experience continues. The communal experience enables students, as Langan said, “to make a difference.”
-Submitted by Archbishop Ryan English teacher Joseph McFadden