PITTSBURGH, PA

Kairos retreats spread joy among students

Friday, February 14, 2020 - Updated: 5:21 pm

By Bob De Witt Correspondent

North Catholic High School senior Kate Burke felt she had a firm foundation in her faith, but something was missing. She found it last year during a dynamic spiritual retreat that is helping to lead young people to Jesus.

“I realized what it truly means to be a disciple,” Burke said. “To have a personal relationship with Christ and to bring others to him.”

North Catholic is the latest high school in the diocese to introduce Kairos retreats. “Kairos” comes from a Greek word that means “the opportune time.”

Over four days and three nights, nearly 50 students and faculty pray together, listen to witness talks and share in small groups. They also attend daily Mass, spend time before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration and celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation.

And there is a lot of fun and fellowship.

“During adoration I could not stop beaming,” Burke said. “My face hurt from smiling so much, seeing the other students who were there and knowing that God loves them.”

The Kairos retreat model is centered on peer discipleship. Eight students are chosen for a core team to plan the retreat by praying, preparing for their witness talks and encouraging one another to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

The main message is basic — that all people are made in God’s image and likeness, and despite being sinners, Jesus offers everyone eternal salvation.

Students learn leadership skills in planning, organizing and facilitating the retreats. They often return to school excited to share their faith with others.

“During adoration I felt God’s presence working through me for the first time,” said junior Nate Higgins. “It was an indescribable feeling of happiness and joy at the greatness of God’s love and power.

“Now I go into the school chapel and pray to God to open my heart and the hearts of others so that we can continue to grow closer to him,” he said.

After her first retreat, senior Lizzie Ochs returned to school on a “spiritual high.”

“I felt a sense of community and family,” she said. “Everything had a new clarity.”

“The peer-to-peer model makes all the difference,” said Eric Campbell, director of campus ministry and chairman of the religion department at North Catholic High School. “We empower the students to speak about their relationship with Jesus, and it’s having a positive impact on their classmates.

“The students are part of a community of faith where they can trust and lean on each other for guidance,” he said. “After the weekend we provide ongoing spiritual formation to help integrate the retreat experience into their everyday lives.”

Junior Thomas O’Toole will be a leader on the third Kairos retreat planned for April.

“I want to keep that feeling going,” he said. “I had close friends with me on the last retreat, and we hold each other accountable in practicing our faith.”

Late this summer, Burke will head off to college. She is ready to face the challenge of bringing others to Christ in an increasingly secular world.

“It’s about finding the right people, and growing together in faith,” she said.


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