First Overnight Retreat!

This weekend, La Salle Academy had the first overnight retreat of the year. Kenny and I got down to the school area around 7:30 am on Saturday to pick up a few things from the 6th Street building before heading over to the old 2nd Street campus. The students helped us load up the van and the bus, and all but one of them got there on time, and we went on a short little mission to pick up the student who got lost on his way down. Darn Subways having work done on weekends. How are we supposed to get anywhere?

Anyway, after we picked up the student, we had to detour back to the 2nd Street Building to pick up Bro. Peter’s backpack, and then we were on our way. We rocked out to some 80s and 90s music…some Madonna, and then when we were out of the city stations range, we enjoyed some lovely country music.

We got up to the Retreat site in Goshen (HighBridge Empowerment Center) by 10 ish, and unloaded all the food and stuff we brought with us. Bro. Peter and Kenny took the students to burn some energy while Bro.  Anwar and I started working on lunch, and Bro. Ken took a little time to himself (after an hour and a half driving a bus full of loud and excited high school boys and the energetic Bro. Peter he definitely deserved it!).

Anwar and I rocked the barbecuing…er, I mean, the grilling…of hamburgers and the baking of delicious fries that did not want to be fries, but rather just a mash of potatoes. But all turned out well, and lunch was ready with a little time to spare before getting started on dinner. The boys really seemed to enjoy lunch time, despite the darling bees that kept coming over to visit.

After lunch, we all enjoyed a little down time, and the students started playing hide and seek in the retreat house. It was nice to hear them all hanging out together without us having to force it. For the next session, I took three students to the kitchen to make dinner, Kenny took four to the dining area to bake bread, and Bro. Peter kept the rest to get some Campus Ministry Planning done.

Dinner was an endeavor. We were making pork chops, squash and zucchini, and pasta for 17 high school boys, Bro. Peter, Kenny, and myself. And we could not get the water to boil. It was kind of like watching a disaster happen. We spent a solid three hours trying to bring these pots of water to boil, and it just wasn’t happening. Finally, Sr. DiDi suggested we try using this roaster oven contraption, which finally got things moving.  By this point, it was way past the time we had wanted to serve dinner, and hungry high school boys kept trying to crowd into the kitchen in an attempt to get food…which wasn’t ready yet.

Dinner finally got set out and the boys ate quite a bit of food. We still had tons of leftovers though, which was unfortunate because there was no way we would be able to get all of the food back to NYC. In the end, we had to throw it all away.

After dinner and clean-up, we tried to light a campfire, very unsuccessfully though because of the massive amounts of rain that had fallen in the afternoon and the STRONG winds that were blowing straight across the campfire pit. Match after match was struck, but no amount of huddling could protect our feeble campfire from the wind. After going through an entire box of matches, we made the students accept defeat and headed inside.

We had this amazing liturgy set up so that the students could get some church time in. We read the scriptures, and in lieu of a homily, the students shared about their experiences over the last few years, and over the retreat the last few hours. The older students offered a lot of advice to the younger students and really did a good job taking the event seriously even though there was a little laughter happening. After the make-shift homily, we were able to take part in the body of Christ that we had brought with us. The liturgy was a very nice and moving moment of the retreat. The students were so open and honest, and for the most part, they really took each other seriously.

They spent the rest of the evening hanging out and bonding. I stayed up with them until lights out so that Bro. Peter and Kenny could get some sleep. We made what they called “Ghetto S’mores” over the gas burners on the stove. A few students didn’t know what S’mores were, so as a group we introduced them to the glorious sugar high that comes with enjoying S’mores. The Sandlot was quoted several times over: “You’re killing me, Smalls” and “I haven’t had anything yet”. I learned about the importance of Beats by Dr. Dre…one student claims they are a Cali Fashion thing. I questioned that and found out its really an LA fashion thing. Things are done differently in LA than in the rest of California. Another student said they are better than the in-ear headphones because they help block sound and don’t blast music into your ear, but rather around your ear. I’ve even started to learn about the importance of sneakers and flat bill hats.

Somehow a dart gun got out and I got hit by one of the darts, which I hung onto until I found someone willing to use the dart to shoot the person who shot me (I think that if I’d shot the student back myself, I could have gotten hit with a harassment comment). The students teased me about Peanut, my teddy bear, and we all spent some time chatting and getting to know one another.

After his nap, Bro. Peter sent me to bed, and I think I was one of the only people who didn’t get cold that night. I woke up chipper and ready to go the next day. Bro. Peter woke up the breakfast crew and we attempted to get breakfast done quickly…and failed yet again. I finally realized that there was no sense of urgency for these students. They were so grateful to get away from NYC, and they really wanted to enjoy their time away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Breakfast was pancakes and bacon and sausage and fruit. It was a huge success, though late once again, and I didn’t see any leftovers after all was said and done. As Kenny finished up the breakfast dishes, I got Bro. Ken and Bro. Anwar to help assemble grilled cheese sandwiches, and just grilled them up myself before the students came back down. We did a quick meal and clean-up and then took the Retreat picture and were on the road again to come home!

All in all, it was a good weekend, and I learned a lot. Being the only girl on the retreat was an interesting experience!

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