The freshman class, transfer students, 100 seniors, 60 juniors and every faculty and staff member came together to celebrate the 27th annual First Year Retreat from Oct. 14-15.
“The future depends on what we do in the present” was the retreat’s motto, a quote from influential social activist Mahatma Gandhi. The retreat was organized by Director of Campus Ministry Matthew Schaeffer, Director of Transportation Adam Gonzalez, Administrative Assistant of Campus Ministry Carol Hampson and theology teacher Michael Shawver.
The Little Brothers, made up of both freshmen and new transfer students, were put into groups of nine and led by three senior Big Brothers. During the First Year Retreat, the groups participated in many team-building exercises, spiritual experiences and reflection opportunities; they also slept on campus in classrooms.
After going through an application process beginning during the spring of their junior year, the Big Brothers met before the retreat numerous times to improve leadership skills and prepare for the weekend.
Big Brother Jack Rothman said, “I remember from my freshman retreat the feeling of inspiration and passion for the institution that we thrive in, and I thought that being a Big Brother is the least I can do to give back to Loyola.”
Big Brother Daniel Mariscal, whose group got third place in the Olympic Games, said, “I wanted to be a Big Brother to pass on the tradition and enhance the retreat experience for the freshmen and make sure they had as much fun as I did when I was a freshman.”
The Junior Ground Crew is responsible for the behind-the-scenes setup of the retreat. Sixty juniors helped run the sports activities and set up Xavier Center. They also sang during Mass on Sunday and assisted the parents at the Big Brothers’ homes.
Junior Ground Crew member Michael Yaccarino said, “I had a great time experiencing the First Year Retreat from a different perspective. This time, I was able to help out by running the basketball station and making sure the retreat went smoothly.”
On the first day, freshmen and transfer students arrived at Loyola at 8 a.m. The Junior Ground Crew members then took the Little Brothers’ bags to their groups’ assigned classrooms and helped them check-in.
The Little Brothers and Big Brothers gathered in Xavier Center for the opening ceremony, where the directions for the Olympic Games and stations were explained. For the remainder of the morning, the groups competed in several team-building activities, such as an obstacle course, a gladiator jousting tournament, a hippy-hop horse race, a raft race in Conn Pool and a tricycle race.
Freshman Spencer Jones said, “My favorite part of the retreat was the Olympic games, especially the boat race in the Conn Pool.”
In addition to the athletic events, each group helped pack 20,000 meals for the Feeding Children Everywhere charity. The meals will go to families in need of food in places as close as a few blocks away from campus and as far as other countries.
At the end of the Olympic Games, Big Brothers drove their groups to their homes where first-year students relaxed, ate dinner, played video games or did other fun activities as a group. Junior Ground Crew members accompanied their groups, helping to set up tables, distribute food, take photos or perform any other needed tasks.
After dinner, the Big Brothers and an assigned faculty member led a prayer service and faith reflection in a quiet space, where Little Brothers were invited to share about their faith and Loyola journey while hearing about their Big Brothers’ experiences. Following the prayer service, Big Brothers had one-on-one conversations with Little Brothers to hear about their Loyola experience thus far and offer words of encouragement and support as Little Brothers begin their Cub journeys.
Freshman Campbell Godfrey said, “My favorite part of the retreat was going to my Big Brother’s house where we played video games. I also enjoyed the prayer service where my Big Brothers provided many examples of their community service.”
The groups then returned to Loyola to participate in several night activities, such as doing a spirit walk led by theology teacher Dr. Jesse Rodriguez, learning songs in preparation for Mass the next day taught by Theology Department Chair Derek Brown, hearing from guest speaker and former Loyola theology teacher Jack Krouse and performing an examen led by Schaeffer.
The following day, the groups woke up, cleaned their rooms, and went to Malloy Commons for breakfast.
Parents of the first-year students began to arrive and headed into Xavier Center for a spirituality talk led by the Rev. Fr. Wayne Negrete, S.J. After, parents, Big Brothers and Little Brothers went into classrooms to ask questions and reflect upon the weekend.
To conclude the weekend, students, parents, faculty and staff gathered in Xavier Center for Mass, celebrated by the Rev. Stephen Barber, S.J., with the music led by Schaeffer and the Junior Ground Crew choir.
Senior Luke Minck said, “I loved the First Year Retreat because it introduced me to a freshmen who I will continue to talk to all year and allowed me to show my Little Brothers what it means to be a Cub.”