Sixth Form Retreats
The new academic year began with vital time for reflection for St Benedict's sixth form students, with retreats for Senior Decans and everyone in the Lower 6th.
The Senior Decan (Prefect) Retreat
Douai Abbey, September 13-14, 2019
The Senior Decans’ retreat to Douai was truly a spiritual as well as uniting experience. We gained knowledge and a better understanding of what it really is to be a Senior Decan, through mapping out the essential qualities we felt one should display, and also through reacting to scenarios we might face. These activities were full of fun and laughter, and allowed us to become closer not only among the Senior Decans, but also with the Headmaster and our teachers. We also had a baking competition, which reinforced the need for teamwork. We also had Mass and went along to Vespers in the abbey, which were extremely peaceful and special moments. Douai was so beautiful. Overall, the retreat was a very special time and allowed all of us to really come together as a team, to work alongside the teachers, to lead and be role models to the rest of the school.
The Senior Decan retreat to Douai Abbey was truly spectacular. For me, it was more of a spiritual journey, from listening to the monks singing in Latin, worshipping God, to our spending time together, uniting us in the process. We reinforced the school’s Benedictine ethos by reading John 13:1-17 about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, which allowed us to understand in depth what it is to be a Senior Decan and what we can do to serve the St Benedict’s community. The peaceful walk around the countryside was fantastic, where we got to be fully present, and admire the landscape around us.
The recent Senior Decans’ retreat was a truly enjoyable experience. When we arrived at the scenic landscapes that surround the historic Douai Abbey, the Headmaster outlined what we should hope to gain from the experience; he spoke of a greater knowledge of what it is to be a Decan and its roles, as well as building a relationship of trust with fellow Decans and teachers. The retreat certainly accomplished this. We first mapped what the perfect Decan ought to represent on creative posters. Then we role-played scenarios that we might come across while in school, to become better role models. Our baking skills were tested by a panel of scrupulous judges, an exercise which only reinforced the Senior Decan team. The spiritual highlight of the retreat was witnessing Vespers in the abbey; the poignant singing against the peace of the church was particularly moving.
The Senior Decans went to Douai On 13th - 14th of September and were given the chance to see the monastery (during Vespers) and walk through the beautiful surrounding countryside. We participated in team building activities, from baking competitions to giving presentations. We improved our leadership skills by deciding on the plan for this year: making the school greener and assigning a Decan for each form (especially in the younger years). This was a thoroughly enjoyable, rewarding and constructive weekend.
Lower 6th retreat to St Cassian's, Kintbury
The Lower 6th reflect on ‘living in the now’, in deepest Berkshire
The Lower 6th retreat to St Cassian's retreat centre was an opportunity for the year group to bond with each other before the full pressures of the term began. Situated deep in the Berkshire countryside, St Cassian's provided a chance for the pupils to actively reflect on who they were, both as a group and as individuals, which at a time when thoughts of universities and degree courses have already begun, is vitally important. The retreat provided a range of activities designed to encourage this reflection, and the pupils engaged in them fully. One of the stand-out activities was the Emmaus walk. For this pupils were paired together and led on a 2 mile walk through the countryside. They were encouraged to keep space between them and the other pupils and simply talk to their partner, so as to better understand each other as people. The retreat also sought to spiritually nourish the students, with Lauds (the morning prayer of the Church) and Mass, celebrated daily. In a time of rising noise and increased social pressures, St Cassian's provided an opportunity for silence, reflection and genuine human interaction, vital for developing young people.
Jonathan Edgar (Lay Chaplain)