This year, the Kairos retreat for Poetry students was held in a new venue; in the beautiful surroundings of the Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre, Newry. This is the 21st year of the Kairos model whose purpose is to allow the retreatants to see the value of their Christian faith, to reflect on their relationship with God and with each other. Kairos is held over three and a half consecutive days and the boys divide into two groups to ensure each has as much support as possible throughout the experience. Although held off-site, Kairos concludes back at Clongowes in the Boys Chapel with a parting ceremony. Rhetoric students, who themselves will have experienced Kairos last year, are the leaders of the retreat – 18 leaders in all, supported by staff members. The peaceful and tranquil surroundings of the Dromantine Estate no doubt added something special to the whole experience for the retreatants.
Themes such as Leadership, Piety, and One’s Friendship with God were discussed followed by a series of ‘sharings’ delivered by the Rhetoric students who were supported by the adults who themselves imparted their own personal stories. The trusting atmosphere of the Kairos community facilitates this process and helps promote a long-term positive change for the retreatants. Kairos gives the retreatants a chance to share their own life experiences, the opportunity to listen to others and ultimately teaches them the true power of accepting oneself and others. Prayer and the sacraments are an essential part of Kairos, as are the retreatant’s involvement in discussions and various exercises. The boys each receive a beautiful silver Kairos Cross at the parting ceremony. Past retreatants have cherished these as they are a representation of their time at Kairos, which they deem to be a life-changing experience.
In these difficult times, it is not easy to face such questions about God, but we hope that as a result of these days of Kairos spent together, that students will help each other on the journey that we are all making, together. A few of the Poetry students shared their learnings from the retreat, many shared the same sentiment, that Kairos helped them see the world, themselves and their fellow men in a more positive and kind light; “Kairos opened up a different way of thinking for me about certain situations.”, another felt that “Through the Kairos experience, I have become more in touch with God and I see him in a different way. I found it very relaxing and good for the mind. I also made a lot of new friendships and found out a lot about people and what they had been going through that I wasn’t aware of.”
The real value of the retreat happens by living out the challenges of our daily lives. The retreat concludes with a sharing of Love in Action. In other words, will the students assimilate in their lives what they have learned and absorbed during these days together i.e. ‘Kairos’ God’s time? That is the challenge – putting Love into Action, not just talking about it and being able to animate this back in to ‘Chronos’ time from ‘Kairos’ time… Our immense gratitude must go to the 18 Rhetoric Leaders who gave of their time and themselves, to the adults who shared and helped along the way. Kairos is a ‘gem’ that is unique to our Jesuit schools, encompasses everything that is our Jesuit / Ignatian Ethos, is talked about and remembered by students and parents for many years to come …Long may it continue!