ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – Two Franciscan high schools from Ohio made their way to the university on Nov. 9 for a four-day retreat emphasizing Franciscan values.

A total of 12 students from Padua Franciscan High School in Cleveland and Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati attended the retreat led by St. Bonaventure students, by the Rev. Ross Chamberland, O.F.M., who is the university's  special assistant to the vice president for enrollment and executive director of the Lateran Center, and by the Rev. Roger Lopez, O.F.M., who teaches theology at Roger Bacon.

The focus of the retreat was  the value of Catholic education in the Franciscan tradition, Chamberland said.

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Retreat attendees listened to testimonies regarding faith, relationships, conversion and vocational callings and had the time to pray and reflect during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

“As our students prepared for this venture, we spoke about how a pilgrimage is a journey that calls one to change,” Lopez said. “The desire was for a student to reflect on their future, spirituality and relationship with others. It was in these areas that I hoped our students would stop and reflect what changes they sought for the next phase in the journey of life.”

Kai Hooiser, a senior at Roger Bacon, said he became close to people at the retreat who might not have even talked to elsewhere. More importantly, “I got closer with God as I was able to take a few days away from distractions and focus on what truly carries me through life,” Hooiser said.

Jack Atkins, a junior at Padua, said that he benefited from the retreat in more ways than one.

“I not only deepened my faith, but I was able to make so many new friends,” Atkins said.

For Hooiser, the most enlightening portion of the retreat was the student leaders’ testimonies of faith.

“The most informative part of the retreat was when I heard students from Bona talk to us about certain topics that are rooted in God,” Hooiser said. “They were able to take simple words or phrases and relate them to how we should view and connect with God in our everyday lives.”

But the part that really stood out to Hooiser was a talk about living out – not just believing in – faith. I gave that talk. And he told me that "what really stuck with me" was the part where I talked about how even the devil believes in God and that we have to live our lives to serve God, not just acknowledge Him.” 

After attending the Bonnies versus Jackson State men’s basketball game on Nov. 10, we retreatants made our way up to Mount Irenaeus for more reflection. Mount Irenaeus is about 20 miles from campus, offers little cell phone reception and not a single sight of reality. There, the students engaged in faith-building activities, prayer and reflection, in the company of  Brother Kevin Kriso, O.F.M., and the Rev. Dan Riley, O.F.M.

“My favorite part of the retreat was by far the mountain,” Atkins recalled. “It was so peaceful and calm, and I really got to open up and find myself there.”

Hooiser also said that his favorite part of the retreat was heading up to the mountain.

“Not only was I able to hang out with one of the coolest friars ever, Father Dan, but I was able to connect with God in nature. I was able to look at all the gifts God has given us and made me thankful for what we have.”

Lopez added that he, a friar, also benefited from the retreat.

“I witnessed the countless movements of the Holy Spirit through the talks given, the laugher at casino night, the faith sharing at Mount Irenaeus, lunch at the Hickey, playing badminton in St. Francis Hall, prayer in adoration, and so much more,” Lopez said. “And in seeing and feeling God’s presence working in me and around me, I praise and thank the Lord.”

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