Campus ministry provides meaningful retreats

Witka knows first-hand their value


Joshua Hall

Director of Campus Ministry Mrs. Charlene Witka, far left, joins her fellow educators on the floor of the Welch Activity Center at the conclusion of an assembly. Witka is one of the organizers and leaders of the senior retreats.

Quinn Leous, Reporter

The last senior retreat of the year began March 19 and ends March 22, but it’s not too early for juniors to think about what they will experience on their retreat next year. 

Senior retreat has proved to be an experience that continues to define the Senior Class each year. While students usually experience a variety of emotions heading into each of these retreats, the majority of students return feeling much stronger in their faith and closer to many students that they may not have known before retreat.

Director of Campus Ministry Mrs. Charlene Witka functions as the primary leader of senior retreats.

Along with the help from other staff members as well as former students, Witka has developed the process of senior retreat, allowing students to benefit from the experience. 

Attending a retreat 

While Witka is in charge of senior retreat somewhat due to her job title, she has developed a desire to give seniors this opportunity that she truly values in her own life. “As campus minister, I like to be involved and am so dedicated to it because in my own life, I did not go on a retreat until I was in my 20s. That retreat was similar to the retreat that we have at Cathedral, and I believe it has inspired so much in that I am doing what I’m doing today because of that retreat. 

“I had no idea when I went on that retreat that this was where God was taking me, and I don’t want young people to have to wait until they’re out of high school or out of college to experience something like this,” Witka said.  

While some may just think of retreat as a way to get out of three days of school, this break from the day-to-day activities and trials that high school seniors endure throughout a school week can be both refreshing and relaxing. The retreat functions as a way to leave all of these distractions behind (seniors while on retreat have no access to their phones or any other electronic devices), while allowing oneself to become closer with God and those around them.

Witka said, “I really feel like retreat gives students a time to reflect and a time to just listen to what other people’s journeys are. And in that listening, students can see that their journey is not that different from than anyone else’s. So I believe that students’ souls do open up to listening to God.”

Senior Marita Christopher attended the January retreat. While many experience nerves heading into retreat being that its agenda is kept secret, Christopher helped counter that nervousness with a sense of optimism and excitement leading up to the retreat.

“After my brother (Evan) went on retreat when I was a freshman, I saw how much it meant to him. And after my friends went on retreat before me and couldn’t stop talking about it, I could not wait to go. I was so nervous the days leading into it, but overall I was more excited to experience what they couldn’t explain to me.”

Still, some students question why they should go on senior retreat at all. For them, the uncertainty does not seem worth it. 

However, Witka explained three main benefits of attending the retreat without giving anything up that would spoil the retreat for others. 

Retreats provide class unity

“I believe that seniors should go on senior retreat because, Number 1, it gives students a good foundation for when they go off to college. It seems to create to class unity, and it also functions as a rite of passage for seniors and just is a very spiritual experience,” said Witka.

Christopher explained how senior retreat provides a continuation and reinforcement of the Catholic values instilled in students by the school. “During our four years at Cathedral we are required to take theology courses and to attend Mass. Although some students may not be Catholic, doing these things has played a part in where we are today. Cathedral has gone beyond measures to incorporate this unique experience into the seniors’ school year, and the school has gone one step further by offering the students a senior retreat,” said Christopher.

Last, the most beneficial aspect of senior retreat is arguably the interaction that can be had between current students and former students and faculty members. Senior retreat allows for bonds to be made between current students, former students and faculty that would not necessarily be the product of a typical school environment. 

Additionally, the retreat allows for those who have already been on retreat to come back and go through the process again in more of a leadership role.

Graduates return to give back

Witka explained how the retreat functions as what she consideers a never-ending blessing for those involved. She said, “I just feel like the retreat is a gift that keeps on giving. Because after you have received the retreat as a gift, you can give back by coming back next year by leading it and giving back to other students. I think it’s so important to keep in touch with our alums, and this is a great way for this to happen because of them coming back and giving back.”

Christopher has realized this as well and has recognized that students should appreciate this opportunity as much as possible. 

Christopher said, “Retreat allows for faculty members and previous mentors to experience it over again, but from the other side. The spiritual process that senior retreat has shown last classes, the Class of 2019, and future retreats in truly indescribable.”