Jr/Sr Franciscan Retreat Recap


Rachel Coons '24, Writer

On March 10, 2023, about thirty Austin Prep upperclassmen embarked on a trip to Kennebunkport, Maine for a religious retreat hosted by the Franciscan Monastery. Everybody who signed up didn’t know what to expect but took a leap of faith and it was worth it. For those not eligible to attend or not brave enough to, let me recap the busy, fun-filled weekend many took part in.

Starting on Friday, before the trip began, all students went to their first three classes before being dismissed to grab a quick lunch. We changed into comfy clothes and then packed up the vans to start up the road to Maine. I was fortunate enough to ride with Mr. Reidy, also known as Deacon Bill, as our bus driver. In the hour and a half we spent in the van together, we listened to a variety of songs (DJed by me of course) and let the excitement build up to the mystery of what was ahead. Arriving at the monastery’s guest house was a relief, especially for those who did not use the restroom before the bus ride. We all got assigned where our rooms would be and were given the designated room keys. I roomed with Kylie McDonald ‘24, my best friend of 13 years. We personally kept our room very tidy and clean. Not to toot our own horn, but anytime we invited someone into our room, they always mentioned how clean it looked and smelled. I guess we have our mothers to thank for that quality. 

After getting settled and touring around everybody’s rooms, we headed down the hallway to the conference room. This is where most of our activities occurred from reflections, prayers, and discussions. We went over some ground rules, and expectations and met all of the retreat leaders, including Ms. Greenwood, Mr. Reidy, Sr, Maria, Dr. Driscoll, and most importantly, Fr. Michael. Fr. Michael had visited Austin previously in the year and might be better known as the priest who started cheering for the Celtics during the homily saying “Let’s go Celtics!” He does a great job catering to a younger audience and really makes everyone feel so at ease. The retreat would not have been what it was without Father leading us. 

Once all the important information was out the way, students were given a few hours of free time to explore the beautiful grounds and the sites of Kennebunkport. A few friends and I decided to head into town and do a little shopping. I summed up in that part of Maine so I am super familiar with the area and it was odd to see everything covered in snow. Nonetheless, I still stopped at some of my favorite stores and bought a sweatshirt, candies, and jewelry. After I got my shopping spree out of my system, we all headed back to the guest house for dinner.

The meals at the house were fantastic and much better than what I had in mind. I really loved the salads because they always tasted so fresh and the staff working was beyond sweet to all of us. I could really go in-depth about the meals because I am a foodie at heart, but more importantly, the retreat really facilitated great lessons for all the students, including myself.

Not only did we learn a lot during the actual reflections and discussions, but also from just being in the environment together, isolated from all the craziness and worries of everyday life. I feel like I really got to bond with my classmates and learn stuff about them that I wouldn’t have ever came to know without this trip. I feel a level of closeness now with all of those kids and I am so grateful to have the experience. 

After we ate dinner the first night, we gathered in the conference room for prayer and to reflect on an image depicting the bible story of the lost son. We had a really good discussion and enjoyed some snacks until 9:30. Afterwards, I went back to my room to shower and then watched some cartoons with friends, until we all retired to bed at 11:30. 

The alarm went off the next morning at 7 AM for me and Kylie. She got up right away to start getting ready, but I snoozed for another half hour. I am not a morning person, so waking up early every day on the weekend was definitely a challenge for me. After Kylie dragged me out of bed, we went downstairs to the dining room to eat breakfast and began the activities at 9 am sharp. We went to the chapel and had bonding activities all day long. We had a nice break in the middle of the day and many went down into town, but I just stayed back to tidy up my room, nap, and call my family at home.  Later on, in the day we sang songs altogether, did personal reflections, and then separated into smaller groups to have discussions. We also dined together for another dinner and gathered in the conference room for a movie night. 

Many did not watch the movie though, including me because I sadly lack the ability to sit still for two and a half hours. We also could go to Confession after dinner, which I made all my friends go to. I love the sacrament of confession and it was probably my favorite time ever going because of Fr. Michael. It was a face-to-face confession, instead of a booth separating us. I feel like it makes it more personable and resembles a normal conversation more closely. I felt really enlightened after and Father did such a good job giving advice and making me feel comfortable. 

After Confession, I showered and tidied up my room. I was planning on having a quiet night and cozying up in my bed with TV and snacks. However, my curiosity got the best of me and when I heard noises outside my door, I had to investigate. Everyone was wandering the halls exploring and when I opened up my door, everybody filed in. At first, I was a little annoyed because I normally hate having people in my personal space, especially after I just cleaned. Nonetheless, with all ten people in my small hotel room, I had a lot of fun. It was a group of kids that I don’t think I would ever hang out with altogether and it was really nice getting to know everyone better on our own merit, instead of planned discussions that happen during the activities. When Dr. Driscoll came around at curfew to knock on all the doors, it looked like a clown show coming out of my bedroom. It felt very college and it makes me excited for when I am older. I love just waking up and immediately seeing all my friends or being able to see them at any time of day because they live right down the hall. 

On our last day on the retreat, we gathered for Mass in the gorgeous chapel and then cleaned up our bedrooms before packing up the vans to come back home. Overall, this retreat is an experience I will never forget and I am so happy I signed up for it. It was such a unique opportunity Austin provided and I am grateful to have attended. I feel like I learned so much and can’t wait to go on the next one!