Reflecting on Freshman Retreat

Christian Topinio

If I had to condense the main point of the Freshman Retreat this year, I would describe it in a single question: What is your story? Ok, it’s not the most specific or simplest question ever, but imagine that you, the reader, gave an answer to the question. However, you not only answered that sole question, but other questions too. The question “What is your story?” has a two-fold meaning. ​What does a story mean to you?​ Of course, a story, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “an anecdote of incidents or events.” This is a good literal definition, but what are the connotations of that word? What feelings does it evoke, and what does it really mean beyond the definition? This is just a few of the potential questions inside of that question. ​What defines you? ​Unlike the first question, any logical response to this would fail. Instead, this is one that must be thought of emotionally. Your answer would reveal some of your feelings of identity, expectations, and countless other themes. Now, how did the Freshman Retreat make me think about this question in the first place?

The first significant moment for me in the actual retreat was when we all had to record a significant story of our lives in different groups. First, we heard two versions of a senior’s story: one where the freshman was recording and one where the senior was recording. It was an inspiring tale, and I remember thinking after it that I had to have something good to tell about. I spent a few minutes trying to work something out in my mind. I was so focused on telling something good for myself that I did not consider what the story’s effect had on me. Since I couldn’t think of anything, I decided to listen to other stories before I would do mine. Then, seeing how the other people in my group were being open and honest with themselves, I decided to do the same and tell a small story that I felt had a strong impact on me. In hindsight, I realize that I had to be open to others in order to be open to myself.

The second significant event in the Retreat occurred when I was lying down on the floor. This took place after we played in the Cadigan Gym and after talking to some more people in an activity. As a result, I felt tired. When we had lain down, we were encouraged by multiple questions to think about what had happened in the retreat and what we have learned. Furthermore, it told us to think about our stories and how they are connected with infinitely many others. Overall, it was a nice respite that allowed us to reflect on the past, present, and future.

The third most significant moment was the closing Mass. Before I came to the retreat, I had a gut feeling to go to the chapel in the morning. There I attended the Mass and recited the prayers and responses without thinking too much. During the retreat, I heard that we were going to see Communion from the priest’s perspective. Somehow, even though it was the same readings I heard and the same response I had given before, it felt different, witnessing the priest holding the bread and wine a few feet away instead of from farther back. It was a unique, new perspective.

How does all of this tie into stories? Well, pieces from each of these minute moments in the retreat helped me see a larger lesson. From the interconnected threads our stories weave to the value of our differences, we are one. It is like the newspaper you’re holding in your hands right now! Our different pieces and writings show our united identity in BC High. It is rather amazing that colliding coincidences can produce beautiful stories that we can learn from.

All of this is to say that the Freshman Retreat gave me some clue of what my story is.