Molloy's First Freshman Retreat Week is the Beginning of a New Tradition
Freshman Retreat Week was the first time an entire class was supported during a retreat.
During the week of January 24th, Molloy introduced its first ever “Freshman Retreat Week.” The brainchild of Dr. Penikas and the result of many faculty members’ hard work, the week turned out to be a memorable, inspiring event for the Class of 2025. Unlike the well-known weekends spent at the Marist Brothers Center at Esopus a few hours away, freshmen were split up into four groups and spent four different days at Thomas Berry Place, formerly known as Bishop Molloy, in Jamaica, Queens. When asked about the outcome, Campus Ministry Director Lori Wilson stated, “it was a historic event for Molloy, the first time we were able to support an entire class during a retreat.”
The intention of the retreats was to help freshmen understand what it truly means to be a Marist student. Stanners learned the five pillars of Marist teaching, which include Presence, Simplicity, Family Spirit, Love of Work, and In the Way of Mary. Activities such as poster making and listening to student talks gave the freshmen the opportunity to bond with one another, and become more accustomed to openly communicating with each other. Molloy is a mission-based school, teaching young people about service, self-worth, and Christian values, and the retreats were a unique way to make sure all faculty and students are on the same page regarding this mission.
The amount of resources it took to greenlight the retreat - whether those be financial, personnel, or time - were abundant, but worth it when the outcome was one of love and community. While retreats to Esopus usually take place over the weekend, the Freshman Retreats took place during the school day. Administration, staff, and student leaders left Molloy to make sure that the day retreats were just as special, fitting three days’ worth of spirituality and unity in just a few hours. Ms. Dorothy DeNoto, Molloy’s Director of Library Services and a vital member of Campus Ministry, thanked everyone involved, stating, “The support of the faculty members, school Administrators and Marist leaders who came to participate was priceless.” Ms. DeNoto drew inspiration from a Marist Youth Leadership Camp that took place during the summer of 2021, as well as her experience being a volunteer at hundreds of other retreats and encounters. As Ms. DeNoto shares, “The idea was to use that leadership camp as a template for a one-day local freshmen retreat for the entire class of freshmen. The goal is to educate the students about the Marist pillars in a way that will resonate with them.”
Unsurprisingly, many students were hesitant about the retreats because of their departure from their normal spot - Esopus, New York. Before last week, the general consensus was that Esopus itself made the retreats special. More often than not, Stanners return to school feeling a sense of longing to be back there, because they miss the “feeling.” However, in the words of Ms. Wilson herself, “These retreats were an awakening, because we realized that it is not about property. It’s about people.” Stanners love going to Esopus because of the family spirit that is felt, the sense of community that is fostered between peers and staff. Stanners were able to feel that same family spirit in a different environment, and now it is only a matter of time before they are able to bring that feeling back to the halls of Molloy itself.
A key reason that all of it was possible - the same excitement, the camaraderie, the “Esopus emotion” at Thomas Berry Place - was the hard work and dedication put into the experience by the student leaders. Juniors beginning the path towards college applications took time out of their busy schedules to give talks and lead activities, trying to make the encounter just as fun and exciting for freshmen as any of their own at Esopus were. When asked why they volunteered to be leaders, one student said, “Somebody did this for me, and so I want to do this for others.” The selflessness of these students, standing in front of a crowd and being open and honest with everyone in the room, proves that Molloy’s mission lives within its Stanners.
Ms. DeNoto shared her hope to continue these retreats in the future, even “adding a ‘Marist Marks’ one-day retreat for all sophomores.” Trips to Esopus will still continue, but Stanners just beginning their journey at Molloy will have a strong background in the “Marist Charism,” making future events more meaningful. Ms. Wilson’s and Ms. DeNoto’s collaboration allowed for a new tradition to begin at Molloy, one that emphasizes the importance of an introduction to an important Marist belief, “to Christ through Mary.”
Written by: Bianca Bisone, '15, originally published February 7, 2022