Campus Minister Says Sophomore Retreat the Most Crucial One

Skylar Schultz, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Out of all the annual retreats, the sophomore retreat is one of the most highly anticipated, due, in no small part, to the tireless planning of Campus Ministry.

“It is a lot of work,” said Daniel Kriegl, NDA’s Campus Minister. “There’s a lot of planning that’s involved because there are a lot more activities, for those that have been on it, than some of the other retreats.” 

The chilly autumn day is centered around themes of community, character and church, or “the three c’s,” as Kriegl called them.

“In the morning we start on community and reflecting on the communities we belong to,” said the Campus Minister. This reflection involves small gender-based group discussions about values. Questions from these discussions include “Are you ever afraid to make a statement against whatever everyone else does?” and “Do you feel that males and females are held to different standards?”

Within these groups, students are asked to come up with a list of what attracts them to a person (though not necessarily in a romantic sense) and questions for the opposite gender, which are shared when the groups reconvene in Camp Tekawitha’s main lodge. 

“It is exciting,” said Kriegl. “The boys and girls asking questions tends to get people a little worked up.”

After lunch and recess enjoying the beautiful weather and facilities that Tekawitha provides, sophomores assemble once more in the camp meeting hall for an “integrity talk” on character by none other than Mr. Kriegl himself. “What most people complain about is how long my talk was,” reflected the minister. “I try to do it on self-identity and who you are.”

Students are then divided back into their groups and sent around camp to reflect further on their values and integrity. First, the group leaders read and discuss tough scenarios that the sophomores may face as they grow and mature. After this time, students are given a notecard on which they can write any question or scenario they are struggling with, in order to receive feedback without having to embarrass themselves in front of their peers

The retreat ends with an ‘open-mic’ in the camp chapel. At this time, students are invited to address their classmates openly, ask for prayer intentions or just pray silently. It’s all up to the students. 

“I think the chapel part is very eye-opening,” said Kriegl. “We’re all church. This is the one place you can feel safe. You should be lifted up.”

While retreats are a core part of student life at the academy, the sophomore retreat is particularly crucial in the eyes of its organizer.

“I believe moral corrosion happens during your sophomore year,” said Kriegl “You get your driver’s license, you get more independence, you start wanting to get more social in the high school where you’re at. The decisions of drinking, juuling, whatever it is, you have to ask these questions because they’re around you. You can’t completely avoid it.”

“When I first got here, there was no sophomore retreat,” he recalled. “I thought it was extremely important that we had a retreat at the beginning of their sophomore year, before they all have licenses, before they all have that independence, and have them reflect on their community, their character, and how their faith life with the church is going to be brought in. I thought it was important, and luckily the administration was supportive of it.”

As for this year’s bunch, reviews have been largely positive. 

“If I’m brutally honest, it seems like Friday enjoyed themselves more than Thursday,” said Kriegl. “I think both retreats were available.”

The main difference appears to have been the final event of the day: the open mic. “It’s up to the sophomores what they’re going to make of that section,” said Kriegl. “The first day had, I guess, less mature people that didn’t take it as seriously that some people have complained about.”

“I don’t like to yell at people in the chapel,” he pointed out. “I tell them to be quiet quite a bit, but boys are the boys, I guess.”

“The feedback from the sophomores, overall, is that it’s one of their favorite retreats. Senior might be the best, but the sophomore retreat they seem to enjoy more than the freshman,” Kriegl reflected.

He pointed out the difficulties of opening up at your first class retreat. “The freshman, it’s also hard because you just met these people. By sophomore year know them, so I think the small groups and all the interactions are better too.”

This year was no different. “For having two days and a lot of planning, a lot of moving parts, the Holy Spirit was behind it,” said Kriegl. “Overall, I thought it was well done where we got enough content in there, but the kids also had fun. People who were open and wanted to get something out of it got something out of it.”