Detroit Catholic Central High School upper classman students have three opportunities to attend a Kairos retreat each year. The four-day, three-night retreat can be described as the spiritual transformation of young men, but there is a bit of a mysterious component to it.
To truly know what happens at Kairos, you’d have to attend the event yourself.
What Is A Kairos Retreat?
Kairos is a Greek word that means “the Lord’s time.” The Kairos retreat program is offered at many – but not all - Catholic schools, and each may run their programs differently, based on the needs and impact of its students.
“I would describe Kairos as a dedicated time to get away from the world and to know myself, God, and others better,” stated Senior Andrew Schenk.
At Detroit Catholic Central High School, students are not required to attend a Kairos retreat. It is an option they can select during their junior or senior year in lieu of attending the day retreat.
Most students elect to attend the one-day long Kairos event, usually held on a Saturday. Third-year students who attend the four-day retreat can return next year during their senior year as an event leader.
The location may change each time, but it is always held at a local retreat center in Southeastern Michigan. The number of students who attend may vary, but it’s common for each four-day retreat to see anywhere from 30 to 80 students. One-day long retreats usually attract 24 to 40 students.
So, What Exactly Happens At Kairos?
According to Mr. Kevin Walters, Director of Campus Ministry and Theology Department Chair, the students deepen their relationship with God and partake in deep spiritual conversations about the man they want to become.
Several teachers or alumni attend the event as speakers and chaperones, there are no electronic devices allowed, and the daily schedule is not available to the public.
All we know for sure is that some students claim the retreat is the most impactful experience of their life. Students emerge deeply moved and completely transformed. It often takes them several days to adjust to normal life again.
Mr. Walters stated that there are three main takeaways he wants students to get from their Kairos retreat experience – and they are inspired by Steve Jobs’ biography.
The first is that you were chosen, even if you feel like you don’t belong. Mr. Walters described how Steve Jobs felt like he didn’t belong because he was adopted. But his parents explained to him that he was chosen from all the children in the adoption center. The point is that even if we feel like we don’t belong, we are often right where we are meant to be.
The second refers to the ‘victors vs. victims’ mentality. In his biography, Steve Jobs talks about how he became arrogant after being fired from his job. He expected his ex-employer to call and ask him to come back. When that didn’t happen, Steve had to take another job, which ultimately led him back to his old company. Mr. Walters wants students to know that sometimes the path we take to get where we belong isn’t linear and that tough times don’t define us. We get to determine whether we are victors or victims of the circumstances that happen to us.
The third key takeaway is to live each day as if it were your last. Mr. Walters encourages students to think about what kind of legacy they want to leave behind and how they want people to remember them, much like the way Steve Jobs is remembered for so many great things.
Why Attend A Kairos Retreat?
At Catholic Central, word-of-mouth about how impactful the retreat is spreads quickly among students.
“Kairos was an incredible experience of introspection, prayer, and brotherhood. My experience at CC would not be complete without going on the retreat. I went on the retreat because of the recommendations of others who claimed it was ‘life changing.’ At first, I didn't believe I could have a genuinely impactful experience during so few days, but I was completely wrong. My low expectations were completely shattered. I'd recommend Kairos to other students because it truly helped me rediscover my faith, and I now have a closer bond with the other members of the retreat than I ever could have imagined,” stated Junior Jacob Barta.
Andrew felt the same. “I originally went on the retreat because I heard others talk about it and how it had a positive impact on their lives. I feel like my CC experience would not be complete without it. I was expecting a transformative experience because many people had talked about having such an experience. I feel like everyone should go on Kairos. It is a formative experience that gives you the opportunity to become more connected to your faith and your brothers at CC,” he stated.
It’s not just the students who benefit from the retreat. Catholic Central Alumnus, Tony Signorelli ‘86, has been a guest speaker at every four-day Kairos retreat – 39 to be exact. It is important for him to speak at each event not just for the benefit of the kids, but also so that he can work on his own relationship with God.
“I open by saying how blessed I am to be part of the retreat. I am not just the teacher. I am also a student and I have learned a lot from the kids and their questions. For me, the retreats help me become a better husband, father, brother, son. Kairos allows me to take a pause in my life and reflect on where I’m at. If I didn’t pause, my life could get out of control. It’s a great time for someone to get rid of the noise and just get grounded in the basics of building relationships and hopefully that relationship ends with finding God.”