A rush of excitement swept through the Motherhouse on a sunny Friday afternoon in September as more than a hundred high schoolers crowded into Medaille Hall for their senior retreat day. It was the students’ first visit to the grounds, and they were greeted by a familiar face. “Mrs. Wray!” they exclaimed upon seeing their former teacher, Kathy, who encouraged them to use this time together to disconnect from the busyness of everyday life, reflect, and take heart that the Sisters will be lifting them up in prayer.
“You came in a year which is quite special for the Sisters,” Kathy explained, as the students settled into their seats. “They are celebrating 150 years of taking care of the ‘dear neighbor.’ Who is the ‘dear neighbor’? It’s you. It’s those who are in need, children to be educated, the ill to be cared for. Please know that the Sisters love welcoming young people into their home, and that you’ve got the whole house praying for you today.”
As Campus Minister and Chair of the Religion Department at Seton LaSalle, Kathy Wray planned retreats and other activities to help young people find themselves and their vocation through a deeper relationship with God. Now entering her third year with the Sisters as Coordinator of Worship and Director of St. Joseph Spirituality Center, Kathy develops programming for people of all ages who long for spiritual growth and a more profound relationship with God and neighbor. Retreats held on the Motherhouse grounds offer an environment to stimulate that growth, with quiet spaces for private reflection, loving hospitality, and a supportive community.
She invited the students to “take a deep breath, get out of your head, out of your routine, and slow down a little bit” before directing them to silence and hand over their cell phones. “I promise, you’ll survive,” she joked, as students slowly filed to the back table to bravely cut the technology cord and physically disconnect from the pressures and stresses of the outside world.
Bridgette Kennedy-Riske, who took over for Kathy as Campus Minister at Seton LaSalle and also serves as the school’s Director of Admissions, led the group in prayer and asked students to share their takeaways from the day. “Even in the darkest points in our lives, God is there,” one young woman offered. They discussed big concepts, like how to distinguish our true self—who we really are—from our false self, what we think the world wants us to be, as Bridgette encouraged students to rest in their identity as children of God.
“The more you draw close to God, the more He shows us who we are, and the happier we become,” she explained. “Being who you are, where you are, brings Christ into the world through the work you are doing. If you’re living as your true self, it’s a beautiful, holy thing.” And with that seed planted, the students set off about campus to contemplate what the future may hold, having faith that it’s all in God’s hands.