When Macie Pennisi ’23 walked into Cardinal Gibbons Short Journey Retreat Center on a recent Thursday, she was excited but also a little anxious.
“It was my first Gibbons retreat, and I didn’t know anyone,” she said.
When she left the following day, Pennisi said she was filled with joy, knew everyone by name, and didn’t want to leave.
“I felt welcomed and encouraged personally and in my spiritual growth,” she added.
She was not alone. Many of her fellow students felt the freshman retreat that begins their spiritual journey at Gibbons helped them connect to each other and to God.
As freshmen, they also start a new Gibbons tradition. They will be the first class to attend retreats at Short Journey throughout their four years of high school.
At Short Journey, students can reflect on their relationship with God in a setting that allows them to feel at home, said Gibbons Retreat Director Tim Yelenic. “That, in turn, empowers them to live out their faith after the retreat, create lasting memories, and grow together in community.”
There also will be visible reminders that Short Journey is their home away from home. Plans call for covering main areas of the center with banners highlighting Gibbons green and gold. Yelenic said discussions also are underway to create a memory wall as well as to display photos of present as well as past retreatants on the walls throughout the center.
Currently, he added, students are given journals to track memories of their times at Short Journey as well as their reflections of what they have accomplished and want to accomplish. The journals will be kept at the center and students will read their entries and write new ones each time they attend a retreat, he said. Students will be gifted the journals when they are seniors.
During each retreat students, along with having personal reflection time, also take part in group discussions, activities, and Mass whether they are at Short Journey for one day or four days
With its own retreat center, Gibbons also will add more retreats to its already flourishing retreat program. The number of retreats is expected to grow to over 40 this year.
"More retreats provide more opportunities for educators and students to get involved and for retreat leaders to mentor new leaders," Yelenic said.
Returning to Short Journey for all retreats pleases Pennisi. “Having the retreats in the same place will enhance the experience,” she said. “It will enable me to become more confident to open up and be myself as well as to grow in my faith.”