Contemplation in Action
Mission of the Retreat Program
One way to retreats or to explain them is “contemplation in action” within a framework that is truly Ignatian. Formation and reflection are the keys to becoming who we are truly called to be. Learning at De Smet has always been more about formation than simply education. In an effort to keep our focus on the whole person, De Smet’s retreat program offers its members the opportunity to take time to reflect on life, as well as our relationships with others and God. St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, is the patron saint of retreats, so the Jesuits have over a 500 year-old tradition of retreats and spiritual direction. The heart of Ignatian spirituality is the belief that God can be experienced in all things. As a result, we should learn how to pray within the context and the business of our daily lives. The Jesuit phrase for this is “contemplation in action” and forms the philosophy and framework for De Smet’s retreat program. On retreat, students and faculty focus on prayer and spirituality in an effort to enter more fully into a personal relationship with God in everyday life.
“Contemplatives in action seek to find God in all things by looking at the world in an incarnational way, and, in their quest, they realize their desire for freedom and detachment, which helps them move even closer to God. That’s probably a fair summary of Ignatian spirituality.”
James Martin, S.J.
El Camino Retreat
The main theme behind the freshman retreat, El Camino is that life is a journey. This is the first retreat for students at DeSmet, so it merges getting to know their new high school with important themes in Ignatian Spirituality. In his Autobiography, St. Ignatius uses his personal journey as an example of how each person's life is full of change, growth, and ever-increasing opportunities to realize God's presence in the world. In addition to Journey, the themes include building better relationships, recognizing our role models and heroes, and hopefully trying to live more authentically. El Camino is experienced by the whole freshman class together at De Smet, led by a large group of seniors and includes team building exercises, small group discussions, and faith sharing.
Kairos means "the Lord's Time” and is an intense three-day, faculty and senior-led retreat. The motto of Kairos is “God first, Others second, and I am third.” Through a series of talks and small group discussions, students face issues such as: know yourself, discipleship, results of God's friendship, who is Jesus Christ, obstacles, sacraments, and love in action. Kairos stresses peer leadership and ministry in an effort to help students realize the similarity and solidarity we all share. The talks of the Kairos program are grounded and centered around the revelation of God's love in our lives through all the persons and experiences of our days. In accepting God's love and life, we have the responsibility for service in the Lord's name. After Kairos students and faculty are encouraged to attend meetings and activities as a follow up from their experiences together.
The retreat program culminates in Loyola senior year, a retreat focusing on Catholic spirituality and prayer. Seniors are asked to consider the possibility of finding God in all things. Loyola is a two day senior and faculty led retreat based on Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises guided meditations. Different forms of prayer and meditation are explored, including using one’s imagination, centering prayer, Lectio Divina, the examination of consciousness, and discernment. Loyola reinforces the idea that prayer is daily habit and way of life. Ultimately this is what Ignatius meant when he said that we should dedicate all our thoughts, words, and actions to the greater glory of God.
Comments from students, faculty and staff on the impact of Kairos:
“Kairos gives you that special opportunity to grow as brothers and to share your life with them, but also to grow as an individual and see where you want your life to go for God, for others, and for yourself." Evan Jenkins, 2013
“Kairos is an experience that will stay with me for my entire life. The things I have learned as well as the situations I was put in helped me to shape who I want to be in the future. You will not regret going.” Ben Yeager, 2015
"Truly a once in a lifetime experience that has had a great impact on the man I am today." David Goodwin, 2010
“Kairos opened my eyes and showed me how to become the person I am called to be.” Andrew Struttmann, 2011
“Kairos was a time to reflect on the past and become closer to my classmates. It was a time to unplug myself from the crazy world around us and renew my relationship with God.” Nick Redmond, 2015
“Kairos continues to be the pivotal moment of my De Smet career. Unlike anything we are taught at school, I feel like this retreat will benefit anyone, no matter where their faith life is. It is truly remarkable to witness the special connection we share with each other after having been on this retreat.” Nic Herrmann, 2010
“Kairos was an experience that encouraged me to embrace who I am and how God is working in my life. It was an experience that brought my class together by allowing for us to tear down our walls and be real with one another. You realize over those 3 days how truly loved you are, but also how much love you have to give.” Jake Fouts, 2015
“The timing of Kairos is impeccable for many reasons. I think the main reason is because we are trying to figure out who we are and who we want to be. For me, Kairos gave me the opportunity to reflect on how I had been living my life and if I wanted to continue living it that way or if I needed to change. Kairos is the best retreat I have ever been on, no doubt. I don't think any other retreat can accomplish as much as Kairos did for me.” Jack Herrmann, 2014
“Kairos means a time where everything outside of God and I doesn’t matter and ceases to exist. Kairos was a special time where I could grow with myself in a way that I couldn’t ever imagine before. It impacted me in a way that changed my life forever, from growing closer with the friends I made on my own Kairos to watching how much my own small group changed over the course of just 3 days.” Spencer Umbeck, 2015
“When I think about what impact kairos had on me, I think back to the starting of a foundation for a new, more wholesome individual. The ability to connect with others on such a deep level allowed me to broaden my horizons and see myself in a new light. I saw improvements in my faith life, my relationships, and my ability to understand obstacles in my life and handle them in a new way. These all have stayed with me as I graduated high school and continue in my time in college.” Alec Muhr, 2014
“Kairos was so special for me because it was an excellent chance to share my faith with my classmates. I had been on many retreats before, but Kairos was unique because I got to hear and see things in my classmates that I usually would not. Kairos enabled me to better empathize with them and understand them, and many of my judgments that I had of them were shattered. Kairos enabled me to look at my classmates as brothers, and now we share a special experience in common.” Luke Hornof, 2007
“Kairos was one of the most influential parts of my four years at DeSmet & the experiences that I had on Kairos continue to influence & shape my life even after I have graduated.” Fr. Chris Seiler, 2006
“Asking why to go on Kairos is like asking why we waste hours looking at old pictures and videos: We need to remember. Life is so busy, it’s a good and holy thing to take some time off to regroup, stir the fire, tell stories, eat cookies, make a good Confession and think about life. On Kairos we become present to – often as if the first time – the God whose love for us is evident in the people and circumstances of our lives.” Fr. Ronny O’Dwyer, S.J.
“The best part of Kairos for me is the opportunity to be ourselves – and express that in a way that we might not at our school – in an accepting and challenging environment of peers.” Dave Boland, Counseling Department Chair