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Retreats Look at Life after High School

Chaminade Seniors Contemplate Culture "Beyond the Gates"

A revamped retreat program debuted Friday for Chaminade seniors; it focuses on life beyond their high-school days.

Senior religion classes will travel to the on-campus Saragossa Retreat Center for a full day of reflection, discussion, social time, and prayer. The theme of the retreat, "Beyond the Gates," challenges students to consider issues of life and faith they may face in college and beyond – beyond the gates of their comfortable surroundings.

Friday's retreat began asking students to ponder such potential situations as a group before open discussion with teachers and their classmates.

Moderators then showed the two-hour BBC film "Beyond the Gates." Released in 2005, "Beyond the Gates" takes viewers to Rwandan Genocide. During three months in 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority killed hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, many of whom were Tutsi – a minority ethnic group. United Nations peacekeepers were sent to Rwanda, and 2,500 Tutsis took refuge in a secondary school serving as the U.N. headquarters.

"Beyond the Gates" tells the story of Fr. Christopher, a British Catholic priest working at the school, and Joe Connor, a young and charismatic missionary and teacher. Fr. Christopher, somewhat jaded after spending decades as a missionary, still holds to his beliefs, saying Mass, performing baptisms, and preaching about God's love – at great risk to his own life. Joe shows strong opposition to the events taking place around him, even telling a BBC reporter he came to Rwanda "to make a difference."

The international community is largely absent during the genocide. The U.N. leaves. French forces evacuate the white people in Rwanda, and Joe decides to leave. Fr. Christopher stays, telling Joe, "My soul is here. If I leave, I may not find it again."

In the void of any sort of authority, the Hutu beyond the gates of the school set to begin an attack. Fr. Christopher hides as many children as possible in a truck to bring them away from the impending onslaught. The children escape; he is murdered.

The powerful movie served as a topic for Chaminade men to consider – what will they do when faced with the choice between what others are doing and what is right in college and later in life? How will they respond to what lies "beyond the gates" of their school, their hometowns, and their familiar surroundings? Will they take what they learned at Chaminade to make a difference? Will their faith endure in the face of hardship?

Students responded by saying that they "must focus on their roles as Catholics in the world," "staying true to [their] moral compass," and "doing what God would want [us] to do" in friendships and interactions with others.

Every senior religion class will participate in the retreats, which are scheduled on Fridays through early spring. Each retreat also includes Mass, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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