A Guidebook and Blueprint
to Ignatian Retreats
for School Groups

As a Christian high school we organize Ignatian retreats several times every year for the whole student body - over 800 children. Our goal is to create opportunities for spiritual growth, moments when the children may encounter God, and become aware of meeting Him. These retreats last for four hours, and are built around symbols and hands-on, creative activities. Small groups of students work, talk and pray together, and the activities are facilitated by peers. The tradition of these retreats started over ten years ago in the Jezsu, the only Jesuit high school in Hungary, therefore a vast amount of retreat materials have piled up in the school chaplaincy. Based on the accumulated materials and experience, this handbook contains the detailed description of some actual events, the theoretical foundation behind them, and quite a few useful tips that may help you create your own original program.

We hope this book will help the reader create and organize their own school retreats. We would like to encourage you to shape the materials according to the needs and possibilities of your school.

The major part of this book contains six full, detailed retreat programs that we tried out and suc- cessfully completed. The topics, liturgical seasons of these programs and the age groups they are appropriate for vary. The programs contain detailed descriptions of how to prepare the event, and as soon as you have trained the group leaders and photocopied the pages, you can start the school retreat. There are tips and prompts placed in the texts to help the group facilitators be more confident and joyful while leading their groups.

These ready-to-use retreat programs are available at schoolretreats.jezsu.hu optimized for mobile devices as well so that the group facilitators can directly access them.

Before the detailed description of the programs we devote a whole chapter to the basic principles and theoretical foundation that shape the unique style of our retreats. In it we write about among other things, our vision of the human person, the wonder of cooperation, the possibilities to teach silence and the central role of creativity and symbols. We also write about training peer group facilitators, and the importance of sharing. We hope these basic principles will help introduce not only the actual programs but also the foundations of our approach and style.

There is a collection of tips and ideas for those who would like to create similar original programs by adopting the ones in this book to their local needs and circumstances. We supplement “The Journey” retreat with plenty of comments, recommendations and background information. This chapter contains all the experience and practical knowledge accumulated in the school chap- laincy: what to be alert to, why to use a certain game in a certain place, why the sequence of the programs, what can go wrong in an art session, how to help peer facilitators lead prayer, how to adapt a program to a different location, what we should know about managing time, etc.

Group activities are the focal points in our retreats, therefore there is a whole chapter dedicated to the tips and ideas about how to lead a small group. These ideas, tips and methods will help all facilitators, booth peers and adults.

We included the exact location of the scriptural passages along with the programs, and recom- mended games that are suitable to the liturgical season and to the program. You can find the list and detailed description of the games in Appendix No 2. We also recommend popular English songs to accompany each activity, but the retreat facilitators are encouraged to select songs to each activity from the Christian songs that are thematically and seasonally suitable to the retreat and appropriate for the young people in your school.

Please write to us and let us know about your experiences and recommendations concerning these retreats. E-mail Fr. László Elek SJ at laszloeleksj@gmail.com címen.

We hope our book will bear much fruit, and help our students and colleagues along their journey to God. The Lord has sown the seed, and we just water and care for the little seedlings. It is an important mission, and a great responsibility. In the meantime, however, we can rest assured: growth is not our work, it is given by God Himself, just as the fruit is a gift that comes from Him and not from us. We pray that we all can entrust our retreats, our students and ourselves into His hands.

Table Of Contents