Religious retreat for 8th graders

I asked our grade school principal ( Catholic grade school ) about a religious retreat for our 8th graders. We have no Catholic HS in our area and most of the kids will be attending public schools next year. I thought this would be a good send-off and a way to help strenghten their faith. We have never done this in our school before and I am wondering where I could get some advice and guidance on this project. We have a parish priest who is not very hands-on with the kids. Our religious ed program is not a very strong one. There lies the challenge. I would be willing to do as much as I can as a parent and I’m sure other parents would help too.

Thanks in advance.

First, what kind of retreat? A weekend? One day? At a retreat center? At the parish hall?

If it’s a one-day, at your parish retreat start by setting the timeframe either starting or ending with Reconciliation and Mass.

For example, for a Saturday (you could align times to end with your parish Mass on Sat evening if you have one):

9 a.m. - arrive & get settled
9:15 a.m. - opening prayer service
9:30 a.m. - first talk or activity
10:30 a.m. - snack break
10:45 a.m. - second talk or activity
11:45 a.m. lunch break & free time (if there is something they can do outside like a kickball game or other recreation)
1:00 p.m. - third talk or activity
2:00 p.m. - pray the rosary
2:30 p.m. - snack break
2:45 p.m. - fourth talk or activity
3:45 p.m. - change clothes for Mass & reconciliation
4:00 p.m. - Reconciliation and Adoration
4:30 p.m. - Mass
5:30 p.m. - pick up kids

I would have a theme that all the activities and talks connect to. For example, “Come, Holy Spirit” or “Discerning Vocations” or “Moving In To High School”, “Making Moral Choices”, etc.

Mix talks with activities-- and you can Google for ideas. Call your diocese and see if they have any ready-made retreats and/or speakers that will come talk.

If you have a retreat center in your area, go there-- they will do the whole retreat for you. It’s more expensive but worth it IMHO.

If you can raise the money, bring a NET team to your parish. They travel the country doing retreats. You provide the space, the do the work. —KCT

call the YM office of your diocese, or Catholic schools office, they may already have retreat teams that can come into the school or to another location and run the retreat part, and the parents would just have to chaperone, get supplies, do the food etc.

I don’t recommned a sleepover for this age group, but consult your diocesan guidelines if you do plan one. Our 8th graders from the school go to a came N. of San Antonio for an overnight retreat, but it is pricey, but the price includes everything except the charter bus.

I think a weekend day works best, not a school day, and tied in with one of the regular Masses. We usually have our Jr. High retreats on Sat. and end with the 5 pm Mass (confessions beforehand), and HS retreats on Sunday beginning with the regular “youth Mass” at noon, going until 6 (late enough on a school night). Sometimes we plan to coincide with public school vacations, but then we lose a lot of attendance.

Pick a theme.
are these 8th graders confirmed or preparing for Confirmation? that is a natural theme. This age group is very interested in practical applications of their faith, discipleship, service, so building a service project in as part-- a couple of hours, no more–of the experience might work. What does not work with this age group is the format that most adults like: talk, reflection, prayer, talk, reflection, prayer. They need a lot more process activities to drive home the theme

pick one theme and stick with it, one idea you want them to come away with.

Wonderful ideas. Thank You so much as I am starting from scratch.

Coincidentally enough, we just had our Advent retreat for our Catholic community (military hospital chapel) and we took my 13-year-old son and 13-year-old niece. The retreat was one day, started with Mass at 9 a.m. followed by a coffee break, then a 45-minute talk (our retreat theme was “preparing for Christ’s coming, not just Christmas!”), a break during which confessions were heard, another 45-minute talk, then lunch followed by more confessions then the last talk of the day. Our retreat master was a young, dynamic priest who happens to be the brother of one of my best friends (I knew Fr. Michael when he was 8 years old!) and he had our two kids on the edge of their seats… and when you consider that the retreat was actually geared more toward adults (they were the only attendees under the age of 30!) it was very impressive, especially watching our kids converse with the other attendees (mostly 60-year-old women who were impressed to see young teens dressed nicely for church and listening to religious talks) and with Fr. Michael. Our kids are homeschooled and getting ready to prepare for confirmation, but the parish program is mostly socializing and remedial catechism (remember I’m at the parish where we have a lot of “locust” Catholics… they only show up every seven years–baptism, First Communion, confirmation, marriage and/or their child’s baptism :shrug: ) since we don’t have a Catholic school and most kids stop their formal Catholic education after their First Communion. I would love to invite this priest to give the confirmation retreat for our parish, but we had to travel 100 miles to get to the retreat and he is very busy. His parish offers the only Latin Mass in El Paso, TX right now and he’s trying to offer it more than once a week.

Needless to say, when Father offers our community the Lenten retreat in the spring, we’ll be attending and the kids want to go too!

several of our teens reported today on a leadership retreat they attended as part of Disciples in Mission, and are on fire to lead a retreat, so I am putting them in charge of planning and presenting the Jr High Lent Retreat. might be a good idea to enlist some reliable older teens or college kids who are on fire with the faith to help with your retreat.

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