Teens learn how to trust

November 4, 2013

Why hold just one high school retrally – that's a cross between a retreat and a rally – when you can have a whole week of them?

It's a way to get students talking about, and hearing about, trust, friendship, unity and community.

For the past seven years, Winnipeg's Catholic girls high school St. Mary's Academy has been starting the school year with one big retrally for all 600 students.

This year, according to Michelle Garlinski, director of campus ministry, they did things differently, with each grade getting together separately for an afternoon of reflection, discussion, group activities and a lot of fun, too.

"This way each day emphasizes just that one group and we could tailor it for each age level," Garlinski said.

The retrallies took place the week of Oct. 7, and whether one or a series of them, they are always held during what the school celebrates as Mother Marie Rose week, honouring the founder of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who have been operating the school since 1874.

The feast day of Blessed Marie Rose Durocher is Oct. 6.

"When have you reached out for someone's hand and when have you offered a hand?" asked co-facilitator Sister Mary Kay Kelley during the Grade 10s' retrally afternoon.

Kelley described the way a toddler reaches for the hand of a parent knowing, "'I can trust in you no matter what.'"

Kelley told the students that together, they are "a powerhouse of possibilities. You have the opportunity to create miracles but there has to be that sense of trust that says 'we have each others' backs.'"


Kelley and her co-presenter Catherine Johnson are co-founders of Heartful Ministries, situated at Neumann College in Aston, Penn. Garlinski first met the pair five years ago while on a course at St. John's University in College-ville, Minn.

Kelley's ministry experience includes 14 years in the office for youth and young adults with the Philadelphia Archdiocese and teaching primary grades.

Johnson is the assistant for worship and music at a Cherry Hill, N.J., parish and is also a spiritual director with experience in high school campus ministry.

The pair have authored lectionaries for junior high students and a book of prayer services for young people. With Heartful Ministries they provide liturgical and spiritual formation through retreats, presentations, prayer and liturgy preparation, and music ministry.


Johnson told the Grade 10s that trust may require honesty and courage to tell a trusted friend that something they are doing is wrong for them.

"When we have that kind of friend we are a stronger community," she said.

Each retrally afternoon included a student witness speaker from that particular grade and also a Grade 12 witness speaker.

The Grade 10s heard from Grade 12 witness speaker Dayna Konopelny who told them trust "is harder with people we love because we expect so much from them.

"When we all trust in each other we can do great things, we can create an atmosphere of being able to do exceptional things, so let's do exceptional things this year."


Kelley told the group that trust is "relational. It has to be relatable one to another and within ourselves. It also has to be active. It doesn't just happen.

"Trust is something that can grow," she said. "There's going to be bumps along the road as we go, but it will grow if we work on it."