The Sound of Silence

For over thirty years, Mitty had not held a silent retreat. Until this year.

Madison Lin and Mia Evans

Silence: a welcome break from the noise of life. For any high schooler, this noise is overwhelming, but for seniors, it can be far worse. As the normal stress of school, college applications, AP tests, and Monarch Madness fight for attention in their lives, many students wanted a break–which the LIFE Corps Silent Retreat offered.

Just a week before Monarch Madness, a group of nine seniors and two teachers participated in a silent retreat which took place at the St. Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista—the typical location of junior Quest and senior Kairos retreats.  Unlike the retreats normally hosted by Mitty, this silent retreat required participants to remain silent for the entire duration of the retreat, barring them from speaking or even acknowledging each other except for one hour during dinner.

The retreat’s unique schedule also sets it apart from Mitty’s usual retreats. Unlike the Awakenings, Agape, Quest, or Kairos retreats where there is activity after activity, and students are encouraged to discuss and interact with one another, the silent retreat only included a few talks by teachers, after which students dispersed. Besides these talks, mealtimes, and the scheduled one-on-one faith conversations with the teachers, students had the bulk duration of the retreat–twenty-four hours–to themselves.

For over thirty years, Mitty has not held a silent retreat. This special experience only occurred again due to a series of chance events, starting with Ms. Marian Wyman, Religious Studies teacher and a co-director of the retreat. Ms. Wyman had been on a silent retreat herself in January of the same year and enjoyed it greatly, inspiring her to try to bring that same experience to Mitty students. But just because it was a good idea didn’t make it easy to put into action. Mitty has four main retreat levels—Awakenings, Agape, Quest, and Kairos—that it sticks to, so there would not have been room for another retreat, if it weren’t for an availability at the retreat center. However, the junior Quest retreat in late February was not filled due to concurrences with other school events, and Mitty already had the reservation for those days.

Ms. Wyman explains, “I was already really excited about silent retreats from my own experience, and because there was energy for it, and that opportunity for it, we decided to go for it.”

LIFE Corps members were informed about the silent retreat that was named, “Waste time with God,” due to the time to pray and individually reflect that came with the retreat. One of the participants, senior Allysa Hernandez, recounts, “I was intrigued..and I thought that because my life is so busy right now it would be nice to have a little break, and so I decided to sign up.” 

Minus the group activities and discussions, retreatants could shape their own faith experience, as long as it was in silence. The only scheduled events were the meals, the two reflections from Mr. Kroenung and Ms. Wyman, and private talks with Mr. Kroenung and Ms. Wyman. Students arrived at the retreat center around ten in the morning, and after the rules were explained, the teachers rang a bell three times which would signify a break or commencement in silence. Throughout the retreat, talking was only allowed during dinner–which gave the students one hour to talk–or during the one-on-one sessions with the teachers.

I remember we were all talking again, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I love speaking. I love being around all these people who are similar-minded to me, faith-filled, and kind.

— Asia Omega Alvarado, Class of 2022

Many students described the individual sessions with the teachers as therapy sessions, where they were able to share their thoughts and feelings. Due to the plethora of free time, the retreatants could hike, read, journal, stargaze, or watch the sunrise. Some memorable moments the students recalled was when they all silently stargazed together after dinner, creating the feeling of community without any communication. Senior Jade Murray also humorously remembered seeing her friend Rohan Tawade attempt to communicate with the horses: “This one horse was nodding his head, and each time he nodded his head, Rohan would nod his head too. I looked over, and I tried not to acknowledge him, but it was really funny.”

Seniors and teachers still feel the impact of the retreat now–whether reflecting on it themselves or hanging out with their friends. Even on the bus ride back to Mitty, the seniors felt changed, as senior Asia Olmega Alvarado recollected, “I remember we were all talking again, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I love speaking. I love being around all these people who are similar-minded to me, faith-filled, and kind.’” Many seniors shared the same appreciative sentiment of each other’s presence.

“Wasting time with God” offered them the time to take a deep breath, silencing the turmoil of their daily lives and trading it for a more fulfilling, quiet lifestyle. When asked if there was anything else they liked to share, Jade Murray–like many of the other participants–said, “I totally would do it again.”