We Are Family

Once, in AP Language and Composition (affectionately called AP Lang), the class was having a discussion about the reading from the night before. Ms. Limlamai asked the class a question that no one had yet considered. After a moment or two of contemplative silence, I answered the question with another question, receiving some groans and some friendly smack talk. One of my classmates leaned over to me and laughed, “Serena, I feel like you LIKE school.”

The friendly accusation resonated with me. At the risk of being seen as “a dork” my answer is yes, I do like school.

Before you get any ideas, don’t get me wrong, schoolwork can be tedious and boring, and there are definitely some classes that I enjoy more than others. I most certainly don’t look forward to tests, I still groan at pop quizzes,  high school drama is inevitable and unavoidable, and stressful late nights are not exactly my forte, but I genuinely enjoy school. For a while, I couldn’t put my finger on the reason, but I think I’ve figured it out.

I love that Marist is a community first and foremost. There are hundreds of ways I could explain this aspect of my school, but my favorite example of this is Monday night Emmaus Meetings. First, some background.

All retreats at Marist are optional and are lead by classmates and peers, which is probably what makes them so successful. Emmaus is a junior and senior retreat lead by seniors that is backed by nearly 40 years of tradition. I attended the retreat as a junior and was chosen by teachers and peers to be 1 of the 5 Emmaus leaders on Emmaus Board—in other words, one of the five spiritual leaders of the school which is an incredible honor that I’m still not sure I’ve totally processed. Being on Board makes the entire Emmaus tradition near and dear to my heart. The monthly meetings are an integral part of the tradition.

The Emmaus Board on the first day of school

The Emmaus Board on the first day of school

The first Monday of each month is an Emmaus Meeting night. From 7 pm until whenever it’s over, a group of juniors and seniors gather in the sacristy of the chapel to…well, meet. All juniors and seniors are welcome whether or not they’ve attended the retreat yet, so every month the crowd is different. Each meeting has a topic such as Light of My Life or Where I See God or Burdens. A pair of Emmaus Retreat Leaders lead the discussion with a personal story or two, and then they open the floor. Whoever wants to speak, may. There are those who have something to share at every meeting and some who generally just listen—the meetings need both to make the magic that happens. We laugh, we inevitably cry, and we learn more about each other than we ever would have otherwise. Sometimes the meetings last 30 minutes, and sometimes they last two hours. The meetings only come to a close when it seems that everyone who would like to share has shared.

At the end of the meetings, we pray for one another, and then we share the sign of peace. Everyone hugs everyone else. Literally. No matter how close you are to a certain somebody, you hug each other, and oftentimes the hug is accompanied by a “Thank you for sharing” or a “I loved getting to know you better” or, my personal favorite, “I’m so glad I came.”

Some type of magic happens in that sacristy that can’t completely be contributed to the fact that…well, we meet in a sacristy. The bonds that form at the meetings are so deep and so personal that I leave every month feeling recharged. The community that we create together at Marist has and will continue to make such an wonderful impact on me and the way I see my peers and my school.

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