LIFE Team fixes their eyes on God at retreat


Kevin Fajardo

The 2022-2023 ARHS LIFE Team at CYO Retreat Center in Occidental, CA

Joseph Zuloaga '23, National and World News Editor

Amidst the California redwoods, the ARHS LIFE Team joined Chaminade West Hills (CCP-WH) from LA, Chaminade St. Louis (CCP-STL) from St. Louis, MO, and Saint Louis School (SLS) and Sacred Hearts Academy (SHA) from Hawaii for LIFE Pacific 2022. 

Returning to an in-person retreat format after the pandemic shut down that opportunity for the past two years, Marianist LIFE welcomed Marianist schools in the Pacific region of the United States to CYO Camp in Occidental from June 19-24 for a retreat, whose theme was “Fix My Eyes.”

Carly Guevarra ’23 stated, “The theme applied to our mission, helping the members of LIFE team to have an eye opener of the understanding of the Marianist charisms and how to share with the students as we lead retreats.”

Riordan was the pit stop for all of the schools who flew into SF. Before joint departure to CYO Camp, the Riordan LIFE Team members gave an impromptu tour of the campus to the students from Hawaii.

Christopher Enriquez ’23 greets Christopher X. Casupang SLS ’23 at Riordan.

Malakai Holland SLS ’23 said, “Getting a tour around Riordan [was a special moment] because it was the first time I’ve ever been inside of a mainland school.”

The six day retreat was structured with a focus on each of the Marianist charisms, through “Marianist Moments” of Inclusivity, Community, Faith, Mary, and Mission. A mixture of small and home group discussions fueled profound conversations about these topics between Riordan students and students from the other schools.

Sammie Europa SHA ’23 stated, “The mix of small and home group discussions allowed me to feel comfortable with opening up. I could gather my thoughts with my home group and feel connected to home while my small group pushed me out of my comfort zone to get to know people from around the country.”

“You got to see different perspectives from each person. I learned a lot from each group and what they had to say, from where they are and what they do,” added Angie Levano ’23.

You got to see different perspectives from each person. I learned a lot from each group and what they had to say, from where they are and what they do.

— Angie Levano '23

Students participated in a wide variety of activities focused on the charisms to help build deeper connections and understanding of their faith.

Kaya Manglona ’23 recalled, “The biggest highlight for me was when we did our home group affirmation. Being able to tell everyone how much they truly meant to me was so uplifting and hearing the same from them was such an amazing experience.” 

She added, “I think that really solidified our bond as a LIFE team. There were a lot of tears but also a lot of laughs and I will never forget that.”

Riordan LIFE Team members during a home group activity. (Jameson Datoc ’23)

They also vivaciously sung classic Catholic songs like “This Little Light of Mine” and the theme song of the retreat “Fix My Eyes” at the top of their lungs.

Andrei Magno ’23 said, “Singing songs, especially with other LIFErs, just made the whole experience so enjoyable and felt like our prayers really went up to the Lord. Personally, I felt enlightened because I’ve never expressed that much joy singing songs.” 

Furthermore, he added, “The energy with the people around me and how we were all giving our all singing those songs felt so powerful and it just felt so good being able to share this part of me with another community.”

Each school additionally led their own prayer service, with Riordan creatively interpreting the Gospel reading about the Wedding of Cana where Jesus changed water into wine.

“The conversion of water to wine is a key event in the story,” affirmed Chris Enriquez ’23. “The idea of utilizing Kool-Aid in our skit was quite unique. We ran through the scene a couple of times and felt we did a really good job portraying that event. Overall, nobody on our team felt left out, and we all contributed to the service in many ways.”

Students also enjoyed their time hanging out with new friends, in the pool, participating in the talent show, and other activities.

A special ceremony was held on the last night of the retreat. However, before it, something unique occurred. Out of nowhere, each school huddled together and sang fight songs from their respective schools, with Riordan chanting the Crusader Whisper after a long hiatus.

The Riordan LIFE Team prepares to present a skit based on the Wedding at Cana (Joe Frias)

Marcella Fabre ’23 said, “When we started chanting the Crusader Whisper, I felt the LIFE Team grew more as a family.”

“The Crusader Whisper came out of nowhere for me,” stated Manglona. “Being able to do it made me feel like I was truly a part of the school. It made me feel like the school spirit Riordan once had before the pandemic was back, and it also motivated me to help bring back that spirit.”

In the ceremony, the LIFE Team received their Marianist medallions, making them official LIFErs.

This moment was very emotional for Jameson Datoc ’23. He expressed, “This necklace was the whole purpose why I’m alive today, why my parents got married, why I know so many great people, why I’ve been to countless MLCs all my life even before I went to Riordan.

This necklace was the whole purpose why I’m alive today, why my parents got married, why I know so many great people, why I’ve been to countless MLCs all my life even before I went to Riordan.

— Jameson Datoc '23

Datoc added, “When my dad put the medallion on my neck it meant that this is now my mission to carry on the Marinanist tradition in LIFE. It’s now a burden and a blessing to revive it but above all I’m finally a LIFEr.”

For Odalis Alvarez ’23, the medallion meant honor. “It made me realize how lucky I was to be chosen as one amongst the 12 to represent Riordan’s Marianist LIFE.”

This special retreat helped the Riordan LIFE Team cement its mission for the upcoming school year, seeking to strengthen the faith of the Riordan community and fix their eyes on God. It also brought them even closer than ever before as they got to experience special memories together.

Luke Grogan ’23 believes, “I feel our LIFE team definitely got way closer. Before the retreat I had an idea of who everyone was and what they did in the school, but after the retreat I now know people on a personal level.”

“The retreat helped make all of our bonds closer because we all got to do different activities together in which we all got to know more about our personal lives and interests, especially in the affirmations we did for each other,” said Juan Navarrete ’23.

Regional coordinator Christopher Casupang told retreatants that they were experiencing “capital LIFE,” but “real life” outside is even harder and that they have a mission to continue following Mary’s example and spread the word of God in their respective schools.

Participants of LIFE Pacific 2022 (Bro. Brandon Alana)

Levano said, “It was a different type of connection and a unique experience that you could only experience there.”