Wow, what a week! Staying from 2nd – 6th March, St John Houghton Year 9 kicked off the retreat with team building activities in their newly formed small groups ( with fabulous names like the Chicken Eaters and Anonymous Buzz 618 ). Coming together for night prayer, we designed and shared each group’s instagram ‘profile’, to which we added our favourite memories and pictures over the week.

After a lovely breakfast and morning prayer, we played The Masked Singer, with each group disguised as a different influential figure: some amazing costumes and props were created (apples, chicken nuggets etc.) helping disguise famous influencers such as Bill Gates, Buzz Light Year and Colonel Sanders. After a chilled out afternoon participating in workshops around the site, the group came together in the evening to play The Chase, before heading into small groups to create some fantastic Stations of the Cross. Moving around the Briars, Year 9 experienced their version of the Passion, their creativity and imagination evident in each retelling of Jesus’ final moments.

The next day Year 9 got to play the Game of Likes – thrown into the famous village Briville, they had to gain as many financial, health, faith, and happiness points as they could. Encountering various different residents on their journey (hapless cleaners, lost residents, sports enthusiasts to name a few), we gathered together at the end of the game to discover we had an intruder! ‘Keith’ (also known as Briars team member Kieran) had been wandering around trying to persuade Year 9 to write nasty reviews about Briville for points. People quickly realised that the happiness points he had offered weren’t valid, since, as in life, mean comments rarely cause happiness. Overall however, year 9 made Briville a better place, signing up for sponsored runs, cleaning up litter, and helping lost (french) residents find the cafe.

After a beautiful walk and a Q&A with Father Jonathan, Year 9 experienced different ways of praying as well as reconciliation in the evening.

On Thursday, the small groups were once again put to the test, endeavouring to impress ‘Lord Sugar’ with an invention that could help save the world. A difficult task, but Year 9 came up with a range of different devices aiming to combat some big issues today, such as mental health issues and climate change. After a break, we made a pledge in our groups to do what we could to help protect our planet and work to help those in our community.

Finally, we came together on our last evening to celebrate Mass and have a truly epic disco! Our last night prayer focused on how we could use our influence on others for good, and how the more we positively influence those around us, the more their actions will impact positively on others… and so on and so forth, allowing us to influence the whole world with the little things we do.

Friday morning saw Year 9 spreading the love, with a wonderful morning prayer, where we wrote what we thought love was on hearts around the room. This led nicely into writing affirmations, sharing messages of kindness with those in our groups. All too soon after final liturgy it was time to go, and we waved goodbye to St John Houghton Year 9, glad that they’d had such a positive influence on The Briars! Thank you for a fantastic week!

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