Padua College, at Kedron in Brisbane, chose an “extreme” experience for its Year 12 students to start the year in a different and challenging way in 2010. It proved to be a weekend the young men would not easily forget, as journalist SELINA VENIER reports
THEIR clothes needed a good scrub, they carried mates on stretchers in the black of night and faced various rigorous army-like challenges in daylight hours.
Yet 150 senior students from Padua College, Kedron, were the better for it.
The “it” was a first-of-its-kind weekend retreat – “menALIVE extreme” – hosted by the menALIVE team from January 30 to February 1 at Emu Gully, Helidon, west of Brisbane.
Padua’s vice rector for formation Michael O’Brien “in a chance meeting” with menALIVE’s Mark Lysaght was spurred by “the mud” photo from the first eXtreme event in July 2009 which was printed in The Catholic Leader.
“He asked whether menALIVE could do the same event for Padua’s Year 12 students,” Mr Lysaght said.
“We slightly modified the program … and enlisted some of the menALIVE guys that had been part of the first eXtreme.
“This included men from all walks of life – a lawyer, university gradates, a marketing consultant, plumber and accountant were amongst the team, all sharing stories from their lives as well as the challenges with the young men of Padua College.”
Mr O’Brien said he “liked the idea of mixing physical challenges with spirituality” in the menALIVE tradition in “an absolute first for Padua in many ways”.
“For some time Year 12 did not have a camp-retreat at all,” he said.
“The boys had a fantastic time.
“It was the best thing we could have done so early in the year … a community-building moment … we will make reference throughout the year.”
The 150 students were accompanied by six staff who volunteered “for the whole three days”, two including the college rector who “stayed for two days”, another who came for Sunday, and the “house guardians” who came for part of the weekend.
Talented Catholic musician Roby Curtis and Army Defence Force chaplain Fr Morgan Batt were popular additions to the troops too – adding to the mix of leadership and faith-filled themes.
“Many of the activities had a leadership element to them,” Mr O’Brien said.
“(This) set the boys up for their year of leadership as Year 12s within the college.”
The retreat’s “positive atmosphere” stood out.
“Even when the boys were being really challenged, the sense of fun (was present in) the moments of prayer, Mass with Fr Morgan (and) spending time with the menALIVE team who were a mixture of blokes from early twenties to forties and fifties,” Mr O’Brien said.
“(And it was evident in) the Emu Gully activities – especially the night walk through the bush carrying someone on a stretcher, paintball and the two ‘man buggies’.”
The Paduan menALIVE retreat had an “Anzac” focus that blended well with the challenges, Michael adding, “Many of the Anzac values that imbue the activities at Emu Gully are easily transferable to a Catholic school setting and Gospel values.”
A common word heard from the students when reflecting on the three days was “awesome”.
“It was a great experience, with the feedback from the boys and staff overwhelmingly positive,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I learnt trust and something more about leadership,” was a comment made from a student as well as, “The camp was good because it started the year on a good footing.”
“This has been one of the best school experiences I have been part of and been privileged to organise in a long time,” Mr O’Brien said.
menALIVE and menALIVE Xtreme is a ministry to Catholic men.
They and Emu Gully Adventures “worked together to bring about action orientated experiences that combined to act as metaphors for the faith journey”.
“The experience with the young men and staff of Padua College was quite extraordinary,” Mr Lysaght said.
“All of the men stepped up to the mark.”
menALIVE will run their next eXtreme event from May 28-30.
Contact their office on (07) 3367 1402 or Mark Lysaght directly on 0407 128 099. For more details on menALIVE go to the website www.menalive.org.au