Father-son retreat opens conversations and relationships

Dan McGlinn

On my first experience on the Father/Son Retreat I sure didn’t know what to expect. Was anything going to get weird? Did I actually have to talk with my dad about things? Was it just going to a bunch of prayers and mass? Before these questions are answered, I want to say that I will be going back next year…so it couldn’t have been that bad. Right?

The Father/Son Retreat has been an annual tradition for a few years. It has grown in attendance significantly each year and hopes to continue for years to come. Mr. Papariello has organized and ran the retreat the past two years and is doing a terrific job. The event is located in the Malvern Retreat House across from Malvern Prep, and the scenery and holiness provides a beautiful backdrop. Simply, it is designed to bring fathers and sons closer and to a better understanding of each other. The retreat on the 10th and 11th of March did just that. It strengthened the already close bonds of many and helped to form new bonds for others.

I was nervous. I will admit it wasn’t the first thing on my list to do on a Sunday night. There were plenty other priorities on my plate: homework, television, sleeping and so on. Who has time for a retreat?, I thought. I did, that’s for sure. It was truly an eye-opening experience and ended up being the perfect length for what the retreat was trying to accomplish. Mr. Papariello did a great job organizing the event to give a great mix of fun and seriousness and everyone felt included and (hopefully) grew closer to their dads.

There were three sessions that were the most impactful for me. In the first session Mr. Donaghy gave a presentation about the relationship between the Father and Son, who epitomize what every father-son relationship should be like here on Earth. This presentation tied nicely into a session wrap-up of a 45 minute father-son walk to talk about anything that struck our fancy while walking around the grounds of the Malvern Retreat House.

After a delicious dinner of chicken, pasta, and salad, we divided into groups for our second session. Sons in one group and fathers in another was the only requirement. Although the sons conversations may have drifted a bit from the guidelines and are kept in the strictest confidence, my dad said the fathers had insightful conversations and were anxious to meet with the kids.

The second group sessions was more interesting. Fathers and sons were now together, but no student was in the same room as his father. If you have ever been questioned in a meeting room or interview you will know what I mean by interesting. Although the conversation was going back and forth and everyone was seated in a circle, it was understandably a little awkward at first. Eventually after warming up to everyone and being open, our conversations had to be cut short for the evening prayer. This began our third session, in which each kid exchanged a bracelet with his father to show the connection they made. The group all attended mass in the morning, got ready for the day, and set out back into the world.

It was a rewarding experience to have one-on-one time with my father and I don’t regret attending the retreat. Hopefully next year and for as long as the annual event continues, it is an even better turnout and people get as much out of it as I did this year.