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By: Lauren H. Beaty, Director of Alumni Relations

Friday morning.  August 4.  Three days before the return of MDS students.

The entire faculty and staff meet at 7:50 a.m. at lower Zuver to catch the school buses to Rock Eagle in Eatonton.  The extroverts are excitedly lining up with big smiles and thinking about what bus songs they will sing. The introverts are inwardly cringing, trying to make their smiles look believable.  One faculty member dressed in all black in protest (just kidding—happy coincident).  Others had backpacks full of supplies.  Excitement builds as new and former colleagues load the two buses (driven by the ever-loyal Tony Pierce and Todd Freeman).  Every team member is given a personalized riddle to solve to find out what small group they will join.  For example, “Your group is named for the year a guy who got a lot of mileage out of saying ‘Holy Cow’ was born” and “The year the actor nicknamed The Little Tramp debuted on the big screen.” Conversations on the bus centered around googling odd facts to solve the riddles.

“Island Survival” Game

Once we arrived at Rock Eagle, small groups joined together for team-building activities such as hula hoop challenges, “circus” tight-rope walking, Alaskan Baseball, silent group work, and island survival. It was in the small group work that some of the most memorable moments occurred: setting world records for hula hoop challenges, Mrs. Silva being tackled by Dr. Germann, a faculty member intentionally sitting on another faculty member, and generally seeing the MDS faculty and staff getting out of their comfort zones. According to Coach Hixon, one of the best parts of the day was “retreating off campus so everyone could participate in the activities and relax.”

The day continued with Mass led by Father Frank with musical accompaniment by Mrs. Webb and Mr. Lincourt. Father Frank preached about servant leadership in the context of the ‘culture of encounter’ proposed by Pope Francis.

“All of us are called to leadership in whatever role we see ourselves. It is important to recognize each role, each individual as essential through respectful dialogue and presence. As a school, we continually need to encounter each other and be present to one another. A retreat gives us the time and the space to begin the school year in a positive way. In this way, we can empower the students to strive for their goals, their ideals and become passionate about life and commit themselves to their passion. If we, as a school, are not passionate about our vocation, how can one pass this on to the students?”

Anointing of new teachers

Our veteran teachers and staff who have served the academy for more than twenty years received a special blessing: Melanie Bentley, Eileen Carlson, Mary Pat Dadisman, Diane Mead, Paul Midkiff, Becky Mixon, Tony Pierce, Robert Slocum, and Amy Starks.  These nine veterans then had the opportunity to anoint our nine newest teachers later in the day—who in turn anointed the remaining faculty and staff.

After lunch, small groups discussed servant leadership with topics from who we felt emulated servant leadership to how we can incorporate servant leadership more in our individual spheres of influence.

It was a blessed day and a great start to the school year.