A new look at Kairos

Due to COVID-19, all previously scheduled Kairos retreats were cancelled this year. The Kairos coordinators created a different, shorter version of the retreat to give seniors a similar experience.


by Katie Massman, Dart Sports editor

Kairos, a student-led retreat for juniors and seniors, has been a tradition at STA for the past 25 years. The event typically takes place over a span of three days and two nights at a retreat center off-campus. However, due to COVID-19, both the scheduled spring and fall Kairos trips had been cancelled.

“We had our reservations at the retreat house where Kairos typically takes place,” Kairos coordinator Greg Harkness said. “We had planned to do it this year. But we couldn’t do it there, it was impossible. And we couldn’t get space at other ones. And our advisors [MRI Global] were very against the overnight aspect at the beginning of the year.” 

Despite these setbacks, Harkness and director of ministry and service Andrea Arredondo worked to create a similar experience which will abide by all safety precautions.

“We really felt that the current seniors deserve it,” Harkness said. “They’re so reasonable and understanding and accommodating young women, and they’re the first class in about 25 years who hasn’t gone to Kairos, so we needed to do something for them, that would make them feel like they have an understanding of the experience.”

This event took place March 1 and 2 on STA campus. It was not overnight, each senior only went one day, and it was open to all seniors who wanted to go. 

Both Harkness and Arredondo felt that Kairos was a crucial part of the STA experience, and it had to happen even if it looked different this year.

“It’s a really significant program for students,” Harkness said. “There are certain things that have been cancelled or not rescheduled throughout COVID for safety reasons, and this program has taken a hit because of that, but it’s important enough to us and to the development of our STA students that we need to do it. It needs to be a part of your time here.”

Arredondo believes that despite the changes being implemented, students will not be robbed of the essential Kairos experience. 

“We planned the day so that the most essential pieces of Kairos, the most impactful pieces, are there,” Arredondo said. “It is up to our seniors to make the most of it. In the multi-day Kairos, you get a slower build up, and you have more opportunities for reflection, but in this day long Kairos, you’re showing up and you have to be ready to get real and get vulnerable. So what you take away really depends on how you walk in.”

Senior Laura Cowan felt that although there was a lot going on, the day was very impactful. 

“I feel like they made the most of the 7 hours we had for Kairos even though everyone wishes we were able to have the normal experience,” Cowan said. “The day was packed with what they normally do in four days so it was a lot to take in, but I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the normal experience with how important just one day was for us. I am assuming it would be beneficial to grow even closer and get more comfortable in our setting but what we were able to do was already impactful.”

Kairos is a largely student-led retreat, as past participants lead the lower grade students. Arredondo and Harkness were worried skipping a whole grade may throw off the student leadership aspect. 

“We were a little nervous at first when we were interrupted for a year,” Harkness said. “But thankfully there were 12 girls who just happened to go last January, when they were juniors, who will be the ones to carry it onto the next grade. Those students have really, really grabbed hold of that responsibility.”

Without those seniors willing to lead next year’s group, students would have lost a large part of the retreat experience. 

“There’s a reason this retreat program is so good: it’s intentionally designed to be that way,” Harkness said. “It’s exactly what juniors and seniors need. It’s led by students, there’s a student director of the retreat…the adults participate, but in an ideal world it’s a student-to-student retreat.”

Despite all the turmoil brought about by COVID-19, it may have shifted future Kairos plans in a positive direction.

“There’s been a movement for the last 10 or so years to move Kairos from a senior program to a junior program,” Harkness said. “So we have been in that process here at STA, it just takes a long time. In a weird way, if you want to talk about COVID silver linings, this is kind of an upside.”

To move Kairos into a junior program for coming years, the class of 2022 will have the opportunity to go this summer, and the class of 2023 will go in January 2022. As a junior year retreat, Kairos may prove to be more beneficial to classes as a whole.

“One of the things that Kairos does, that’s a wonderful thing, is it necessarily attaches you to your class,” Harkness explained. “You become closer to classmates, meet new people and talk to new people, which is tough when you are at the end of your senior year.”

Cowan believes there are some benefits to have the retreat near the end of senior year.

“The timing of this retreat was good because the day slowed us down, as the second semester has gone by so fast already,” Cowan said. “I do wish we were able to go when we originally planned but what they made up for us was perfect.”