Home Diocesan News Beth Frank’s retreats for children include hands-on activities, movement, prayer
Beth Frank’s retreats for children include hands-on activities, movement, prayer Print E-mail
Written by Ann-Margaret Lambo, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 23 February 2018 15:22

MOGADORE – Beth Frank is making every attempt to lead the way.

With the support of her teaching staff, the principal of St. Joseph School here plans and executes a children’s retreat for all of the students – kindergarten through eighth grade – each year.

Frank started offering such retreats at Mantua St. Joseph School, when she was principal there.

These days, Frank takes the student body off-campus. The children are transported to Rootstown St. Peter of the Fields Parish, where they spend the entire day in retreat mode, enjoying activities, prayer and worship, according to the established theme. Frank depends on her eighth-grade students to help plan and facilitate the day.

“I do a couple days of training [with the facilitators],” the principal said, “usually during snack time or after school. As the retreat gets closer I take them during their last religion class. I write it all out for them, how to facilitate. And then they practice. They are the prayer leaders, storytellers, craft facilitators, etc., depending on what we are doing that year. I usually get them a hat so everyone knows who the leaders are. It works very well.”

When the leaders are in training, they are taught various techniques that allow them to teach to a variety of age levels. Plus, the older students are very familiar with helping their schoolmates in the lower grades.

Frank said she has “a very supportive” administrator – Jesuit Father Thomas Acker. The priest is very pro-Catholic education and supportive of the school and the staff, she noted.

Intense planning for this year’s retreat hasn’t yet started. Frank does know that it is going to have a Lenten theme. The retreat always includes a great deal of movement, a number of visuals, and prayerful exercises such as the Stations of the Cross. Since there are lots of hands-on opportunities, each child has a shopping bag that they bring home with them.

“No matter what, we always end at the table and the table is the Eucharistic table,” the principal said. And to mark this emphasis, “each child goes home with a blessed loaf of bread. And they are told to take the bread home and share it with their family.”

Past retreat themes and activities Frank has used include a Holy Week theme with foot washing and lessons about the symbols of Holy Saturday. The students were encouraged to take home examples of the symbols to share with their families.   Another year, the retreat activities centered on the popular book “The Tale of Three Trees.” That year, the retreat dealt with the question, “If you were the fourth tree, what would you be?” Often the day includes guided meditation, which the children love, according to Frank.

“Every retreat is all about kids,” the principal said. “And it’s very experiential. And they love it.”

One might ask why Frank and her teachers take the time to plan and put on a retreat for children.

“It gives them a chance to move around a lot in the presence of Jesus,” she explained. “And do ‘holy, good, remembering what Jesus said’ kinds of things. And it’s all at their level. And they like it. And they remember (their retreat experiences) and they are able to share about that at school or with their families. And I think that’s really powerful.”

Frank has been in Catholic education for more than 40 years and retired from Mantua St. Joseph School in 2011. She was only three days into her retirement when she received a call from the diocesan superintendent of schools to consider interviewing for the principal position in Randolph-Suffield. Frank went to the interview, not confident that she would be hired – and got the job. She was only supposed to be at St. Joseph for a year.

That was seven years ago. So much for retirement.


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