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Finding Community at April Retreat

Friday, May 11, 2018 by Emma Doerfler, ACE 25 - Stockton

ACE 25 April Retreat

A weekend full of prayer, learning, and relationship building came to an abrupt close for the off-campus members of ACE 25. As April Retreat ended on a Sunday afternoon, we waited for the bus to take us from Notre Dame to the Chicago airport. Someone announced that the bus had been cancelled. Before we could panic, the ACE Pastoral Team concocted a plan: we would pile into their cars, race to the South Bend station, and catch the train scheduled to leave in 10 minutes. “When you get to the train, just get on!” they told us. “You can buy your tickets later, but you have to get on board!”

“When you get to the train, just get on!”

We had just gathered as a cohort for the first time for April Retreat, and we spent the weekend at Notre Dame absorbing the wisdom of the ACE faculty and staff and the school leaders from around the United States and learning what a commitment to Catholic education means. As an ACE Ambassador, I committed to the program almost a year before April Retreat. I spent my senior year at Georgetown University spreading the word about ACE and meeting with prospective applicants on campus. Despite my firm belief in ACE’s mission, in March I started to question my decision as the reality of the task ahead began to set in. The confidence and peace I had felt a year before crumbled rapidly into fear and anxiety.

I quickly realized after arriving at Notre Dame for the retreat that I was not alone in experiencing uncertainty. By joining ACE, we were leaving behind the familiar and diving headfirst into the demanding work of teaching. Thankfully, April Retreat also opened my eyes to the fact that we would not engage in this work alone. Each of the talks on the retreat returned to the story of Jesus calling his disciples, and I realized for the first time how much the disciples must have needed each other as they embarked on their new journey. Peter, Andrew, and the others might have occasionally wondered if they had done something crazy, but they must have turned to each other in moments of doubt. In ACE, the gift of community and our shared faith in the work of educating children, will bring meaning and joy to the mission that we have accepted.

ACE 25 April RetreatMy heart fills with gratitude when I think about the community already abundantly present during April Retreat: belting out “All Are Welcome” with my fellow ACE 25 teachers at Mass on our first night on campus; making plans to bake cookies with Fr. Joe in the summer; and listening to the many stories of school leaders who have embraced Catholic education as a vocation. When I think of the warm generosity of the Notre Dame students who welcomed us to campus and the overflowing kindness of the ACE Pastoral Team, I know that I did not need to doubt. As an ACE community, we will support each other as teachers, students, and people of faith.

When we had found our seats on the train, still out of breath, I turned to my future community member and asked if he knew the name of our stop in Chicago. “I have no idea,” he said, perfectly calm and even smiling. “But we’ll know when we get there.” As ACE summer approaches, I remind myself of what I learned on April Retreat: get on the train, and trust that it will take you where you are meant to be.


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