Marianist Father Bob Jones, chaplain at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School, a Marianist-sponsored school in Dayton, Ohio, has witnessed this firsthand. “LIFE touches on many things kids yearn for. They are asking: ‘How can my faith inform my life?’ That in- cludes interactions with friends or on social media or how to deal with a family member caught in addiction. I also see them hungering for authentic connections, not just virtual ones, and thirsting for a space where they can find some quiet time to reflect. If they can do all of this with like-minded peers, that’s even better.” “This is ours” Aquiet place to unplug, build meaningful relationships and reflect on complicated issues of life and faith are some of the reasons LIFE has been effective for so long, says Toni Mesina, national coordinator for the program. But the real key to the program’s longevity is that it is led by students. “There are adult moderators on hand for guidance and structure, but students need to feel ‘this is ours, and the adults trust us to lead our peers in faith-sharing,’” she says. Marianist Father Ralph Siefert, who began working with the LIFE program in 1973 during its fledgling years, says, “LIFE was started to help students develop their personal faith. But as the program evolved, now it also develops student leaders, starting with the summer program.” Part retreat, part workshop, part leadership-building is how Brother Mark describes the summer LIFE program. “It’s far more than a retreat where kids go away and have this incredible spiritual experience, and then it ends there. The real need in campus ministry is to bring these experiences home and keep the energy from the retreat experience alive. LIFE summer program helps students create a plan before they head home so they can infuse their passion and energy into their high schools and parishes.” Leading by example Every year, LIFE’s summer leadership program is held in three regions of the United States: LIFE South in Texas, LIFE Central in Ohio and LIFE Pacific in California. About 80 students are selected to attend each regional program,andtheycomefromallpartsoftheUnitedStates. To help them get acquainted, they are divided into small groups with students they don’t know. It’s awkward. It’s scary. In the end — with encouragement from adult moderators leading them in team-building exercises, discussions, skits and other group interactions — they form several close-knit communities. “The idea is to create a safe and trusting environment,” says Father Ralph, president of Chaminade College Preparatory, a Marianist-sponsored school in St. Louis. “That’s when kids relax and let others in. It’s a power- ful experience.” It’s also how lifelong bonds are formed. “Recently, I reconnected with a guy I met as a student at the LIFE summer program 27 years ago,” says Toni. “We were so excited to see each other again. We had poured out 12 • Call 1.800.348.4732 LIFE’s summer program engages students in exercises, such as mask-making, to create bonds of friendship. PHOTO: ALICIA WAGNER