Peer Ministers do more than people recognize for the St. John’s community. Their mission extends beyond their religion class in order to offer a helping hand to the rest of the St. John’s community during their spiritual journey. They achieve this through leading retreats, assisting with liturgies, visiting homerooms, and spending time in the Mission and Ministry Center.
During retreats, they offer insights into their own religious journeys and listen to their peers’ stories. They discuss both their triumphs and their times of weakness, in the hope that others will learn from their experiences. At Mass, one of the Peer Ministers will often open the liturgy with a reflection. For example, at the beginning of the school year, William Heinle ’19 opened with a reflection about what the saints mean to him.
Another one of their tasks is to hold office hours. This means that during a free period, or before or after school, they must sit at the desk in the Mission and Ministry Center. They are there if someone wants to reach out to a peer, or even if they just want to play games. During homeroom, Peer Ministers have probably come to visit you. This is because they are assigned to different homerooms, to which they must plan visits throughout the year. They started the year by guiding their freshman homerooms through orientation. More recently, they had students write Christmas cards to seniors, soldiers, and others who aren’t as fortunate this Christmas.
Peer Ministers also take steps to strengthen their religious lives, so they can be prepared to help others. Before school started, they went on a retreat, where they learned the necessary skills, developed a deeper understanding of the school’s mission statement, and strengthened their relationship with God. More recently, before Thanksgiving, they took part in the Flat Founder project. They carried around a flat cutout of St. John’s founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle. The Flat Founder project served as a reminder to incorporate their faith into their everyday lives. Maggie Curtis ’19 even took hers to the Regimental Ball.
People have different inspirations for becoming a Peer Minister, and it has impacted them in different ways. Former Peer Minister Thomas Canary ’18 offered his insights. “I wanted to have the best opportunity possible to share my faith with my fellow students. I was also very excited to help the incoming freshman class adjust to life in high school.” While he said it did take some time for him to adjust to talking to people he didn’t know, he loved leading retreats and found it came much more naturally.
Cristina Vannoy ’19 said, “I wanted to have a different experience than just a typical senior religion class. I wanted to be an advocate for anybody in the school, and I wanted to grow in friendships with people in my grade I wasn’t close to.”
In contrast, Maggie Curtis ’19 was initially worried about the abnormal religion class. “When I was considering Peer Ministry in my junior year, I was concerned that I was putting myself at a disadvantage of skipping a religion class, but I actually have learned more than I ever have in religion class. Through retreats, we have the opportunity to listen to our peers’ views on religion, and to take those into consideration when forming our own beliefs.”
Even with the differing inspirations and impacts, Ms. Emery, one of the leaders of the Peer Ministers, says she sees a lot of improvement in them as the year goes on. “The Peer Ministers must continue to develop their own relationship with God in order to share it with others. They also really learn to live an adult skill set, including self-advocacy, communication, confidence, multitasking, and more.”