Virtual senior retreat gives Class of 2020 a space to reflect, pray and discern

Shanda Purcell of St. Jerome Parish in Fancy Farm gives a talk on “The Journey of Faith” during the May 21, 2020 virtual senior retreat. (YOUTUBE)


On Thursday, May 21, 2020, the Diocese of Owensboro’s Office of Youth Ministry offered a virtual retreat for graduating high school seniors, who had lost many traditional experiences – such as canceled graduation ceremonies – due to COVID-19 response and regulations.

Charlie Hardesty, director of the diocesan youth ministry office, said this was in partnership with the diocese’s Office of Catholic Schools, as well as several parish youth ministries – “A whole lot of people coming together to show the Class of 2020 some love,” said Hardesty.

Wearing mortarboards, Danny May (left) and Charlie Hardesty (right) host the May 21, 2020 virtual senior retreat. COURTESY OF CHARLIE HARDESTY

“The goal of the retreat was to give this graduating group of seniors, who had lost so many of the typical experiences, a space to reflect, pray, and discern God’s presence and call in their lives,” said Hardesty.

The virtual retreat hosts were Hardesty and Danny May, the director of the diocese’s Office of Marriage and Family Life.

The retreat lasted an hour and a half, with optional breakout small groups at the end. The retreat was open to any senior in the diocese, regardless of what school they attended.

The topics and speakers included Shanda Purcell on “The Journey of Faith,” Crissy Stevenson on “Enduring Life Trials,” Fr. Jason McClure on “Prayer, Listening and Discernment,” Ben Warrell on “Authentic Relationships,” and Ian Barnstead on “Going Forward in Faith.”

Deacon Chris Gutiérrez opened the retreat with prayer in English and Spanish, and Bishop William F. Medley closed the retreat with words of wisdom and encouragement.

Bishop William F. Medley shares some words of wisdom and encouragement during the May 21, 2020 virtual senior retreat. (YOUTUBE)

Noah Watson, a graduating high school senior from Paducah, said his favorite part of the retreat was the speakers, “listening to what they had to say and hearing their message.”

“The one thing I took away from the retreat is that God is with us, even when we feel most alone and separated from God,” said Watson.

Hardesty said he knows the timing of the virtual senior retreat may not have worked for some seniors, so a recording of the retreat can be viewed at

“Special thanks for all those who helped make this experience possible,” said Hardesty.

Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic