Campus minister is ready for first freshman retreat

Event will take place Oct. 13 and include seniors as speakers


Joellen Desautels

Last spring, friends of Lendon Byram gathered on campus to remember him and share stories after his tragic death on May 1. During the freshman retreat on Oct. 13, Lendon’s friends will share their experience with the members of the Class of 2025.

The freshmen will attend their first retreat of their high school career on Oct. 13.

“The freshmen will be the first to experience this new approach to retreats,” said the director of campus ministries, Mr. David Neeson. This retreat is designed to lead the freshmen through their high school experience in a new program that Neeson created. The freshmen are the first to experience this approach. “Retreats need to be intentional, not just a day where we check a box,” said Neeson.

The goal of this retreat is to help the freshmen grow together and unify before the end of their high school experience, the campus minister said.

This retreat occurs after the death of Lendon Byram, who would have been a senior this year. “He was incredibly smart with lots of friends and he was dedicated, ” said senior Hagan McClelland, a close friend of Lendon’s who will be speaking at the event along with senior Ashelyn Lucas and senior Sir Jonathan Thompson.

Lendon was on the speech and debate team and had qualified for Nationals in extemporaneous speaking at the time of his death last spring. 

Lendon passed away in a car accident on May 1 with his girlfriend, Kalen Hart, on their way to her senior prom. “(They) were going from her dad to her mom’s house,” said Lucas, when Lendon did not realize that the intersection was a two-way stop. Lendon and Kalen were killed instantly, with their two friends in the back seat surviving the crash with minor injuries.

Coping with the death of her best friend was hard, according to Lucas. After Lendon passed away, “I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping, I was just staring at the ceiling waiting for something to change, ” Lucas said.

“(Mr.) Neeson’s biggest point to try and get across is don’t wait (for tragedy to strike to develop relationships in your class).” Lucas said she hopes talking about Lendon’s death at the retreat will help her just as much as it does the freshmen who hear about her experience. 

The goal in talking about Lendon is “understanding how the people around you are there for you and will come together. (As a student at Cathedral) you are a part of something special and it’s important that you realize that,” McClelland said. Both Lucas and McClelland have expressed that they know their topic will be difficult to talk about but it will help the freshmen not to wait to begin making friends or find their community.

The freshman retreat will be held on campus in the Welch Activity Center, Student Life Center and the auditorium. “(I) don’t want to separate the freshmen to create unity and help them grow together,” Neeson said, noting that in the past the freshmen have been divided into groups and then were transported to different venues.

One of the lessons that Neeson wants the freshmen to take away from the retreat is not to wait for a tragedy. Discussing Lendon Byram’s death is the main way Neeson is trying to do this.

Lucas said the best advice she has for someone going through a similar situation is not to shut down and to take advantage of the community that has been created at school. “Some days are good and some days are bad, but you can’t just shut down,” said Lucas.

Lucas and McClelland will share their story for 20 minutes, switching back and forth between the two of them. “We have never talked about Lendon separately, we spoke at his funeral together and we went to (social worker) Mrs. (Aly) Weaver’s office together,” said Lucas.

While talking about the death of Lendon is anxiety inducing for McClelland and Lucas, they both understand how valuable the message is for them to convey and that by talking about it together, they are further spreading the message of developing unity and growing together, just like the parable of the mustard seed, which Neeson said will be the focus of the freshman retreat. 

Lucas said, “When you lose someone, you have to live for them.” And that is what the members of the Class of 2025 will learn at their first retreat.