“Who are you?”
It’s the first question that incoming freshmen at Servite High School are asked. On a Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, they stand at attention in the gym, perfectly spaced apart. Current students, faculty and alumni gather to support them as their journey begins.
These are the first hours of Freshman Formation Weekend at Servite. Over the next two days, the two hundred young men standing in the gym will undergo a one-of-a-kind experience that will challenge them both physically and mentally. They will participate in activities, lessons and tests that will build their character and strengthen their resolve.
These freshmen won’t just learn about Servite. They’ll learn about each other. They’ll learn about themselves. And, most importantly, they will learn what it truly means to be a Servite Friar.
At the very start of the Formation process, the freshmen are told a simple poem: “In the beginning, God, out of nothing, created. Odd! From nothingness, called me to be me, to be great, like He.”
These words are burned into the minds of each and every Friar, summarizing the purpose for their being at Servite. These men are not here by accident; they have been placed here specifically, as a part of God’s master plan, so that they might do great things in the world.
The freshmen meet in small groups, or Priories, which are named after the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. In these Priories, they learn their brothers’ names for the first time. These are the men who will be by their side throughout their entire Servite journey. A sense of fraternity develops rapidly. Within hours, these Friars will act not as two hundred individuals, but as one brotherhood.
As the blazing Saturday sun rises over the Servite campus, the freshmen are taught three songs, all of which mean a great deal to every Friar. The Alma Mater informs them of their ability to rise beyond greatness. The Fight Song instructs them to “love the fight” and embrace struggle as an opportunity to grow. And finally, the Salve Regina reminds them of their primary goal as Servites: to love and serve the Blessed Mother.
On the second day, the Friars undergo a series of three challenges. They require a variety of skills and talents to complete. Artistic skills, intellectual acumen and physicality are all needed. During these tests, the freshmen have a chance to demonstrate their individual strengths to their brothers. Each member contributes his individual gifts and talent for the success of the team.
The goal of the challenges—and of Formation Weekend as a whole—is for these Friars to discover who they are meant to be at Servite. And, of course, they must never forget what unites them all: they are brothers, created by God to be great.
As the sun dips below the horizon on Sunday, the freshmen gather in the theater to celebrate. They give each other high-fives, pats on the back, and hugs. They laugh, cry and cheer together as brothers.
They aren’t celebrating the end of their struggles—after all, their high school journeys are just beginning. They’re celebrating the change that they’ve experienced. They are different people than they were two days ago.
So, when freshmen are asked yet again, “Who are you?” They have an answer, because they know the truth.
“We are the freshmen from Servite! We are good! We will be great!”
John Carlson is a senior at Servite High School and was elected to serve as the Prior General, the highest student leadership position at the school.