Exploring what it means to be a servant leader was the ideal way to kick off our Social Justice Series on Martin Luther King Jr. Day—and that is just what our rising student leaders did at the Fifth Form Retreat. Following an opening prayer by Sixth Form Council member Dominic Mazzuca ’24, the group participated in a number of interactive discussions, examined essential questions about servant leadership, and heard from alumna DooA Kim '12, who spoke of her meaningful experiences during Canterbury’s annual Lourdes pilgrimage.
DooA, a research scientist who has been working on genomic sequencing at a single-cell level at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, fondly recalls those trips to the south of France to help visiting malades (“the sick”) seeking healing and peace. She joined the Lourdes pilgrimage trip in 2010 as a rising Fifth Former, and little did she know at the time, she would go back nearly every year since.
“The key message I want to deliver today is how Lourdes is a place upside down,” DooA told the students. “What do I mean by that? In our everyday world, the ones who typically receive better services and treatment are those who are considered successful in terms of socioeconomic status. But in Lourdes, people who are poor—including those who have poor mental or physical health or who are isolated and do not have their loved ones near them—become the VIPs and receive the greatest support, help, and caring.”
She also discussed the five concepts that she found most embody the role of servant leadership—selflessness, empathy, trust, collaboration, and patience. “Servant leaders prioritize the well-being of others, foster a supportive and caring environment, build and maintain trust, and promote effective collaboration within the community,” she explained. “Practicing these characteristics can happen anywhere, not just at Lourdes. You can start by listening to others, being authentic, and putting yourself in other’s shoes here on campus and at home.”
That message was both compelling and relevant to Kylee Henderson ’25. “DooA had very good insight about giving back to your community and being a good servant leader,” Kylee said. “The retreat especially resonated with me because being a servant leader is the foundation of the Naval Academy, where I plan in two years. At the academy, they teach you about being selfless, working as a team, and giving your life to something bigger than yourself—everything a servant leader is known for doing. I will absolutely take what I learned tonight into my future at college and while serving my country."
Fifth Form classmate Hanna Gleason ’25 appreciated the overall theme of the retreat and what it will mean to her life going forward. “It was a great chance to reflect on ourselves, our interest in servant leadership, and the community while thinking about how we can serve others here on the hilltop and once we graduate,” she shared.
At the conclusion of the evening, Resident Chaplain Father Brendan Horan, S.J., offered the closing blessing.
Following their retreat experience, our Fifth Form Saints are clearly ready to move forward fully embracing the words of Martin Luther King Jr. himself: “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”