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The experience of a retreat

October 6th, 2011

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend Campus Ministry’s Guidance Retreat. You may be wondering, “What’s the Guidance Retreat?” When I sat down and opened up my email account to see the invitiation, I was asking myself the same thing.

The email was vague and even after reading it over a few times I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, but looking back I think that was somewhat intentional. I signed up more out of curiosity and intrigue than concrete knowledge or excitement of what I would actually be doing on the retreat.

I have been on religious and spiritual retreats before. Some were in high school and I also attended Manresa 17 in the spring semester of my freshman year at John Carroll.

Every retreat I’ve experienced has brought something different, such as a new understanding about myself, a friend, or my faith. With my previous experiences I knew I would at least enjoy getting away for one night and just relax off campus. All the same I was still apprehensive about the trip. Those feelings were soon relieved.

As I walked to the pool desk to meet the group I was only expecting to know about three of the 20 students who were attending. To my surprise, once I arrived I saw more familiar faces. I may not have known everyone personally but I was able to recognize quite a few, something that I have grown to love about John Carroll over the past few years.

From the short conversations with the other retreatants, I soon learned that they didn’t have any idea about the  information on the agenda either. But sometimes you just have to go with it and see what happens.

Although the retreat was only an overnight experience, there was still great knowledge that I gained which I think everyone deserves to know. The four retreat leaders, alumni who were former Guidance retreatants, shared some valuable life lessons which served as guiding posts for the group’s future life paths.

The main lesson imparted to us was, identify what you are personally passionate about – and ask how you can use that passion to help others. When you wake up in the morning, apart from being very groggy and drowsy, are you excited with whom you’re going to see and what you’re going to do? Are you happy? Are you proud of yourself? Those are some very loaded questions – yet two very significant questions. As college students we are making decisions that have the potential to affect our future every day.

We need to be asking ourselves those questions. And who cares if the answer isn’t what you planned in high school, or what you promised your parents. What’s important is that you can identify what you love and figure out how you can use that to have a positive impact in the community. It can be small gestures of reaching out to an old friend, or dedicating an hour of your week to a worthy cause.

With the overwhelming schedule of our busy lives it’s easy to forget to stop and breathe, to stop and appreciate the blessings we have as students at this university. We forget about the opportunities that are at our fingertips or that are sometimes taken for granted. And sometimes we feel constrained with the path we’re on. We forget that we have the ability to change our attitudes, actions, or even our majors to make us happier.

Retreats like Guidance allow for a time of reflection which help us remember our blessings, opportunities, and our empowerment as people living. Whenever I go on a retreat I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Jonathan Swift, “May you live all the days of your life.”  To me this sums up the perspective I gained from the retreat.

We can choose to wake up every day and go through the motions, our schedules, our to do list. Or you can take time to laugh, relax, give thanks, and go out of your way to help people. That’s the life I’m trying to live. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it. Are you with me?