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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Campus Ministry hosts second freshmen retreat of the year

Notre Dame Campus Ministry hosted its second freshmen retreat of the year last weekend at the Sacred Heart Parish Center.

According to the Campus Ministry’s website, the retreat, titled “Tender, Strong and True” (TST), aimed to help first-year students integrate faith and the various aspects of college life.

Christian SantaMaria, the assistant director of retreats and pilgrimages at Notre Dame Campus Ministry, said the main focus of the retreat was on the question “Who do you say that I am?,” an inquiry Jesus poses to his disciples in the Book of Matthew.

“What I thought was neat to watch is although this was a freshman retreat, this question of ‘Who do you say that I am?’ is a question not just for freshmen but one that we as people are always asking,” SantaMaria said. “It was so cool to see how this question was such a pertinent part of the spiritual life of college students.”

SantaMaria said the retreat was themed “secret agents” to describe the opening activity, in which the 47 freshmen attendees had to do certain tasks while en route to the retreat center.

“It was a 24-hour retreat, so it opened up with this secret mission essentially that started from [the Coleman-Morse Center] and trained students to get ready for TST by doing all these fun activities that taught patience, community, courage and the last two were hope and honesty,” SantaMaria said.

SantaMaria said the retreat also consisted of talks by sophomore retreat leaders and small group discussions. The first talk, SantaMaria said, was centered on questions such as who the students know God to be, what it is like to have their faith in a transition time of their lives and who they see God as in that moment, while the second was concentrated on what it would be like if students asked God how He sees them.

“It was so cool to have a community get some space to ask these really essential questions of spirituality that often get so cluttered by everything else in our lives,” SantaMaria said. “It’s so great to have some time in life to press the timeout button and ask these really thoughtful and loving questions about God and ourselves. And doing it in community, I thought, was beautiful.”

Rather than merely focusing on academics and prayer, SantaMaria said the retreat discerned the importance of recognizing that the question Jesus poses to his disciples and the questions people pose back to God are the same.

“It’s the lover and the love trying to reconnect,” SantaMaria said. “That’s what we were trying to do this weekend: to simply recognize that this deep desire that I have for myself and the deep desire that God has for me is often very much the same.”

Though the retreat was intended for freshmen, SantaMaria said it was led by a number of sophomores, juniors and seniors. Senior campus ministry intern for retreats, pilgrimages and spirituality Joseph Tenaglia was one of three seniors who helped to ensure the retreat ran smoothly.

“I think there was a really positive atmosphere [at the retreat],” Tenaglia said. “I think people were really happy to have the space just to take a step away. We didn’t go far. We were just around the lakes, and from out the windows you could see the [golden] dome in the background and everything — but even that space physically and mentally to just get away I think people really respond to well.”

Tenaglia said he believes the small group sessions in particular were one of the most important activities at the retreat for fostering community, building support for each other and building a community of faith.

“You see the fruitfulness of the small groups too when we have free time because you see them still spending a lot of time together,” Tenaglia said. “At that point they can do whatever they want — it’s free time — but most often they’re choosing to do activities and, in some cases, with their small groups specifically.”