Senior Georgia Wilson shares her experience participating in the Encounter with Christ retreat sponsored by Campus Ministry
By Georgia Wilson, Guest Commentary
Coming from a Catholic high school, I heard advertisements for retreats, such as Kairos and Search, every semester. I had many friends who came from strong Catholic families who would return from their weekend retreat feeling renewed in their faith and feeling closer with the other students who went. I often wondered what happened on these weekends on retreat. No one could ever tell what exactly happened, but they guaranteed it was a life-changing experience.
The retreats came and passed every semester, but I did not apply. It seemed like an annoying mystery, and I felt my faith was not as strong as my classmates. I did not think I would belong.
It was not until my sophomore year at UP that I heard about the Encounter with Christ retreat. A friend who had been a leader on the retreat approached me and recommended that apply. Why? I was just a sophomore still trying to adjust to college life. I was not attending church or mass regularly. I was still trying to discover which faith community I belonged to. My friend told me, "That is why." I did not have my life together, and neither did anyone else. I was not the only one searching for answers about my faith, my community, and myself. Applying then, I had no clue where it would lead me to today.
This year I have had the great opportunity to learn from and work with Sean Ducey coordinating the Encounter retreat. As we met weekly to plan the retreat, we were both reminded of our own experiences on this retreat. I was reminded of a weekend meeting new classmates, sharing personal stories, and developing our relationships with God. Being away from cell reception, homework, jobs, and daily responsibilities, I had the time to reflect on who I was and who I wanted to become. In retrospect, I see how much that weekend shaped me into the person I have strived to live every day since.
On October 26th, a group of 36 retreatants were rounded up at the Chapel ready to participate in this amazing weekend with the theme, "We Don't Walk Alone." I witnessed strangers coming together, sharing their life stories, singing together, and establishing deep friendships. A quote by St. John of the Cross summarizes the transition from strangers into a family that I saw. "Even if you are not afraid to fall alone, how do you presume that you will rise up alone? Consider: two together can accomplish more than one alone." This Encounter family is larger than just two people; it is a strong force that is there to support us all in our journeys at UP and beyond.
Our next Encounter with Christ retreat is in March, so look out for applications online or swing by the Campus Ministry office. I personally urge you to apply! Put your fears aside about the mystery of this retreat and give it a try! Like Zack Imfeld, previous Encounter coordinator, used to say, "Do not anticipate-participate!" It was my fears about what to expect from this retreat that kept me from applying in high school. Do not let that hold you up too! Ask friends who have been on the Encounter retreat about their experience. It is one experience you do not want to miss out on!
Georgia Wilson is a senior psychology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.