Freshman Retreat: To the Heights!

Courtesy of  CUA Campus Ministry

By Alannah Murphy

This past weekend was the annual freshman retreat, where first year students travel to the Sandy Hill Retreat Center in NorthEast Maryland for three days. This event is organized by the Campus Ministry staff which includes student ministers, CUA priests, and upperclassmen on the Freshman Retreat staff. 

The Campus Ministry staff had encouraged and reminded students to sign up in the months, weeks, and days leading up to the retreat. According to Campus Ministry staff, this year, about one-quarter of the freshman class went to the retreat. The event was promoted as a way for freshmen to meet new people, get away from campus, and grow closer to their faith. 

“I chose to sign up for the retreat because I’ve gone to great retreats in the past, and I thought it would be a great way to meet people and get away from campus for the weekend,” said freshman nursing major Brigid McGraw. “I think the retreat was a good faith reset. It reminded me that God was present in my life even during the tough times.”

The Sandy Hill Retreat Center had a number of activities for students to participate in, such as swimming in the pool, canoeing, volleyball, cornhole, and basketball. The freshman retreat staff also organized games and relay races for students on Saturday morning. 

Sophomore math and philosophy major Liam Foley went on his freshman retreat last year and decided to join the freshman retreat staff “to have the same impact on the freshman that I had last year.”

“What I enjoyed most was working so closely with my peers to tackle a massive project that could never be done by one person alone,” Foley said. “My favorite thing that happened on retreat was Eucharistic adoration and simultaneous confession. I had a great experience being there, and I was excited to see so many people choosing to go to confession! They actively sought the graces and mercy God has for them, which is beautiful.”

Along with the games and outdoor activities, the retreat also allowed Freshman to go to two masses, spend time in prayer before Christ in the Eucharist, go to confession, have silent time in prayer and reflection, and learn about all of the opportunities for spiritual growth offered on campus. 15 priests were brought to the retreat center to hear student’s confessions. 

Freshman Allison Ewing said the freshman retreat was a fantastic experience for her.

“Although I was a little bit skeptical when I first saw how small the cabins were, I had such a great time! I was able to meet new people as well as get closer with many of the friends I had made before,” Ewing said. 

She also commented on how the retreat help her with her faith. “During adoration I was staring at the Eucharist, and I almost started crying because in that moment I felt so loved by Jesus and I had a moment of clarity where I knew that the friends that I had made up to that point were true friends,” Ewing said. 

Over the course of the three days, student ministers shared personal stories with the freshmen related to their struggles in college and in their faith. 

According to Ewing, these talks had a great impact on her.

“I was surprised by the quality of the talks that were given. Some of the Freshmen Retreat staff gave talks from faith journeys to right relationships, and it was so amazing to hear their stories and how they overcame very difficult life challenges because of their faith,” Ewing said. 

There was also a surprise guest speaker Saturday evening. President Peter Kilpatrick talked with the freshmen class about how he and his wife met, his journey to becoming a Catholic, and what he hopes to accomplish as President of Catholic University. There was also a Q&A section at the end where students had the opportunity to ask him questions. Saturday night commenced with a bonfire and smores followed by a dance party filled with neon glow sticks.

Foley has said that he would “absolutely recommend Freshman Retreat to the next class of freshmen.”

“Fr. Frassati gave this piece of advice for us as college students: ‘Work hard, play hard, pray hard.’ In order to have a successful college career, we need to do all three of these, and Freshman Retreat makes us aware and prepares us for that,” Foley said.

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