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By: Katherine DeGreef  – ’13

A moment of quiet. An icebreaker everyone pretends they don’t like but oddly gets really into. Conversation with new people. Really good food that you didn’t have to cook yourself. Being forced to stop, listen, and breathe, if only for a weekend. That moment you realize you are not alone. Welcome to the Cardoner retreat.

Cardoner is one of the many retreats University Ministry offers to students throughout the year. In the hectic life that is college, there is never a “good” weekend to go on a retreat. I found that out long ago, when homework builds and gets dumped on Sunday, when hundreds of people are doing hundreds of awesome things on Friday and Saturday. And yet something keeps nudging me to spend my weekends on retreat, leading me to believe there is something deeper in me that is longing to be uncovered. For this is what I think a retreat is at its best – an environment that allows us to uncover that which we often forget exists: perhaps a desire for a relationship with God, maybe a vocation or fear of the future, sometimes just the deep need to be seen – truly seen – by others.

When I led Cardoner, a retreat focused on Ignatian Spirituality, my small group joked that there has to be a “reluctant starter” in every group – that one person who reluctantly shares first, who steps out on a limb, not sure if they are going to be left completely alone out there, one who willingly enters into that vulnerability. Everyone else breathes a collective sigh of relief, partly because they didn’t have to go first, but mostly because perhaps they begin to see that they are not alone. That someone else isn’t perfect, someone else is terrified of their future, someone else is struggling with their image of God, someone else wants to cry whenever they are asked: “So what are your plans next year?” Only by entering into that vulnerability can we ever begin to realize how not alone we truly are.

So that’s what keeps drawing me back. In the midst of an uncertain, hectic, demanding, often overwhelming life, I am reassured, quite resolutely, that I am not alone.



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