This year, the Formation and Ministry Department is making some changes to the structure and rules of retreats at Saint Ignatius. The purpose of retreats is to give students an opportunity to build their faith through discussions and prayer. The new changes affect the structure of freshman, sophomore, and junior retreats with the purpose of creating a strong foundation, eliminating distractions, and offering more opportunities to bond with other students.
In October, the day-long Freshman Retreat took place at SICP to offer the newest students with an introduction to living in faith. The theme was Corpus, the Latin word for “body,” to focus the freshmen on the Body of Christ and their student body of community and service. In previous years, the freshmen left campus to work at a variety of service sites, but this year, the organizers wanted students to have more time together. The freshmen, along with their Arrupe Mentors and adult leaders, started the day with a prayer service at Holy Family Church, and ended with a candlelit celebration of the Eucharist in the third floor gym.
“Our goal was to keep the class together for as much of the day as possible,” said Ms. Spittler, one of the organizers of the day and the First Years Chaplin in the Department of Formation and Ministry. “Because it was the first retreat for this class, we wanted to create a community feeling, inspired by the theme.”
Throughout the retreat, the freshmen participated in small group discussions and presentations with time for reflection. Group activities included icebreakers, a scavenger hunt, and open-gym time. In addition, the freshmen attended a service fair to introduce them to many opportunities to complete their ten hours of service. They also sorted cans for the food drive conducted during the weeks before the retreat.
“It was a great way to bond with my classmates and get to know them in better ways,” said freshman Alaina McGill. “This day was all about coming together as a class and a community.”
For the sophomore and junior retreats, new rules have been created to help eliminate distractions and contribute to more faithful experiences. Upon arrival at the retreat site, students are given a pouch for the purpose of locking their cell phones, iPads, and computers for the rest of their stay in order to make their overnight retreat screen-free. The retreat organizers want students to disconnect from technology so they are able to focus on themselves and God.
“Because retreats always have been a device-free time, we needed to find the best way to enforce the policy,” said Ms. Spittler. “We thought this idea was the most empowering option to make sure everyone was following the rules.”
The retreats have undergone changes, but the main goal of having students grow in their relationships with God has not changed. This year’s adjustments are meant to make retreats more meaningful by helping students take time from their busy schedules to focus on developing their faith.