I’m a bit of a retreat junkie, so it was with no hesitation that I signed myself up for the Catholic Campus Ministry Freshmen Connections Retreat. I’ve been drawn to CCM ever since I arrived on campus and have since made myself a permanent fixture in their office on the first floor of the Student Center. I was only ever told good things about the retreat, so I signed myself up to see for myself how much fun it could be. I am not the most outgoing person, so the idea of meeting other freshmen who had an active investment in their faith was just too good an opportunity to pass up. So with all these thoughts in my mind, I found myself on Friday, September 21st being hustled off to the Cenacle Sisters’ Retreat and Conference Center not exactly knowing what to expect.
I was not left disappointed. The entire retreat was a rousing 24 hour ordeal filled with much laughter, prayer, singing, dancing and talking. Talking truly was the backbone of the experience. We listened to talks given by upperclassmen and their experiences at DePaul, we talked to each other in small groups and even in one-on-one sessions, and we spent solitary time engaging in discussion with God through silent prayer. We were always encouraged to open ourselves up to each other and to allow our vulnerable sides to be visible so that we could all come together in one community with the love and guidance of God. I know that within those 24 hours I felt a part of something much larger than just myself and my own concerns and worries. I was a member in a faith-filled community where I was just free to be myself.
That’s the wonderful thing about retreats. There’s just something about being thrown together with people of all walks of life bound together by one common purpose that just forces you to let your true self show. I was willing to be silly and loud and to laugh because I knew no one was judging me and I wasn’t judging anyone in return. I opened myself up to my share group and expressed thoughts and memories that I normally wouldn’t have easily shared with others. I let myself grow closer to God by growing closer to those around me. That’s an experience I couldn’t have achieved if I had not gone on Freshmen Connections last weekend. That experience means everything to me.
I’ve been told that you can judge the success of a retreat once it’s over and everyone goes out into the real world to apply everything they learned about themselves and their faith. If that’s the case, then Freshmen Connections is already proving to have been a very successful retreat. Walking through campus I have seen pockets of my fellow freshman ‘retreatants’ sitting down and chatting together. I began to see friendships grow as the retreat continued to blossom. This past Sunday night at Mass, Becca was an alter serving for the first time here at DePaul, Shannon was playing the oboe for the liturgical choice as Katie sang, Nick was greeting parish members as a part of hospitality and scores of the freshmen ‘retreatants’ were sitting in the pews all coming together in the community of mass. It’s my hope that all of us freshmen continue on our faith filled journeys here at DePaul and that we’ll rely on each other when the road gets rough and will always be here for one another.
That’s what Freshmen Connections gave us; a community where we all belong.
Mace Ranazzi – Freshman, Catholic.
Double major History/English. Minor in Classical Studies.
From: Grand Rapids, MI. Favorite film: Titanic.