Awakening helps build community and relationships
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 14:10
Retreats come in many forms: some are silent and some involve a high amount of personal, isolated, introspective reflection. However I do not feel that Awakening can be placed in any of those categories.
On Loyola’s University Ministry website, the description for the Awakening Retreat is, “Awakening is an experience that allows students to find community with one another and understand Loyola’s Jesuit Identity. Most importantly, however, the retreat offers students an opportunity to explore their own spirituality and relationship with God.”
As someone who has gone on this retreat three times, once as a retreater and now twice as a staff member, I can say that I agree with this description almost entirely. My one reservation is that I do not think that the spirituality aspect of the retreat takes precedence over the community aspect.
Retreaters are separated into groups of seven-or-so people, but they do not lodge in the same rooms as their group members. Within the staff are groups of members with different assignments, such as cooking, leading the retreaters in discussion and preparing different activities for the retreat.
Despite the divisions created by the structure of the retreat, we still manage to come together as a strong, loving community. This stems ultimately from what makes up a large part of the retreat: the talks.
Staff members from different groups are selected to give various speeches on different topics. The topics are, but not limited to, personhood, reconciliation and faith. The content of the talks stem from the personal reflections of the speakers.
This willingness to open up by the talkers sets the tone for the small groups, who then discuss the contents of the speech and the topic itself. The openness of the talkers and the people in the small groups creates an air of vulnerability in which a truer part of each retreater is revealed, creating a community that supports and accepts each other regardless of what differences they have (even religious ones).
The greatest part of this community is that it does not simply dissolve as soon as the retreat concludes for the weekend. It continues to thrive on campus through meetings and grows as more retreaters attend Awakening.
Even with the religious (predominantly Christian and Catholic) overtones that permeate the retreat, there is just as much of an emphasis on the community that is created and sustained.
Etefia Umana is a mass communication sophomore and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org