For seniors, retreats are a life-changing experience

For one member of the Class of 2022, event was “magical”

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A group of seniors gets together after a retreat earlier this school year.

Ashlynn Bakemeyer, Co-Editor-in-Chief

One of the many major milestones that seniors reach in their final year on the Hill is a four-day retreat. While there are retreats offered for each grade throughout their years on the Hill, senior year’s event often is believed to be the most influential. 

Director of campus ministry Mr. Dave Neeson said, “Senior retreat is an opportunity for people who have gone to school together for many years or a short time to really get to know each other in a way that is honest, vulnerable and needed.”

The overnight event takes place for four days at St. Joseph Retreat Center in Tipton. Neeson said, “The four days of it is probably the biggest difference (compared to other retreats). Detaching from your life for four days is enough for most people to really understand what it’s about.”

In accordance with the annual trend, Neeson said that “almost all” of the Senior Class has signed up for retreat. 

Senior Ashelyn Lucas was one of those who did sign up. Lucas went on retreat earlier in the year and said, “I loved it. I don’t want to say it was magical because that sounds cliche, but it was magical.”

Unlike earlier retreats, senior year’s event is not required. Neeson said, “I think senior retreat is one of those things that unfortunately not everyone attends; it’s a voluntary opportunity. But those who do attend have not regretted attending. They have dreaded the (schoolwork) they do when they get back and they dread falling behind, but I don’t believe anyone who has attended has regretted their attendance on the retreat.”

However, because the retreat is not required, some students find it to be more enjoyable. Lucas said, “(Senior retreat) wasn’t forced on me like freshman year. As someone who’s been on all of the retreats through freshman to senior year, it’s very different every year. Being on senior retreat versus freshman retreat, it’s more vulnerable and it’s more student-oriented.”

Neeson echoed this idea and said, “Senior retreat doesn’t force anybody. Nothing abnormal or out-of-the-ordinary occurs on senior retreat. There are no magic tricks. Everything that happens on senior retreat is authentic. It’s real. I think that because of that, people are confused on why it hit them differently.”

Neeson explained that there is a reason that senior retreat is not required. “The reality is you can’t force God’s love. You just can’t do it. You can encourage God’s love, but you can’t force people to feel love and to give love. They have to be open to it. In a world where we get way too little love, some people are scared to experience it because they don’t know what it feels like,” Neeson said. 

Neeson said he found that one of the major factors that tends to push seniors away from deciding to attend is that they believe it does not benefit them if they are not extremely religious. Neeson said that he still 100% recommends seniors to go on retreat even if they are not active in their faith lives. “I think there are a lot of kids that when they sign up they say, ‘Oh crap. They’re going to make me sing “Kumbaya.” I don’t do Mass. I don’t know what to do.’ A big misunderstanding is that you have to be active in your faith lives to go on senior retreat. That’s not the case.” 

Lucas added that she was not exceptionally eager to attend. “I didn’t want to go originally because I was like ‘I know exactly what they’re going to make me talk about and I don’t want to talk about it.’ But I talked about it,” Lucas said. 

Neeson is not new to assisting with retreats. He led senior retreats in Louisville, Kentucky and helped with retreats in the Diocese of Lafayette before arriving on the Hill. “Cathedral’s main mission is always educating hearts and minds. Because of that as our central mission, I feel like our retreat echoes that very well. Our school values that hearts are being educated and that it’s just as important as the mind. The most important thing you learn here at Cathedral is how God can enter into your problems and how God can help you in your life,” Neeson said. 

Neeson said that it’s up to the students to respond to the retreat. He said, “I think seniors that haven’t signed up should give it a chance. You will have a good time. I promise you.”