2016 Advent Retreat: In Their Own Words

Thirty Hope College students recently attended the annual overnight Saint Benedict Institute Advent Retreat at nearby Camp Geneva. Famous retreat master and Hope alum Fr. David Meconi, S.J.,  centered the talks on the interiority and stillness demanded to "keep watch" as Christ desires. He introduced the retreat attendees to prayer in the Ignatian tradition, which uses the imagination and "applies the senses" to the scenes of sacred scripture. He also taught them how to make the Examination of Consciousness which St. Ignatius introduced to God's people and has been the mainstay of Christian prayer for centuries.

In Their Own Words: Thoughts on This Year's Advent Retreat

The retreat was a much needed escape before finals week and a great way to celebrate the advent season. It allowed me to ground myself before the hectic weeks ahead. – Hayley Schultz

I had an incredible first experience at the Advent Retreat. I learned that the Lord's grace is hidden in the relationships we share with one another; it is our job to nurture those relationships and lead them further to God's light. The highlight of this trip was being completely surrounded by the Blessed Sacrament all night and finding His presence all around me. I would absolutely recommend this retreat! The advent retreat put my soul and spirit at ease as I prepare for the birth of the Lord and made the transition from chaotic outside to calm inside simple. – Mercedes Rede

This was my first retreat through Saint Benedict's Institute. Between the talks, the masses, and adoration it is difficult to pick a highlight, but I was influenced most by the silence during the retreat. We were challenged to be silent - beginning late evening and ending in the afternoon the next day. It was peaceful and allowed me to commit to memory many of the topics we had covered throughout our time. – Madison Buckner

The silence brought a peace I didn't expect to find. – Mackenzie Green

This silent retreat gave me space for some valuable reflection time. Fr. Meconi's talks, which always managed to incorporate some laughs, stretched my understanding of coming to God in stillness; he encouraged us to regularly examine our lives from afar as one might step back to see the big picture of a mosaic. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the experience was discussing Caryll Houselander's work, The Reed of God, which helped me recognize Mary's role during Advent and how we too can wait patiently while the Lord grows within us. I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who wishes to make an intentional, quiet space for God in their lives! – Rachel Bartkowiak

The retreat was absolutely wonderful. I learned that so much enlightenment can happen if you just dedicate a night to God and speak to him. The highlight for me was my one on one with the priest. I went in with so many questions and concerns about who I was and how that affected my relationship with God, but he reassured me that God is love. I would recommend it to a friend because it was very helpful to me and I think it can help a lot of those students who are "lost" and need to find God. – Crystal Sarabia

I found the perpetual adoration to be exactly what I needed to refocus my life before exams and more importantly before Advent. I also found being silent for 17 hours (and without a phone) to be a time of growth. Rarely do I find myself without a constant stimuli and I never realized how hard it is to break the habit of surrounding myself with noise and distraction. The silence of the retreat allowed me to let God in and to give God 100% of my attention. – Mary Gipson

The best way to describe the retreat is peaceful.  There has been a lot weight on my heart and school felt like it was suffocating me. So being able to pray and go to confession was something I really need. I ended up worrying about homework and went to finish it but was taken over by sleep. So for the first time in weeks I had the most peaceful and restful sleep. Honestly words can describe the sleep but glad I had it even if I had a ton of homework afterwards. I would highly recommend this retreat because it's a good way to recenter yourself in a busy time back to God. – Diana Campos Loera

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go on the retreat this past weekend.  It was just what I needed to get away from campus and enjoy quiet time in the retreat center and in Adoration and to reflect on the semester.  I thoroughly enjoyed Fr. Meconi's talks.  I love learning theology from a Jesuit perspective and his charismatic style of speaking is so captivating.  In addition, I am grateful that we had the opportunity to receive the sacraments.  I would recommend this retreat to Catholic and non-Catholic friends because I think anyone living on a college campus would benefit from the peace and quiet of the retreat. – Rachel Tishkoff

Fr. Meconi spoke with such confidence and truth about Catholic Christianity and made a lot of profound connections. That was really attractive and refreshing.  – Colin Whitehead

I would absolutely 100% recommend this retreat to anyone, even if you’re not Catholic.  It was a really great time to reflect on where you are at in life, especially your faith life, and to be aware of what you are in need of.  The silence was a very important part of this reflection.  It was hard to adapt to the silence, but by the end I was very grateful.  Camp Geneva is beautiful and Fr. Meconi is awesome!! - Meredith Predum

I had such a liberating experience at the retreat. I was able to pray and work through and let go of some heavy things on my heart. Father was such a great aid in listening and speaking with wisdom about the beauty in the truth that we are all worthy of dignity and love because we are sons and daughters of Christ. – Hannah Kenny

The highlight for me was definitely the silence. It allowed me to experience a time of peace and listening. I found that I was also more attentive to my own thoughts and prayers. – Carly McShane

My thoughts on the retreat...I loved it! I learned many new things about the Catholic faith and about the Church that I did not know before. However, the true highlight of the trip for me was the silence. I am so use to talking to friends, checking my email, reading texts, calling my parents, doing all these things that revolve around others, that I never truly stop and breathe. This trip gave me the opportunity to do just that. Forget everything else and focus on myself, my faith, and reflect on the relationship I have with God. – Roberto Escalante

My favorite part of the retreat was the time of silence - it was so refreshing. It’s really easy to forget how much I need quiet time with the Lord when I’m surrounded by classmates and friends all day every day, especially in the dorms. Also, Father talked about the sin of sloth and how committing it keeps us from being present and accountable in our lives. It was a great one-night getaway to remind us all to prepare for the Lord this Advent! – Lindsay Kooy

The retreat was hard as it played into the pain of this transition from college, but also healing as it continued and continues to center me in Christ and anchor me in my relationship with God. – John Luke Hawkin

The Advent Retreat was wonderful! It was a blessing to be away from my ever-chirping phone and otherwise cluttered student life. Camp Geneva was a lovely location for it, and I thoroughly appreciated the free hours in the retreat schedule that granted us time to wander the woods and shore of the beautiful setting. – Micaela Wells