Adding a retreat component to an annual winter service trip was something new for Campus Ministry at Newman University. Newman Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry Father John Fogliasso and Campus Ministry Administrative Assistant Monica Borger accompanied nine students on the trip, which took place Sunday, Jan. 8 through Saturday, Jan. 14.
Each year, Campus Ministry gathers a group of students to travel somewhere outside of Wichita for the purpose of serving others in need. And each year, one student is chosen to plan the trip for the group, gaining essential skills such as leadership, organization, communication and creativity.
This year, Victor Phan was that person. Phan, a student minister who graduated from Newman in December, did all of the planning necessary including choosing the location. The group traveled to Chicago, Ill., where they participated in a two-part event. "We had gotten some feedback over this past year that some students really would like a retreat component," said Borger. "So half the trip was a retreat and the other half was service."
The retreat portion of the trip took place Sunday evening through the following Wednesday at noon. Borger said, "We had a retreat master, Father Carlos, and he had the whole thing planned out. We had a couple of retreat talks, daily Mass, prayer, and reflection time. The focus of the retreat was to study how the human experience affects your spiritual journey."
Fogliasso said he was "excited that these students were open to making it not only a service trip but also a spiritually enriching opportunity."
Student Luke Sponsel said the retreat was a great way to prepare for the service portion of the trip and "also long-term for serving God and neighbor in our respective areas of study."
During the retreat, time was scheduled for personal reflection and prayer, which "was a really great start to the new semester," Borger said.
When the retreat was over, the group went right to work serving. They did a half-day service at Catholic Charities on Wednesday afternoon, working in the administrative building sorting clothes for the emergency shelter and bagging food that would be handed out later.
On Thursday, students helped the charity with their "Senior Food and Nutrition Program," organizing and assembling grocery packages that would be delivered to impoverished seniors in the area.
"They deliver more than 13,000 packages every month," said Borger. "Our group worked for six hours and we did 925 bags. If the charity doesn't have a group that comes to help, then the employees that work there do it all by themselves."
Borger was impressed by how well everyone worked together for a greater cause and enjoyed meeting some of the individuals who benefited from the services they were helping with.
"Everyone we encountered had amazing attitudes," she said. "The charity hosts a nightly dinner in the same building we were working in. People were waiting outside for the supper that evening, and everyone was just in a great mood, and thanked us for coming."
Friday was a day for fun as the group took a Chicago tour bus around the city, enabling them to come and go as they pleased at sightseeing landmarks.
Newman student Brigette Sponsel said the trip was one to remember. "The trip gave me the opportunity to further understand people in all situations, helping me by opening my eyes to the world of other people," she said.
Fogliasso said the experience will have a lasting effect. "I think that some great seeds were planted on the retreat and in prayer," he said. "And with that, sometimes it takes a little time for those seeds to grow into maturity, for them to blossom. I think we’re going to see the fruits of this trip manifested during the semester."