The Campus Ministry team at Newman University recently hosted a weekend retreat at St. John Parish in Clonmel, Kansas, to help students prepare for Lent.
Father Adam Grelinger, Newman chaplain, said Lent is a time for spiritual growth.
Joining the group as retreat master was Father Juan Diego Sutherland, CFR, a Franciscan priest from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
During the retreat, Sutherland shared compelling stories from his extended ministry experience with prisoners, the homeless and in South America.
The retreat offered students opportunities to not only grow in fellowship and fun with games and downtime, but also to grow in faith. Students attended Mass, adoration and confession, and sat in on two talks by Sutherland, which were followed by small group discussions to share thoughts and reflect on what God was saying to them.
Jose Morales, a sophomore at Newman, said he will most remember learning about Sutherland’s work in prison ministry and discussing the meaning of Lent and the importance of forgiveness.
“One of the greatest takeaways from the retreat was Father Juan Diego’s talk on the difference between guilt and shame,” explained Morales. “He described guilt as a part of our conscience that keeps us accountable to goodness — but shame on the other hand was described as a lie from the enemy that we should avoid. Like St. Peter, who denied Jesus, we must learn from our mistakes and pick up our cross and follow Christ.”
Campus Ministry, he added, has become a very important part of his Newman experience.
“Faith is the most important thing in my life and therefore is the center of my university experience as well,” he said. “I remember when I moved to Wichita to attend Newman, I was very lonely. But on the first day of classes, I stopped by the chapel and I found so much peace there. God’s presence was so real and I’m grateful for every day that I can I go to Mass to give Him thanks for the opportunity to pursue my dreams and ask for strength to not give up.”
Newman sophomore Elise Helfrich, who is involved with Campus Ministry, helped coordinate the retreat. She said her involvement with Campus Ministry is helping her grow in both her fellowship with peers and her relationship with God.
She enjoys sharing her faith with others and helping them along with their own faith journey.
“Campus Ministry is a really awesome way that I can be the hands and feet of Christ,” she said. “Faith is the thing that keeps me centered throughout the craziness of the day. It helps me to keep going when things are rough and helps me to see the beauty in all situations. Whenever I’m having a bad day or feel isolated after a long day … the knowledge that God is always there with me brings me a lot of peace.”
Helfrich called the retreat invigorating and said Sutherland reminded the group that no one needs to be filled with lengthy experience to make an impact; they should simply listen for God’s calling.
Helfrich said, “He shared that we often hear God calling us to serve him in some way and we respond with, ‘What can I do Lord? I have nothing to offer.’ But God simply asks us to give Him what we have and He can do amazing things with that. This lesson was something that really resonated with me and touched my heart.”
Grelinger said the retreat was successful in many ways, but especially because it resonated with the students and gave them a chance to reflect on their lives, spiritually and mentally.
“Lent is a time to prepare our souls for Easter through prayer, fasting and almsgiving,” said Grelinger. “It is not meant to be a gloomy season, but a season to till the soil of our hearts and prepare for new spiritual life to grow. It is a season to focus on our growth in holiness and our relationship with Christ. Our hope is that the students would come away from the retreat more confident in God’s mercy and excited to enter into the spiritual contest of Lent.”