Twenty-one Newman students took advantage of Campus Ministry’s three-day spiritual retreat, called Cor ad Cor, which was held Monday, Jan. 3, through Wednesday, Jan. 5.
“Cor ad Cor” refers to the beginning of St. John Henry Newman’s motto when he was first elected as a Catholic cardinal. The full Latin phrase, “Cor ad Cor Loquitor,” translates to “heart speaks to heart.”
“When we go to pray, it is our hearts speaking in conversation to Jesus’ heart,” Newman Chaplain Father Adam Grelinger explained. “So with it being a spiritual retreat, we thought that would be a fitting title with a connection both to Newman and to prayer.”
An action-packed retreat
On Monday, five cars filled with students headed off for their stay in two cabins near Lake Kahola, located in the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas. The students were chaperoned by Father Adam and Emily Simon, assistant director of Campus Ministry and the Honors Program.
As an opening icebreaker event for the retreat, Simon and Father Adam separated the students into groups of five and challenged them to complete an escape room in 30 minutes or less.
Manasse Matala, a first-year nursing student and member of the men’s soccer team, said the escape room was one of his “proudest moments” of the trip.
“Even if we didn’t achieve the time, we almost got it in time,” Matala said. “It was really fun.”
During the retreat, the same small groups who tried solving the escape room reconvened for discussions following talks by the retreat’s featured speaker, Father Branson Hipp.
Father Branson, a fellow seminarian to Father Adam, serves as a priest of the Diocese of Atlanta and is the chaplain of Georgia Tech University.
“I was excited to bring Father Branson in as our speaker because more than just teaching things about the faith, he helps students to learn a method of praying and encountering the Lord in their daily lives,” Father Adam said.
Simon added, “The best thing was, I think you can clearly see that he lives it, that he’s just animated with joy and prayer. Every time Father Branson wasn’t talking, he was interacting with the students, helping cook or helping with another activity.”
Silence speaks volumes
On Tuesday, students had a special challenge: five hours and 30 minutes of complete silence.
Activities within those quiet hours included Eucharistic Adoration, confession and even a silent walk around the lake as a group. Simon had written each participant a handwritten letter that they could read during the silent time if they chose to.
“From 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., we were really encouraging the students to take all that they’ve been given thus far, to really sit with it, kind of be uncomfortable at times and reflect,” Simon said.
For Matala, the hours spent in silence were a gift.
“I’m a Pentecost Christian, and my dad is a pastor,” he said. “Before I went to Campus Ministry, something I just had in mind was finding my true purpose. I know God created me, so I just need to find my true value and purpose and what I’m going to do after that.”
Matala also enjoyed the discussions following Father Branson’s talks, and hopes to attend another Campus Ministry retreat in the future.
“And then maybe who knows, maybe I might be able to find my purpose,” he said with a smile.
Recognizing God in small moments
Father Adam said he was pleased that the different activities and challenges aligned well with the topics Father Branson discussed.
“Part of seeing God working in your life is just paying attention to things,” Father Adam said. “And I mean, you’re definitely paying attention to things when you kind of have to be quiet.”
To wrap up Father Branson’s last talk of the day, students had a “fancy” group dinner complete with charcuterie boards.
Simon and Father Adam said they are happy with the turnout of the Cor ad Cor spiritual retreat.
“I think some good friendships were formed there which is exciting,” Father Adam said.
Simon added, “Hopefully it was restful, inspiring and energizing.”
Campus Ministry’s next retreat will be an out-of-state mission trip during spring break, which begins Monday, March 14.
To sign up, stop by the Campus Ministry office next to St. John’s Chapel in Sacred Heart Hall or contact Emily Simon at [email protected] or by phone, 316-942-4291 ext. 2422.
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