Our staff began this year with our feet running as we stepped onto Arizona State University’s campus. The first few weeks included two large welcome parties, tabling at various university events, and kicking off our weekly ASUCatholic College Nights. Because of the high volume of activity that our campus ministry staff and student leaders partook in, we began the year with a large body of new students who were just beginning to get involved in our campus ministry. To help form this new group of students into a more united community, we packed up our bags mid-September and headed up north with over 100 students for a weekend retreat focused on pursuing truth, life, and love to the fullest.
A great thing to witness on the retreat was the role that the student leaders played throughout the weekend. This is the first year that ASU has had official student leaders, and they are taking on many responsibilities in leading their peers. The emcees, the small group leaders, and the majority of our speakers consisted of these students. They were able to share with their peers personal testimonies and experiences regarding their relationship with the Lord, specifically in regards to this theme of pursuing truth, life, and love the fullest. Through their example, the students new to this community were able to experience the freedom to be vulnerable, having peers a few steps ahead of them leading the way and free of worry about needing to be at a certain place in their faith.
While it was wonderful being together as a body of people for these talks, it at times can be overwhelming to digest the material by oneself or in a large group setting. To aid in this, we were able to break into men’s and women’s small groups after the large group discussions. These small groups were safe places for the men and women to have the freedom to speak their thoughts on the various talks, and to meet more of the men and women in the community on a deeper level. These small groups allowed individuals to be vulnerable with their group members, and begin to see them as their brothers and sisters. With the help of these powerful speakers guided by the small group discussions, students and staff were able to take bigger steps in their faith and understand more about the importance of strong and authentic brotherhood and sisterhood.
Incorporating small groups into the retreat gave us the opportunity to continue these small groups throughout the semester. This has allowed the men and women to continue to grow in relationship and share their lives with each other. Moreover, it has been a vehicle for the leaders and the students to learn more about their faith, their relationships, and their role as Christ’s disciples. These small groups have been great opportunities to grow the men’s and women’s communities, which is an essential part of creating this outward-facing community of people. If we want to welcome individuals into a deeper faith, we need to have a strong community of men and women to help walk with them along the way.
Looking at the weekend as a whole, it is apparent that it was a huge leap forward in building this united community. It brought about many new friendships for both the students and Missionaries alike, and set a more solid foundation for our community. It was a great opportunity for all of us to get out of the heat for a few days, meet new people, and learn more about topics that are pertinent to our lives on campus. Now a few weeks out, we have been able to see many of the fruits of the retreat, from witnessing more students involved on a regular basis, more students intentionally being on Mission to invite others into the community, and an overall familial feeling from the overall community. The Lord is planting seeds for large impact here in Arizona, and it was such a blessing to be a part of the first fruits of His abundance at this fall retreat!