How do I say ‘yes’ to an unknown future? Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity (Sister Mary Ann Spanjers and Sister Julie Ann Sheahan) facilitated a ‘Discernment of the Gospel’ Busy Student Retreat for over 20 UW Whitewater students on October 10-13, 2010.
Committed college students (showing up early in the crisp of the day and often squeezing in one more thing near meal times) searched the Gospel of Jesus Christ to find answers and honestly assessed their relationship with God and others.
Scripture texts that were important in this process of discovery included:
- Watchfulness: Mt 25:1-13 ;Lk 12:35; Mk 13:33-37 (Be alert!)
- Lost and found passages: Mt 13, 44; Mt 13:33; Mt 18:12 (Trust a relationship that already exists with God. )
- Parables of the seeds: Mt 13:31-32; Mk 4:26-29; Mk 4:1-9 (Growth comes from small beginnings.)
Group sessions in the beauty of the great outdoors, private prayer, the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, a contemplative peace walk, music and wonderful meals provided by St. Patrick parish members provided the structure of the days.
Thoughtful retreatants agreed to share their responses to some of life’s basic questions:
What role does prayer play in your life?
- It is how I connect with God, as well as a way for me to step back from the business of life and realize everything is going to be o.k., because God is there to help me.
- I ask God to help me as well as the other people close to me and thank HIm for doing just that.
- I send out short prayers to the Lord throughout the day.
- Right now my prayer life is not that strong, but it is a process.
- Prayer is huge. When I don’t pray & am not God centered I’m way off. Just everything about my week & who I am is different and not good.
- It is something that comes natural and is something I enjoy doing.
- Prayer plays a smaller role in my life than it should, but when things aren’t going right I turn to prayer.
- When I am committed to prayer my priorities are clean and I am given strength to carry out my mission in life.
- I pray whenever I have a free moment. I enjoy opening up to God.
- I find prayer and talking to people I’m close with about decisions, sometimes God speaks to us through other people.
- My parents are a major influence in my decisions which to me is o.k. because I know that Jesus guides them to guide me.
- I find personal reflection and the discovery of outside possibilities to be helpful for discerning my direction in life.
- Prayer and a support system-prayer is so beneficial but without friends and family I would be lost.
- Prayer and acting upon what I feel called to do; and being in prayer with those things.
- Support from other Christians/encouragement. I like hearing what other people think and know because it makes me really think about everything and my true beliefs.
- Sharing my discernment with those who know me best. Having the prayerful support of others.
- My confidence that I know what I want to do as a profession.
- I found this retreat very helpful. Starting my day off with prayer made all the difference.
What are obstacles to discerning your direction?
- I find myself fearing taking big risks even when I believe it’s the right choice for me.
- I have asperger’s syndrome so that makes getting motivated a little hard.
- Being too busy and not spending enough time talking with God
- Making time in a schedule, busy with so many non-religious things
- People who are around me constantly who don’t believe or try to discourage me from believing
- Confusion…not forming my own interpretations
- I often question myself or lose confidence in my actions, but always turn to the Lord for guidance.
- My desires not being fulfilled making me question…
- My mind…because I doubt my abilities.
Brian Zanin, Catholic Campus Minister, and Father John Puodziunas, OFM, were important people in planning retreat details.