by Maura Campbell ’22
This weekend, freshmen took part in the annual Connections Retreat at Toah Nipi Retreat Center in Rindge, New Hampshire. Every year, Campus Ministry holds this retreat for first-year students. Prior to the retreat, several of the retreat leaders offered a behind-the-scenes account of their Connections experience.
Maggie McKenna ’20 described Connections as “one of the first chances the freshmen get to go off campus, unwind, and make friends with people who value and want similar things out of their college experience.” Since it is so early in the academic year, it can be an opportunity for first-year students to get to know other students they may not have had a chance to meet on campus.
The impact that Connections has on first-year students can be described best by the current leaders, who look back on their own retreats fondly. Kate Zenobio ’22 says that her Connections retreat in 2018 was “the first experience where [she] really saw the ‘Friar Family’ shine.”
Similarly, Abbie Wishart ’22 says, “Being a participant introduced me to so many amazing people in my class.” Students who have attended the retreat leave overwhelmingly positive feedback. The Connections Retreat will continue to run as it has in the past. This year’s leaders agree that the structure of the retreat has worked and they plan to keep it consistent with previous years. However, this does not mean that the retreat itself will always be exactly the same from year to year.
Although the general plan for the retreat remains generally the same from year to year,” says Brianna Waldmann ’21, “the community of retreatants and leaders is always changing, and this allows for a unique experience each time.” This combination of tradition and originality creates a special experience for each new Connections Retreat.
When asked about their favorite part of the weekend, each leader responded with enthusiasm. “My favorite part of the retreat,” Zenobio says, “is the transformation of the freshmen. I’m so excited for them to realize how electric the retreat will actually be. I would hope that they can come back to campus refreshed and take what they have learned from it and apply it to their everyday lives.”
Similarly, Matt McGurn ’20 says that his favorite part of the weekend is “the bus ride back, watching all the freshmen hang out and talk with all the new friends they have made.” He added, “They are always laughing, joking, and having a good time, as if they have been friends for years.”
The Connections Retreat gives freshmen the opportunity to take a break from the busyness of starting college, form new friendships, and reflect on the role of God in their lives.
If students are interested in getting involved with more retreats, or to go on their first retreat at Providence College, there are several different options available for students. There are several retreats coming up during this academic year, including the Men’s and Women’s Wilderness Retreats, the Lighthouse Retreat for sophomores, and the Encounter with Christ Retreat for all class years.
Students interested in getting involved with Campus Ministry can get involved in several different ways. They can become Peer Ministers or join a Peer Ministry Group. There are also several service trips and groups available, including a Habitat for Humanity trip, with which students are encouraged to get involved.
There are activities happening nearly every day through Campus Ministry, and many different organizations within Campus Ministry. All students are welcome to try getting involved through whichever avenues and organizations suit them best.