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Seniors reflect during retreat

Amanda Gray | Thursday, January 26, 2012

With seven semesters behind them and one to go, more than 150 seniors will spend time reflecting on their Notre Dame experiences at the Senior Retreat this weekend, according to head organizer and senior Erin Connors.

“It’s going to be a great weekend,” she said. “We’re focusing on how to cherish the last five months of our senior year beyond the last things to check off the ‘bucket list.'”

Connors has been planning the retreat with senior Andrew Bell and 18 other students since Oct. 30. The retreat begins at 3:30 p.m. today and concludes Saturday evening with a closing dinner.

“This is an opportunity to reflect on the last three and a half years,” Bell said. “Some reflections will be shared by the planning team to start conversation in small groups.”

Bell said in planning, the team considered what seniors needed as their time at Notre Dame drew to a close.

“It’s been interesting planning parts of a retreat knowing they’re for our friends and classmates, and, at the same time, for us. At the heart of what we’re hoping for is to provide an opportunity to pause when we’re at a time as seniors that everyone is telling you to go, go — to hurry,” Bell said. “It’s a moment to pause and reflect on changes.”

While this year’s retreat follows a general pattern set by the past six retreats, the content is new because the planning team is different, said Fr. Joe Carey, the interim director of Campus Ministry. Carey led the Senior Retreat for the last six sessions, though Senior Retreats have occurred on campus since the 1970s.

“It makes me proud to be at Notre Dame,” he said. “It’s different every year because of the team. It’s [a new retreat] in that it’s [the planning committee’s] experiences – they really capture all of the things Notre Dame students face.”

In the past, the retreat has been career-focused, with alumni speaking on life after college, Carey said. The aim for the last few years has been for a more spiritual exploration.

“This year we have added a talk that two people are giving on gratitude. We want attendees to see who to be thankful for,” he said. “The retreat is starting a process of reflection through this weekend, the next four months and beyond.”

Carey assembled the planning committee over the summer, purposefully picking leaders he felt could bring together a successful retreat.

“It’s seniors leading seniors,” he said. “We were gathering a team of student leaders, and we came up with a team from various facets of Notre Dame that will enable attendees to grow.”

In addition to this weekend’s retreat, three more Notre Dame Encounters and two Freshman Retreats will happen before the school year’s end, Carey said.

“They have a different feeling than this retreat — and anyone can participate in the Notre Dame Encounters,” he said. “They are also smaller, with the limit set at 50 people.”

More information on the retreats is available at campusministry.nd.edu.