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Weekend retreat targets ND men

Matt Bramanti | Wednesday, October 8, 2003

In an effort to increase male participation in its retreat programs, the Notre Dame Office of Campus Ministry will sponsor a “Man’s Weekend” beginning Friday afternoon. The program, which will be held at a Congregation of Holy Cross property in LaPorte, Ind. is designed for men who dislike the “touchy-feely approach of many retreats,” said Father Kevin Russeau, who coordinates retreats for Campus Ministry,

Russeau said that weekend retreats, like the Freshman Retreats, Sophomore Road Trips and Notre Dame Encounters, have been more popular among female students.

“I realized that it was a lot easier to recruit women,” he said. “There were three women to each man on some retreats.”

He attributes this disparity to the idea that men generally keep matters of faith to themselves, whereas women are more open with their religious beliefs. Accordingly, the weekend is designed to be very different from other retreat environments.

For example, the program will forego the small group discussions that are a mainstay of Campus Ministry events, in favor of more unconventional activities.

“Singing ‘Kumbaya’ and having cheesy icebreakers aren’t necessary for a successful spiritual experience,” Russeau said. “I hope that getting together over a bonfire and a pig roast in an informal setting will help us bring those things alive.”

Participants will also enjoy “a lot of unstructured free time,” as well as a Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game watch and poker games, Russeau said.

Russeau said he was particularly struck by a segment of the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” in which characters discuss the pirates’ code of ethics.

“We men used to have a code of chivalry. We were supposed to take care of women, children, and each other. If pirates can have a code like that, why can’t men?” he said.

Russeau said the weekend will focus on images of religious masculinity and struggle that have been downplayed in recent years, but might appeal to competitive Notre Dame men. He quoted St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Russeau noted the Church’s history of men who have emulated St. Paul.

“We have 2,000 years of saints who have gone before us. As men, we have to be saints too,” he said. “We can’t be passive about our faith.”

The weekend experience is open to all men at Notre Dame. Students may sign up at the Campus Ministry office in the Coleman-Morse Center.

“The applications I’ve received give me hope that this is something to talk about,” but space is still available, Russeau said.

“I’d love to fill a bus, because I’ve got a lot of pig and steak to go around,” he cracked.