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Notre Dame Campus Ministry hosts virtual retreat to celebrate Easter

| Tuesday, April 21, 2020

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Notre Dame students are spread out across the globe, churches are closed and social gatherings are restricted. Due to these unusual circumstances, this year‘s Easter season looked very different for Christians both within the Notre Dame community and around the world.

To combat the challenges the pandemic has brought to living a faith life, Campus Ministry hosted an Easter virtual retreat Saturday and Sunday entitled “Awake.” 

Christian Santa Maria, assistant director for retreats and pilgrimages, said the retreat — centered around embracing the Resurrection during difficult times — was the first-ever retreat on a virtual platform Campus Ministry has held.

“During this extraordinary time, we realized that we had the technology to create space for prayer and reflection even if the [Notre Dame] community is not physically together,” Santa Maria said in an email.

According to Santa Maria, 35 students participated in the retreat, which consisted of three talks over Zoom and pre-recorded meditation sessions that retreatants could do on their own time. Santa Maria explained that the format worked well for connecting with students.

“We literally were able to go to them and meet them where they are — emotionally, spiritually and literally,” he said.

Freshman Angela Ly said she chose to participate in the retreat for a change of pace and to have the opportunity to focus on the Easter season.

“I wanted to be intentional with the celebration of Easter and try to cultivate the graces that come from this season,” Ly said in an email.

Ly had participated in two retreats through Campus Ministry — the first-year retreat and the AAA winter retreat — prior to the “Awake” retreat. She said her favorite part of her most recent retreat experience was the talks by the leaders, especially in light of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding everyone’s life at the moment.

“It was refreshing to hear words of encouragement that had substance behind it,” Ly said. “In other words, the talks weren’t focused on telling us that everything will be okay, but acknowledging our situation and wounds and accepting them.”

Santa Maria said he was proud of the openness and authenticity that participants brought to the retreat — factors he felt greatly contributed to its overall success.

“None of us are immune from the honest questions of faith and spirituality these particular times are calling out of all of us,” Santa Maria said. “It was a humbling experience to be apart of a ministry like this. Students were honest and real about their experience. Those are the key building block[s] of any community [and] this one in particular.”

One of the strengths of the retreat, he said, was the opportunity to explore what the Church looks like today through a shared experience.

“What I appreciated most was that students were willing to be honest and speak authentically,” Santa Maria said. “We were all in the same boat, [and] we couldn’t hide behind our busy schedules. We honestly grappled with the reality of our experience in the context of our faith. It was a humbling experience of what the church looks like today.”

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About Alysa Guffey

Alysa is a sophomore pursuing a major in history with a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. While she calls Breen-Phillips her home on campus, she is originally from Indianapolis. She currently serves as an associate news editor.

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