A good beginning can determine the rest of a student’s journey in college. The Spring Hill College Beginnings Retreat was designed to make that journey not only smoother but also purposeful.
The Beginnings Retreat, offered annually on the first weekend after the first week of classes to incoming Spring Hill College students, has become a much loved tradition for the campus community. The retreat started in 2010 as a small gathering of students who were mostly interested in what Campus Ministry had to offer. The event has now expanded from its original group of 20 to about 95 new students who participate. A diverse group of students – both freshmen and transfers – sign up for the retreat, from students who have been very active in their faith lives to those who have never considered the question of faith.
The weekend off-campus trip fits into the overall mission of Campus Ministry to go out and meet students where they are, which is exactly what happens at the Beginnings Retreat – the students are met where they are in their faith journey as they arrive at The Hill. The goal of the retreat is mostly social, to connect students to their classmates, upperclassmen and the campus community. Issues addressed include homesickness, roommate issues, academic pressures, finding your niche on campus, how to find support and confronting social pressures. These topics are presented through witness talks given by student-leaders, on the pillars of Jesuit education like cura personalis – or care of the whole person – Magis, discernment and finding God in all things. By using Jesuit language, common feelings or issues that new students face are addressed and students are also introduced to our Jesuit mission, giving them a Jesuit lens through which to look at their first year experience.
In more recent years, around 40 student-leaders volunteer to facilitate small group discussion, cook and plan activities. Many students attend Beginnings Retreat through their senior year because Beginnings was the place where they found their closest friends, roommates and their place on The Hill. Students have commonly said that in the overwhelming first week of classes, they thought about transferring or going home, but after going to Beginnings Retreat, they feel more at home at Spring Hill and felt more confident as a new student.
A student leadership team with two representatives from each class begins preparing the retreat in the spring semester. The student-leaders are always motivated to see all of their hard work brought to fruition and to hear new students express how meaningful Beginnings is to the start of their Spring Hill journey. The retreat ends with fellowship which includes swimming, canoeing, music and a cookout.
The timing of the retreat – the first weekend after the first week of classes – is purposeful. The period of transition beginning with move-in, orientation and the start of classes can be stressful for new students. This retreat is offered as a chance for students to relax, think more deeply about how they want to spend their time at Spring Hill and to simply take a breath before their schedules get too hectic.
Spring Hill College’s Campus Ministry is proud to offer the Beginnings Retreat as a way to begin on a positive note.