Campus Ministry’s Escape Retreat, the first retreat of the academic year, was described by Campus Minister for Retreats Douglas Ray, S.J. as being, “wildly popular,” this year. The retreat is officially maxed out with 64 sign ups, as opposed to last year’s 50, and Campus Ministry is looking to accommodate other students put on a waitlist.
The retreat will take place at the Incarnation Center in Ivoryton, Conn. from Friday, Sept. 23-24. There, students will engage in both spiritual and physical exercises, such as small group discussions, kayaking, a ropes course, guest speeches and a bonfire throughout the weekend.
While relatively early in the year, information on the retreat is spread mostly through word-of-mouth from students who have attended the retreat previously and the efforts of students in Campus Ministry. Freshman Conor Naughton heard about Escape from a friend involved in organizing the retreat, who suggested it as a way to relax. He said, “The first few weeks have been great, but it will be nice to get away from the hyper-active atmosphere and relax with much fewer people.”
Ray noted that the increase in popularity of the retreat is in part due to the efforts of ministry student leaders, particularly Rachel Carlowicz ’18 and Nicole Kwasnaza ’18. Now co-directors of the Escape Retreat, both attended the retreat since their freshman year.
“I can say with certainty that Escape has improved tremendously,” said Kwasnaza in terms of the improvements made to the retreat. She also believes that the registration being filled up three days before the deadline is a sign that their efforts have made a difference.
Improvements are made both from their own experience and feedback from students who attend the retreat, said Kwasnaza. Feedback for Escape is generally positive, according to Ray, who said that students enjoy the social aspect and that many of them have met close friends while they were there.
“Every year we learn more about which techniques work and which ones don’t,” said Carlowicz. Students last year complained about the previous location at Camp Jewell in Colebrook, Conn. As a response, the venue was changed to Incarnation Center, which Carlowicz believes “will make Escape infinitely better.”
Carlowicz went on to explain that Campus Ministry changed the location for this year’s retreat because “it is easier for all the retreatants to be in one dorm-like place as opposed to spread out in a bunch of different cabins,” as the Incarnation Center offers living conditions that are more conducive to the Escape Retreat.
“The Escape retreat is an introductory retreat, focused on helping first year students transition into college,” said Ray. He added that while spirituality is one element of the retreat, the retreat is also meant to encourage students to find new friends, bond and learn how community and friendship will play a role in their life at Fairfield. The goal is to help students learn to reflect on their experiences and how they can grow academically, spiritually and personally.
Ray noted that another goal of the retreat is to try and encourage students to join Campus Ministry and become more involved in the Fairfield community. While less of a religious and spiritually-oriented retreat as compared to others such as the Kairos retreat, students who continue to attend usually rise to become student leaders for future retreats.
Kwasnaza believed that students who go on the retreat are able to get a brief getaway from the stress of transitioning into college. She said that they learn that “no matter how they feel about their first few weeks away at school, they are not alone.”