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Salt & Light
New student retreat builds community

By Jessie Bazan, Comm ’14

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus proclaimed, “You are the salt of the earth. ... You are the light of the world.”

That passage laid the foundation for Campus Ministry’s new Salt & Light Retreat, a Catholic community-building initiative funded by the Edward D. Simmons Religious Commitment Fund.

During a February weekend away from campus, 42 students and leaders participated in the retreat and found new space to explore their Catholic identity. They did it by following the sacred movements of the Triduum.

On the night of the Last Supper, in an intimate act of service, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Gathered together in the chapel of the Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock, Ill., on Friday night, this group of modern-day disciples followed his example. They took off their shoes and socks. After reading the washing of the feet passage from John’s Gospel, retreat leader Rev. Chris Hadley, S.J., invited nine fellow leaders forward to have their feet washed. Afterward, with water basins in hand, the leaders returned to their small groups to perform the ritual that is traditionally performed on Holy Thursday.

“Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then told them to go out and follow his model,” explained Sean Hegarty, who served as a retreat leader and graduated in May from the College of Business Administration.

The ritual served to unite and cleanse.

“Having our leaders follow that model and wash the feet of the retreatants built such a trust and dynamic in the small groups from the beginning,” Hegarty said. “The cleansing waters offered a way to dive into the retreat with a fresh start.”

On Saturday morning, the students transitioned into Good Friday mode to participation in a Veneration of the Cross service. It was a vulnerable time of individual prayer as participants silently reflected on the crosses of their own lives. What in my life needs healing? In what ways is Christ present in my suffering? Retreat leader Brittany White opened the service by reflecting on the ways Christ wraps us in love through his suffering and death on the cross.

By glorying in the cross of Christ, White told fellow students, we can find comfort and healing.

“The act of venerating the cross really connects us with the humanity and the divinity of Jesus,” said White, who graduated in May from the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. “It helps us search for the peace God can bring to us. There’s something really cool about the time of silent prayer and allowing God to enter into and facilitate that prayer.”

The service concluded with a communal litany of healing during which students gathered in a circle around the cross to support each other with prayers for perseverance and strength.

“Receive the sign of the cross on your ears,” Father Hadley told the gathered students, “that you may hear the voice of the Lord.”

The smells of perfume and grape seed oil wafted through the chapel during a rite of anointing as individuals renewed their baptismal promises. It was Saturday night of the Salt & Light Retreat, and after a long day of journeying and waiting, one emotion dominated.

“Joy erupted in the group because we had walked through the other pieces and we came to a point in our reflection together where we could say, ‘This is the risen Christ that we’re celebrating,’ ” said Timothy Johnston, retreat leader and assistant director of Campus Ministry.

During the rite, leaders took turns anointing the foreheads, eyes, ears and hands of the students. “This service was a time to celebrate our own life in Christ,” said Johnston, “and recommit ourselves to living out our baptismal promises.”

Though the retreat weekend ended the following day, Campus Ministry began offering an abbreviated format called Salt & Light Nights to help students continue connecting throughout the academic weeks that followed. Initial programming included the four-week Tuesday night Lenten series “The Joy of Waffles & the Gospel.” Each week, more than 60 students enjoyed the waffle bar and kept the conversation flowing.

The Edward D. Simmons Religious Commitment Fund distributes modest grants to finance small projects or provide seed money for programs or events that deepen the Catholic, Jesuit identity of Marquette University.


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