By JULIE CAVANAUGH
TABLE ROCK — With over half of the semester completed, college students around the state gathered to share faith and fellowship at a retreat Oct. 23-25 in Table Rock, S.C. Following the theme, “Encountering Self, Others and God,” the students discussed how God is active and present in their lives and how to live his word everyday.
Raul Estrada, a senior at the College of Charleston and a student liaison to the diocese, said the support offered at the retreat reinforced students’ beliefs and reaffirmed their faith.
“The retreat was beneficial in that students could come together and experience faith and worship together and, for a little while, live among a community of people who have the same struggles and problems,” Estrada said.
College students live in a unique microcosm where everything is challenged and questioned. Combined with the geographic location of these schools in the South, the Bible Belt of America, the average Catholic student is constantly presented with obstacles to which he or she must overcome.
Much of the programmed time was spent in small group discussions that allowed students to get to know each other better and to speak on a more personal level about their own faith experience.
As a senior at Clemson University, Stacey Hanna said she appreciated knowing that other people wrestle with the same problems she does.
“Sharing in the groups and talking about issues we all face was very helpful,” Hanna said. “It is good to know you’re not the only one who has these problems and that what you believe, because you are Catholic, isn’t wrong.”
The activities during the weekend included a guided meditation, an evening Mass, a group rosary and a day hike to the top of Table Rock on Saturday afternoon.
The event doubled in size from the last retreat held in the spring. With a little over 100 students attending, a larger facility was needed to accommodate students from South Carolina State University, Clemson University, University of South Carolina, Winthrop University, the College of Charleston and The Citadel.
For some students the retreat was a good way to focus for what promises to be a stressful semester finale. Atiba Cresse, a freshman at South Carolina State University, is a long way from home as an exchange student from Trinidad. He said the retreat gave him the opportunity to reconnect with God in a fun, but religious way.
“A retreat like this one helps to spiritually balance and focus what can be a traumatic life as a college student,” Cresse said. “It is really good to stop seeing yourself as an individual, but rather as one unit with others in faith.”
The Catholic Campus ministries across the state sponsor weekly events for students to attend as their schedule permits. Some of these include Bible studies, free meals and programs, service projects and, of course, weekly Mass.
There are plans for a spring retreat in February and students are eager to see one another and to share and grow in their faith.
“God proves he exists each day and if I pattern myself after the Ten Commandments and the works of Jesus, I can’t go wrong,” Cresse said. “The Catholic church is definitely for me.”