An experience of deep peace, silence and friendship in the beautiful environment of the Benedict XVI Centre at Grose Vale brings university students back for retreats year after year, says Universities Catholic Chaplaincy Coordinator Tony Mattar.
This month more than 100 students came from university campuses across Sydney for the retreat with about 40 percent joining for the first time.
Mr Mattar said his hope for the annual retreats is that they help students to prepare “spiritually and intellectually to bring their faith to hostile grounds on campus”.
“It’s a chance for students to come together in prayer and experience a long period of silence from Saturday afternoon until 10pm which is always the most powerful part of the retreat,” he said.
“A lot of them were first-years which was good to see, and they all really appreciate taking that time after the stress of mid-year exams to let go of the world and reconnect with God.”
US author and speaker Edward Sri led four presentations on the theme ‘Freedom to Love’, while there was time for fun with ice-breaker games out in the winter sunshine.
As well as Mass several priests were on hand for spiritual direction and to hear confessions, with the Dominican Sisters of Cecilia also providing spiritual direction.
Some said they hadn’t gone to confession since primary school.
President of the UNSW Catholic Society Sudham Perera said the retreat was an “incredible experience”.
“My personal highlight was the three and a half hour silence in the middle of the retreat that allowed me to finally process and bring to God the ‘firecrackers’ that had gone off in my life,” he said.
“Waking up for perpetual adoration at 3am was my other stand-out moment.
“For the students who came who are newer to retreats, it was a great opportunity to develop authentic relationships in small groups, to dive into incredible Church’s traditions, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, and to grow in personal relationship with Christ through all-night adorations.”