Tulane Catholic to host weekend Encounter Retreat

College can be full of stressful times, especially for students still transitioning to Tulane. For those looking to get away for a weekend and engage in deeper conversation, Tulane Catholic is hosting their ninth semi-annual Encounter Retreat the weekend of Oct. 19-21.

Courtesy of Tulane Catholic

The retreat is focused on strengthening participants’ relationship with God and building lasting friendships. It is held at the Camp Abbey Retreat Center, an hour away from campus in Covington, Louisiana.

Led by teams of students who have previously attended the retreat, Encounter seems to have had a lasting impact on its participants.

“It honestly did kind of initiate transformation of my faith that still continues today,” sophomore Celia Constantino, one of more than 50 student staff members for the retreat this fall, said. “It inspired me to grow in a deeper relationship personally with Jesus … This started that relationship and it has been what has made my faith into an integral part of everyday life for me.”

For Constantino, Encounter marked a turning point in her transition to college.

“I realized when I got here that I felt super lonely and out of place. I realized how weak my faith was and it was a really challenging time for me,” Constantino said. “[Encounter] was when I realized that I had a family at the Catholic Center.”

Courtesy of Tulane Catholic

Senior Michael Diaz, the Encounter Retreat director for this semester, had a similarly eye-opening experience his first time on the retreat.

“I always went to Catholic school … Along the way, I picked up a bag of Catholic stuff. It didn’t really mean much to me,” Diaz said. “Eventually, in the spring [of my sophomore year] I went because a good friend of mine … invited me so I decided to go. Since then, I would’ve never thought it would have such a big impact on me, and a positive one too, that here I am leading it a couple semesters from that experience.”

While the retreat is run through Tulane Catholic, it is open to the entire student body, regardless of religious affiliation.

“A lot of people, Catholic or not, can get a lot out of this retreat, and I’ve seen that firsthand,” Diaz said.

Throughout the retreat, students are challenged to look at the big picture of what their lives can be.

“I think what’s so great about this retreat is it helps you find answers to questions like ‘What do I value?’, ‘What is real happiness and ‘How do I get that?’ ‘Why am I here?'” Constantino said.

These questions and more are discussed in depth through intimate small group discussions, various talks and several skits and other activities, including a large bonfire.

Courtesy of Tulane Catholic

According to Constantino, Encounter has the potential to bring the Tulane community together if people are willing to step out of their comfort zones.

“I think there’s a lot of loneliness on campus … and this retreat is centered around filling that loneliness through friendships and through your relationship with God, and so I think that is such a beautiful thing,”Constantino said. “I think everyone could use that in certain ways in their lives.”

Retreatants said Encounter is a powerful experience for those who choose to take the leap of faith the retreat represents. It has given students an outlet to express themselves and grow with their peers, and it seems to have something for virtually everyone.

“If you’re looking for a time to bond with people or make genuine friendships, this retreat is for you,” Diaz said. “If you’re looking for a time to build a relationship with God, or even question if God exists, this retreat is for you.”

Registration for Encounter officially closes Oct. 12, but late registration may be accepted. The retreat costs $50 to attend.

“It’s been transformative for everyone I know that has gone on it,” Constantino said. “So it’s definitely worth taking the risk and sacrificing just a couple days to explore further.”

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