MISSION AND MINISTRY | Retreats are one of LMU’s greatest treasures for students, faculty, and staff and like everything else, they have had to become virtual experiences. “The spirit is present even when you don’t think it is,” said Jake Blicharz, the campus minister for student leadership formation. “Right now, I have a candle, cross, necklace that my parents gave me, books, all sacred stuff on my desk.
“We don’t think of it as sacred because we aren’t used to thinking about it that way. But whenever I light this candle or wear this cross and join community in a Zoom room, I feel the presence of God, love and gratitude.”
Before the pandemic, retreats usually meant going to a beautiful center with breathtaking views, gathering with a community and creating a sacred space to allow for deep reflection and prayer. Campus Ministry and Center of Ignatian Spirituality are doing their very best to make sure these experiences are not lost.
“We are learning how to be more creative and completely rethinking retreats and I think that is a huge plus from being in this virtual world,” said Blicharz. “How can we be more creative and engaging in a different kind of space? But still very much a sacred space. If we believe that we can find God in all things, then OK we can certainly imagine that and experience it in an online retreat.”
LMU senior Grace Bernal attended an Ignatian Guided Retreat over the Christmas break. She had one-on-one conversations with a spiritual director, attended virtual prayer services daily and was a part of a community. She said the retreat helped her to re-establish her relationship with God. “The retreat helped me to pause and reframe my perspective about God and remember what is important in my heart.”
LMU staff and faculty also have been longing for space to reflect and be in community since the pandemic began. Kat Brown, the director of mission and identity programs, helped plan the faculty and staff retreat with the Center for Ignatian Spirituality. For the first time, the retreat was offered virtually. “For many of us we have lost the external structures like going to communal worship on Sundays, or having groups that we met with outside of our homes, or even being able to go to peaceful spaces that we would have done in non-pandemic times.”
Brown said that faculty and staff were grateful to experience a retreat in their own home. The flexibility of being virtual allowed some to participate in the experience who would otherwise not be able to attend. Justine Saquilayan, digital marketing manager, said that she regained a since of peace and calmness at home while on the retreat. “I needed a reminder that where I live can be peaceful. The retreat also allowed me to pray, reflect and center myself and it continues to feel sacred to me.”