by Christine Nappi, Staff Writer
Being surrounded by fresh air, open sky, and expansive fields gave students at The Empowerment Center a chance to disconnect from the hustle-and-bustle environment of Manhattan College. Although the environment served as a contrast to campus, students gained more than just a weekend-getaway; they had a chance to reflect on life, de-stress and make new friends, all thanks to the Kairos VII retreat.
Around 40 members of the MC community travelled to The Empowerment Center in Goshen, N.Y. on Nov. 1-3 to go on the Kairos VII retreat. Kairos is the “hallmark retreat” of Manhattan, and gives students the opportunity to escape for a weekend and enhance their relationships in life by relating it to spirituality. This was the seventh Kairos held by Manhattan, with retreats occurring in the fall and spring.
“It’s mostly just a weekend to get away and be a weekend for reflection,” Kairos Coordinator Faith LaRock said. “You get such great things out of it even if you’re not into reflection, you make friends, you have a great weekend just to be with yourself and not focus on your school work.”
“It’s a very peaceful and empowering environment, it’s just very conducive for self reflection and reflection with others, your relationship with yourself, your relationship with others and your relationship with God, if you have that,” leader Michael Hackett said. “[There’s] a very personal aspect which really allows you to connect with everyone on the retreat, and there’s also some fun games that help build community, friendship and love.”
Although Kairos is rooted in spirituality, the retreats are open to all students regardless of religious affiliation. La Rock and Hackett note that the retreats can meet the needs for students interested in the spiritual aspect, but they can also be for students who aren’t looking for that. Whether it be meeting new people, escaping from city life, or just having an enjoyable time, they claim Kairos has the power to do all that.
“If you’re someone where you’re not sure if this is right for you, you can get a plethora of different benefits from it,” LaRock said. “You don’t need to be someone that’s super reflective or super spiritual, its open to all different religions and its really not geared towards a certain one.”
The leadership team emphasizes that the retreat is spiritual, but not tied to any specific religion, in order to create a comfortable and inclusive community for all who are interested.
“I identify as atheist, and I got a lot out of it so you don’t need to be religious by any means to gain,” Kairos participant Patricia Wright said. “It’s a lot about self-discovery and that can benefit everyone.”
LaRock notes that the benefits of going to a small school further enhances the Kairos experience. She describes people to already be familiar with each other upon arriving, yet the weekend gives people an opportunity to connect on a deeper level.
“Everyone is just so happy to be there with one another, it’s just a great, warm feeling from the second the bus gets there until the second the bus leaves,” LaRock said.
Despite other Kairos retreats happening in the past, Hackett describes each one as different and provides unique experiences for each person who attends. Although Kairos may appear to be one thing, he advises people enter the experience without having any expectations.
“You can’t really expect how certain people are going to experience this weekend because it is so unique and everyone’s going to experience it differently,” Hackett said. “When I was there everything just falls into place, it’s just something that happens that everything just works out.”
Leaders and participants of this past Kairos encourage people to attend future retreats, yet are hesitant in revealing details of the weekend because of the unique and impactful experience they just had. In order to truly understand the Kairos experience, students need to attend the event themselves. La Rock and Hackett advise that the best approach is to enter the weekend without any expectations.
“That’s why people try to keep it secretive, you don’t want people to know what’s going on there because you just want them to go in with a completely open mind and just experience it,” Wright said.
According to LaRock, those who attended are left feeling the “kai high” after returning back to Manhattan. Participants return feeling refreshed from their break, having learned something through reflection or have established deeper friendships.
“You think back to the weekend and you talk to the people that you grew with and bonded with and you just have this feeling of contentedness and peace,” Hackett said. “You can’t really explain it, just this feeling of joy, pure happiness.”
Due to the popularity Kairos receives, spots for the retreat fill quickly. Hackett notes that this should not discourage anyone from signing up and being placed on the wait list. Although people may be hesitant to sign up for being unaware of the event’s details, Hackett encourages students to partake in Kairos to gain an experience like no other.
“Go in with an open mind and an open heart and just allowing yourself to experience this weekend for all that it is,” Hackett said. “Take the leap and trust that it’s a good experience.”