Local Escape Retreat to Provide a Peaceful Getaway for Students Amid COVID

by, Julian Tiburcio, Contributor 

Between worries about COVID-19 and upcoming midterms, students at Manhattan College are in need of a break. Fortunately, Campus Ministry and Social Action has organized the Local Escape retreat for students to safely socialize and unwind.

Conor Reidy, the campus minister for CMSA, wanted to organize an in-person retreat for students that would provide an enriching experience for students while keeping everyone safe. 

“I believe we can find ways to connect with our community, find God in the spirit in nature,” he wrote through email. “We decided the local escape retreat would be an excellent way to have a mini-retreat experience in our own backyard.”

Conor Reidy wanted to organize an in-person retreat for students that would provide an enriching and safe experience.

Due to COVID-19, CMSA has had to organize retreats differently than they did in the past. 

“We [usually] take students to a beautiful retreat location in upstate New York to reflect, enjoy nature, and connect with your peers,” Reidy wrote. 

With social distancing guidelines and many students taking classes remotely this semester, an overnight retreat like this isn’t possible, so exploring the local areas around the college’s neighborhood is the next best option.

The Local Escape retreat will take place every other Sunday this fall, according to their web page, and each day will be at a different location around the neighborhood. 

“We wanted to have three different dates because there are so many parklands, trails, and nature preserves to explore in walking distance in our neighborhood,” Reidy wrote. “You can expect to have similar experiences on each retreat however it will be unique by the fact that new people will be on each retreat, we will have new leaders, and we will be exploring new parks.”

This is the first time that CMSA has organized a retreat like this one. 

“This semester, we decided to try to be a little creative with ways in which we can offer these sorts of reflective experiences to our student body.” wrote Reidy. “The local escape retreat was our solution for creating an in-person retreat that could be accessible to the whole student body while maintaining social distancing guidelines.”

Daniel Hernandez, a sophomore, thinks the idea of a local retreat will be beneficial to students. 

 “It’s local, so people can find new places to visit around the school,” Hernandez said. “Some new students might not know the area well, so they could get more familiar with it like this. I think it’s also a good way to meet new people.”

Wave Hill, a hidden gem of a park, is just a few blocks north of Manhattan College’s campus and will make for a great COVID-19 safe escape.

Harriet Swager, a senior who is learning remotely this semester, has been very involved in Campus Ministry’s retreats both as a participant and retreat leader. 

“I love retreats because they offer time away from the busyness of school, work and social lives to sit in quietness, to reflect, and to think deeply about your life and the lives of others,” she said. 

Although the retreat will be local, she hopes that students will still be able to experience the benefits that retreats have to offer through them. 

A picture from one of last year’s overnight retreats. Although the retreats are local this year, CMSA hopes students will still partake and experience the peace and reflection that retreats bring.

While Reidy is unsure of when he can start organizing overnight retreats again, he still believes that people should find other ways to connect with each other.

 “In the meantime, I do not think that physical distancing means that we need to be socially distanced,” he wrote. “I believe we can find ways to connect with our community, find God in the spirit in nature, and have moments of peace and reflection in the quiet that comes in nature.”