By Kelly Kennedy, Social Media Editor
The College Ministry and Social Action Suite is planning to host the beloved Kairos retreat once again this year, from April 29 to May 1, as a part of the Lasallians in Faith Together (L.I.F.T.) program.
This retreat will take students upstate to the Empowerment Center in Goshen, New York where students participate in a spiritual bonding weekend. All students are invited to attend regardless of religious or spiritual backgrounds.
A Kairos retreat is something that many college and high school students across the country take part in, typically through Catholic school programs. But here at MC, the Kairos retreat is not specific to any one religion or faith, and even those who are not spiritual are invited to participate. The idea for Manhattan College to begin participating in a Kairos retreat was brought to campus almost 8 years ago by campus minister Conor Reidy.
“It is an opportunity to take a break from the hurried nature of our campus existence to reflect on the nature of relationships, specifically the relationship between yourself, your relationship with others, and your relationship with God,” Reidy said.
The retreat’s name comes from the Greek word kairos, meaning “the right, critical or opportune moment.” And the retreat is just that, an opportunity for students to take a moment away from their busy lives to grow in their relationships and their spirituality. During this weekend away, students participate in activities, games, camp fires, live music, good food and discussion.
The retreat was very successful in past years, with the trip meeting capacity with its almost 50 participants. The last time the retreat was planned to be held was April 2020, and had to be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that COVID statistics are finally beginning to die down, many are excited to participate in the retreat who were not able to before.
“We’re really excited,” Reidy said. “It was one of our most popular events in Campus Ministry and Social Action. We were running it twice a year and we would have upwards of fifty people attending, which is the maximum number you can have in that space and we always had thirty to forty people on the waitlist. It was a really popular retreat that we loved running. I still hear from students who graduated many years ago that this was a really important part of their college experience, and that they met some of the people who were their favorite people in their life.”
The Kairos retreat now only allows students to grow in their spirituality and learn more about themselves, but to make new friendships they can take back to campus.
“It’s an emotional bonding experience for a lot of students,” Naouras Mousa Almatar, a CMSA graduate assistant, said. “When they go they don’t really know anyone, and we all come back as a big one big family. You tend to explore yourself, reflect on your life, reflect on friendship, reflect on the things that are important to you in your life. When you get to experience and go through these talks and these questions and discussions, it can become a real bonding experience.”
Mousa Almatar first participated in a Kairos retreat as an undergraduate student in 2019. He is now a coordinator along with senior engineering student Ashley Hickey.
Many may see the retreat as a religious experience, but Hickey describes Kairos as a place where students of all faiths are able to come together and learn about themselves and create lasting memories.
“Even though we are technically a Lasallian Catholic college the retreat is very inclusive and people of all different beliefs come each year,” Hickey said. “Many who haven’t been on the retreat may tend to think that it is very Christian, but I think that our campus ministry team does a really good job of making it open for everyone. And I think that it really promotes the Lasallian values of being an inclusive community and respect for all persons.”
Hickey went on one of the last Kairos retreats for the first time with her good friend, Sydney Waitt. Waitt is now one of the retreat leaders, despite being skeptical about ever going in the first place.
“I’m not religious at all,” Waitt said. “And so I think that’s one of the reasons why I was really skeptical to go because I thought it would be very spiritual in a religious sense, but it was more about finding your own spirituality.”
No matter your religious or spiritual beliefs, or lack of, all students are invited to attend the Kairos retreat to help them not only find themselves but find a community.
“You may be Christian, you may be Buddhists, but by coming on this retreat you are able to find your own perception of spirituality,” Waitt said. “Not only that, but you are able to find an inclusive community where you meet all these different people coming from all these different backgrounds. You’re all different, but you have this one experience in common. And I think that it’s a bonding experience for life. I still talk to my leaders and the people in my small group today and the majority of them graduated when I was a freshman.”