By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Students from Newman Catholic Student Center at The University of Iowa were “Livin’ on a Prayer” at a retreat Feb. 27 through March 1.
A group of 31 students from the U of I headed to American Martyrs Retreat Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa, for the retreat, which focused on providing the students with an immersive, practical introduction to various prayer forms in the Christian tradition. Newman Center students provided personal reflections along the way.
Senior Caitlyn Hagarty said the retreat came at a perfect time in the semester. “I was just starting to get burned out. This retreat was a great way to step back, put things in perspective and get closer to God.”
On the first day students viewed visual scenes from the Bible and church history as depicted in famous pieces of art and reflected on how such art can be a prayerful experience. They watched the film “Bruce Almighty,” discussing the difference between prayer as something God expects, versus something Christians need to express to God. The evening ended with guided meditation on Scripture.
The discussion on the purpose of prayer resonated with sophomore Jaci Albrecht. “Prayer is not something we should simply say because everyone else is doing it. Prayer is a genuine and very real aspect of our faith that calls us to push ourselves in new ways and understand the meaning behind the words and our faith. Prayer is a genuine call to our hearts and a way to reach God in our times of trouble, triumph, loneliness or wherever we are in life — it is our lifeline that will never be broken.”
On Saturday students prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary, discussed devotion to the saints, learned about Lectio Divina, participated in eucharistic adoration and Mass, made stained glass candles and engaged in silent prayer.
The retreat finished up Sunday, March 1, with Liturgy of the Hours and a session on praying through music. During that session student Josh Vaske talked about his time with the Newman Singers. Student Lilly Boenker gave a reflection of her experience writing poetry during a session on praying through the written word. The retreat concluded with quiet time for journaling and composing.
Freshman Taylor Majher said the weekend provided a refreshing break from her life as a busy student athlete. The cross country runner said, “I was able to return to my crazy life with more focus and drive than ever before … From participating in this retreat, I felt as though I was able to truly find myself physically, mentally and spiritually.”
Senior Matt Cabel said students are continuing to feel the effects of the retreat. “We created a lot of momentum with this retreat and it has continued in the form of weekly Night Prayer at the Newman Center. It’s so encouraging for me to see my fellow students so willing to improve their prayer lives and it has been a positive impact on the Newman Center community to have a group of students hungry to pray as a community.