written by Annie McClure – class of 2015, Loyola University of New Orleans
I admit that when I entered Loyola University of New Orleans last year as a Freshman I was naïve as to what it meant to be attending a Jesuit institution. However, as I continued through my freshman year at Loyola, I began to pick up a general understanding of the Jesuit history, Jesuit mission, and a few of the Jesuit values. As time progressed, some of these ideas began to resonate with me, and piece-by-piece I began to understand how these values fit into the Jesuit identity. Yet, there was a still a piece missing. There was a nagging inside me pushing me to ask more questions and to search a little deeper for this Jesuit core.
The weekend of October 5th, I traveled to Camp Whispering Pines in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana to experience a retreat open to all Loyola students every fall and spring semester, called Awakening. One of the student leaders in this past retreat, Carissa Marston ‘13, regards Awakening as a strong Loyola tradition. “Awakening is one of those things on the “Loyola bucket-list” that you have to do before you graduate to get the full Loyola experience,” Marston explained.
Awakening is a weekend retreat spent away from campus, where we rid ourselves of all technology, outside communication, schoolwork, and sense of time. In doing so, we open ourselves up to focusing on the beauty of our surroundings and the Loyola students present with us. It is here we focus on a deep-rooted Jesuit ideal of “seeing God in all things.” This year the theme of the retreat was “Be free to love and be loved.”
University Ministry Assistant Director and Associate Chaplain for Retreats and Christian Life Communities at Loyola, Laura Alexander, sees the Awakening Retreat as an integral experience for Loyola students at this Jesuit institution,” I think awakening, more so than any other retreat we do, is a good time for people to let down their barriers, and really just be who they are in the presence of God. I think everyone needs to have that experience in their lives of knowing that they are utterly and completely loved by God no matter what.”
It was after attending this retreat that I found some clarity in my search in understanding the Jesuit identity. I began my pursuit looking for definitions of these values and Jesuit terms, but began to realize that I didn’t need to search for words; I needed to be perceptive of actions. I needed to be open to receiving this love so expressed and apparent in the Loyola community at the Awakening Retreat. In this unconscious effort, I began to not only understand what it means to “see God in all things,” but I understood what it means to express this understanding through my actions. As Laura Alexander said, “At its core, awakening is about knowing yourself and knowing that you are loved by God, and reaching out and helping others to do the same.”