Campus ministry getting students ready to ‘Embark’ on college

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By Becky Aubut
Anchor Staff
beckyaubut@anchornews.org

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. — First-year freshmen heading to college this fall can “Embark” early on their college experience by attending a free, overnight program August 9-10 at the Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham. The “Embark” retreat is a gathering that will provide an opportunity for incoming, first-year students to meet the Fall River diocesan ministry team, and to meet other students heading to college in the fall. Every student will have a chance to explore and reflect with others as he or she prepares to transition from high school to college.

Three years ago Father David Frederici, director of Campus Ministry at UMass Dartmouth, was searching for a way to reach out to incoming freshmen because “if you don’t tie into them by the second or third week in September, it’s very difficult because they’re connected to all these different groups,” he said.

The idea behind the retreat is twofold — connect college students to campus ministry, whether it is at UMass or another campus, and connect to each other. Technology is still a resource for students to stay connected, but, “this group is much more individual,” said Father Frederici. “You see them texting but they’re nurturing relationships with people they know. It’s their way of communicating; the key here when you have all that stuff out there [like social media], but fundamentally it’s relational to get them connected.”

The methodology of the retreat is in the name, “Embark.”  It is designed to help students transition from living home to living away, and also being responsible to find their own way of staying connected to the Catholic faith.

“It helps them through the talks that are given how you can maintain this lifestyle on any campus, not just on a Catholic campus but on a secular campus,” said Deacon Frank Lucca, a Catholic campus minister. “Some students like to connect before they get somewhere. Some students have difficulty transitioning. I know my own daughter did, so by coming to something with upperclassmen as well as students from their school, they have a leg up on things before they even get there.”

The 24-hour retreat is easy to fit into a student’s schedule, and the Campus Ministry team knows it’s important to get connected to those students before they become lost in the college experience, and allow those connections with other faith-filled students to flourish during those college years.

“We hope to get some UMass kids in there or from the community colleges, or from Mass Maritime or Wheaton, and then what we’ll do is help them connect to those campus ministries as well,” said Father Frederici. “It helps with the transition and helps build relationships with those kids coming to UMass.”

Though their last names have been omitted, attendees offered their own voices on his or her experience of attending an Embark retreat through their feedback given to the Campus Ministry staff after the retreat: 

“I got to relate to other people and I was comforting to hear and see that I was not alone and other people were in the same boat as me. I developed a better understanding of how to get through college and keep my faith with me as well,” said Shauna.

“This retreat helped me to feel more comfortable going to college and living my faith while there,” said Sara.

“Many teens ignore and neglect the need for assistance during the Spiritual transition to college. This retreat comes at the perfect time in my life when I need to reconnect and strengthen my relationship with God before college. I couldn’t have asked to be with better people,” said Victoria.

“This retreat really answered all my questions about college and made me closer to God in my transition,” said Dan.

When students make a decision to attend college, expectations are high for each student. However, once they have arrived, students get challenged intellectually and sometimes morally in values, and in that questioning, they come up with an erroneous assumption. 

“They make a decision early on, often within the first few weeks, that this college isn’t for me, or that college, period, isn’t for me,” said Father Frederici.

It can be pretty intense getting settled at a college, said Father Frederici, “They’ll do a lot of activities, but eventually it will get down to the nitty-gritty, and the kids may not realize they’ve made the biggest transition in their life, most of them. Not only has their daily routine changed, their living situation for many of them have changed. It takes awhile and it can get overwhelming; it really tests their coping skills.”

That’s where being connected to faith can help shine a light during one of the most difficult times in a young adult’s life, said Father Frederici; “Even if kids are going out of state or out of the diocese, we can introduce this ministry to them in the hopes of helping them stay connected to Church and to God.”

The Campus Ministry will be covering the costs of the retreat, so it is free to attend.
For more information, call 508-999-8872, email Deacon Flucca at flucca@umassd.edu,
Father Frederici at FrDavid@FallRiverCampusMinistry.com,
or register at www.FallRiverCampusMinistry.com.


© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts