Here at Seattle University, tradition runs deep. One of the longest standing traditions is Search Retreat. Every Winter and Spring quarter, about 75 students embark on a weekend-long retreat held at Camp Don Bosco just 45 minutes from the University. If you are part of the Seattle University community, seeing black-rope necklaces with heart-shaped wood pendants hanging around the necks of your friends, mentees, or students may be common. Those necklaces hold all the memories from a weekend of discussion, reflection, spiritual discernment and community. There are many misconceptions about what Search Retreat is and is not.
Search Retreat is, first and foremost, a space for students to explore who they are, or in other words, to discern. It's based in spirituality, not religion. During the retreat, student leaders give talks on various subjects, focusing on various formative aspects of life. There is time for personal reflection, along with small group sharing and discussion to make the experience comfortable for all personality types. This retreat requires bravely and vulnerability and a willingness to grow and develop as an individual.
During my Search, I shared my childhood struggle to connect with others because of a mental illness that was never identified. As my story poured out unedited, my tears stained the white butcher paper I had been doodling on during previous small group discussions. Someone I had met less than a day ago lightly rested their hand on my back and pulled me into a tight embrace as the words stopped forming. Another new friend sitting on my other side gave me a tissue, and I lightly wept into arms that offered unconditional support and love.
This is the community that I and so many others have been searching for, and we have found it at the butcher-paper-covered tables in the large community room of Camp Don Bosco.
I would be remiss not to mention the fact that there are surprises during the retreat. Surprises, not secrets. I don't remember much from the end of my Search experience other than tears of happiness streaming down my face and the feeling of community and love filling every vessel in my body.
I am not alone in this feeling.
"Search was an experience that instilled in me the essence of community, at our school, and wherever we may go in life," said Hannah Rhodes, '17. "I felt loved and in awe, with every sense of the world, at the experience. Definitely something I would not have expected prior. Search was beautiful, incredibly well done, and a retreat I will recommend to many others."
"Search made me realize I am not alone," said Jordan Murakami, '17. "Everyone has struggles and pains; further, we are led to believe that those struggles and pains are specific towards the individual. Yet, once we both step forward, I realize I am not alone. We are not alone."
One sentiment has held true for almost every student who has gone on this retreat: Search will give you whatever you put into it. If you are engaged, actively listening and opening yourself up to spiritual discernment, you will come home from the retreat feeling energized and fulfilled. It is up to each Searcher to choose a level of participation that feels comfortable.
Noah Schenirer, '16, is a public affairs major. He contributed the photos that appear above.