WOONSOCKET — Seventy college-aged students from around the Northeast — including students from the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and Brown University — gathered the weekend of November 10-12 at the Father Marot CYO Center in Woonsocket for a retreat hosted by the campus ministry staff of the University of Rhode Island.
In planning for the retreat, FOCUS team director Maria McDonough and chaplain Father Joseph Upton wanted their students to experience a “Father’s House Retreat,” a weekend retreat developed by the FOCUS national formation team. FOCUS, or the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, is a missionary organization that serves on college campuses across the United States. FOCUS is presently in their fourth year of service at URI and their second year of service at Brown. Father’s House retreats are offered throughout the country and follow a uniform schedule of coordinated talks and activities.
Maria McDonough, team director at URI, who worked for months in advance of the retreat coordinating logistics, explained that “all the talks, prayer times and small groups were geared toward getting to know God as Father, and through that knowledge, getting to know and appreciate that we are his children.” She said that the diocesan Office of Catholic Youth Ministry was exceedingly generous and hospitable in welcoming the large number of students to the Marot Center.
URI missionaries Nicholas Maille, Anjelo Rocero and Megan Vantslot also helped in running the retreat, which included talks, guided meditations, social time, ample time for Eucharistic Adoration, praise and worship, confession and the experience of praying with a “prayer team,” a group of missionaries who would help with intercessory prayer and support for any student who wished to take advantage of the opportunity.
URI freshman and secondary education major Nick Jones reflected on his experience: “Jesus taught us to call God our Father…but that isn’t something I’d really spent time thinking about. This retreat enabled me to boldly place myself before the Father as a son in need of his love each day.”
Katie Mossbarger, a URI sophomore and nursing major, shared a similar sentiment.
“The Father’s House retreat allowed me to really understand what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God, to learn how much God the Father loves us and what that love looks like,” she said.
Father Upton indicated that since he began his service as chaplain at URI, he had hoped to see a successful inter-collegiate retreat take place in our diocese.
“We will still plan and host our own retreats at URI, but the experience of praying and worshipping with other young Catholics from different campuses, as well as being able to network with them, was such a boost for our students,” he said. “They are often tempted to believe that there are no other young Catholics like them, and I know this experience provided a renewal of their zeal and their commitment to the faith.”
“It was very moving to see so many young people from so many different backgrounds united in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament,” he added.
The other universities represented were mostly schools in New England: Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University and the University of Connecticut. Students from Temple University and West Chester University, both in Pennsylvania, also participated.