Searching for community

As a Catholic university, the University of San Diego offers many resources for those looking to explore their faith further during their college years. For students that identify as Catholic or Christian, University Ministry (UM) is an outlet some turn to for help facilitating exploration and growth within their faith. One of the most popular activities that UM puts on is the Search Retreat.

Search, as most students refer to it, is a retreat that happens once a semester. It is designed to help students who are “searching” for something more in their lives reflect on their relationships with themselves, their community, and God. The weekend-long retreat includes reflection, small group discussion, and interactive community building activities to help students explore various elements of the Christian faith.

The retreat is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year, and this weekend’s retreat will mark the school’s Search XL.

For those that haven’t been on Search, the appeal behind giving up one of your precious weekends might be lost. For those who have gone, however, it is clear they have no regrets about trading a weekend of beaches and brunch for a retreat in the mountains with friends.

Senior Maddy Platt explained why she made the decision to attend the Search retreat this upcoming weekend.

“I wanted to go [on Search] because I felt like a weekend dedicated to self-reflection is exactly what I needed right before graduation,” Platt said. “I guess you could say God hasn’t been much a part of my life during college, and I felt like Search is a great way to reconnect before I graduate.”

Senior Kathryn Kelly enjoyed the experience so much that she decided to take her Search journey even further and become a student leader.

“It’s been a lot of fun to be part of the Search leadership team this semester,” Kelly said. “I attended the retreat my sophomore year and never really thought I’d be interested in leading, but being part of the UM community has given me a lot of confidence to do things I wouldn’t have thought I’d be capable of.”

Kelly explained her role as a student leader during the weekend retreat.

“As for the weekend itself, my role is to lead a small group of ‘Searchers’ through reflections and discussions around topics like Prayer, Who is Jesus Christ, and Loving and Being Loved,” Kelly said. “Search provides a really nice way to recenter yourself in the middle of the semester, and it allows the ‘Searchers’ to explore their faith and relationships with God in a meaningful way.”

This time to reflect seems to be one of the main appeals of the retreat.

Senior Molly Humphreys, the student coordinator for Search, explained that the community surrounding Search is also a huge draw for participants.

“One of the most unique aspects about Search is the diversity of students who both attend the retreat and who serve on the leadership team,” Humphreys said. “I think this is one of the reasons Search is so appealing. Aside from having the opportunity to be removed from the chaos of campus life for a weekend, Search gives students the opportunity to listen to witness talks given by other students on various topics, engage in personal reflection, and build authentic relationships and community with students from all facets of campus life. The Search community is truly what makes this retreat so special to me.”

Senior Sarah Shotts referenced this community when explaining her decision to attend this weekend’s retreat.

“I’ve always thought about going [on Search], and I kind of just thought it was something I’d do my senior year,” Shotts said. “I wanted to go because, from what I’ve seen, other people who have gone have absolutely loved it, and even if they’re not super religious, which I’m not, there’s something in it for everyone. [I also wanted to find] another different community at USD.”

Ultimately, this feeling of belonging is what many hope to achieve by attending Search.

Search Coordinator Marc Adams reinforced this idea, noting that the environment of acceptance surrounding the retreat is what helps students open up.

“It is a space where we can feel free to be vulnerable with one another, being our most authentic selves, without fear of judgement or ridicule,” Adams said. “Our hope is that students can return from the retreat with a deeper understanding of themselves, of community and of God, embracing all the questions, doubts and ambiguities that may arise.  We all come to the retreat at different points along our faith journey, but the hope is that the weekend serves as an affirmation that the best is still yet to come.”

As students embark on this weekend’s Search XL, there are sure to be more students singing Search’s praises in the upcoming weeks. With 20 years under its belt, Search seems to have withstood the test of time and seems to be more popular than ever.

By Dani DeVries, Opinion Editor