CHAPEL HILL, NC—Headed for cabins in the Appalachian mountains, members of the Newman Catholic Center leave today for the organization’s fifth annual alternative Fall Break guilt trip.
“It’s a great opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of campus and focus on what’s important,” said group leader and youth pastor, Sharon Patrick. “Like the fact that you have not called your mother in a few weeks, have you? What about your grandma? She’s been really lonely since your grandfather passed. Well, I guess that’s okay, I am sure she just assumes you still love her.”
Past attendees have enjoyed the experience and the diverse range of activities at the retreat.
“Last year, I remember this really powerful moment where we asked people if they had anything to confess,” Patrick said. “Most people kind of just looked at the ground. I then said something like, ‘God will forgive…but He needs to know, so you can move past these experiences. So you can repent.’
“It can be hard to have authentic Catholic experiences like that at UNC, but luckily we can provide them,” she said.
At night, Patrick plans to make intimate discussions around the campfire a focus.
“We are going to sing songs and read stories from the bible,” she said. “And if people don’t remember the words, or forget some of the stories…well…hmm…didn’t they learn those in Bible school? I mean, goodness, my niece knows them. Oh well, we can always learn them again, I suppose.
“It’s about making the small moments count,” she added.
Trip leaders are hopeful to continue providing one-on-one hikes early in the morning for students “to talk with someone about the all those crazy hormones that get going around this age.”
Chip Murphy, a junior Political Science major, said that the hike served as a pivotal moment in his college experience.
“I had started getting into all this bad stuff–having consensual safe sex with my girlfriend and even, God forgive me, smoking marijuana on an occasional basis when I had no other work to do. I was having all this ‘fun,'” he said. “[Patrick] O’Rielly and I went on a walk to talk. All he said was, ‘I’ve noticed you haven’t been to Mass in a few weeks.’ That’s all it took. I knew that I had done so many horribly wrong things. I knew I was destined for Hell if I continued my ways.”
The trip also serves as a service opportunity, attendees going to nearby rural areas to deliver groceries door-to-door.
“I think a lot of people forget that while Catholicism is conservative on many issues, it is heavily focused on helping the disempowered and needy, perhaps more so than any other branch of Christianity,” said Trevor Gallagher, senior Business major. “You obviously feel guilty for your lustful acts, but when you disobey God’s command to help those in need–wow–that’s a whole new level.”
Trip leaders hope to return to campus by Sunday morning, in time to not miss “the one hour of the week that you dedicate to the Lord, I mean, it’s really only an hour–you can’t give that much to Jesus?”
North Carolina Hillel, UNC’s center for Jewish activities, hopes to begin a similar program next year.