Sheil to bring Kairos retreat to NU

Cat Zakrzewski

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The Sheil Catholic Center will run its first Kairos, a four-day Catholic retreat, next fall. The retreat will be open to Northwestern students of all religious backgrounds, including incoming freshmen.

“[Kairos] made all my friendships so much closer,” said McCormick freshman Frank Avino, who went on Kairos in high school and decided to bring it to NU. “I felt closer to my friends, closer to Jesus and most of all closer to myself.”

Current NU freshmen who led Kairos retreats in high school will lead the retreat, which will take place at Cabrini Retreat Center from Sept. 17 to Sept. 20.

“It’s just a great way to connect with people you never would have talked to in the first place,” said Kayla Hammersmith, a Weinberg freshman who will be a Kairos leader.

Hammersmith first participated in Kairos at St. Isidore Parish in Bloomingdale, Ind., in September 2010, and in February 2011, she returned as a leader to the parish’s Kairos. Father John Kartje, the chaplain and director of the Sheil Catholic Center, said he was very excited when Avino brought the idea to have Kairos at NU to him during winter quarter. Avino said he was inspired by his own Kairos experiences in November 2010 and as a leader in Febuary 2011 at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, Ill.

“Kairos made me the person I am today, ” Avino said. “I wanted to bring that experience to Northwestern.”

When Avino posted about bringing Kairos to NU on the class of 2015’s Facebook page, he said his post received over 50 “likes” in a single night.

“I couldn’t believe I got such a huge response on the group on a Monday night,” Avino said. “I realized that this idea had a lot of potential.”

After Avino, Kartje and the Kairos leaders met and planned the trip, they decided to open up the program to incoming freshmen. It will run during the four days leading up to the class of 2016’s move-in day.

“Going to college is a major transition, and this is an opportunity to reflect on crossing that major threshold in faith and personal growth,” Kartje said.

Kairos will now be advertised with the other NU pre-orientation programs in “March thru the Arch,” Avino said.

Kartje said Kairos at NU will be adapted specifically for college students.

“Part of the challenge of organizing a Kairos retreat, which is overwhelmingly used at the high school level, is to think about the differing needs of college students who have an increased level of independence and are dealing with more mature questions,” Kartje said.

NU will not be the first college to bring Kairos to campus. Avino said Boston College has Kairos retreats, and University of Notre Dame runs a similar three-day retreat called Encounter. Kartje said other universities without religious affiliations, such as Indiana University, have also had Kairos retreats.

“Unlike high school Kairos where you are strengthening friendships you already have, I think it’s going to be a lot of starting these new friendships,” Avino said.

Kartje said he was excited about the way Kairos will allow students from different classes and religious backgrounds to connect.

“Because the retreat is also open to non-Catholic students, I think that it could become a really interesting multifaith experience,” Kartje said.

Hammersmith said that as the group adapts the retreat for NU students, they will focus on de-emphasizing its religious aspects. Hammersmith is not Catholic and said she is not a religious person. However, she said her own Kairos experience had a major influence.

“I would say that religion is not the real focus of the retreat,” Hammersmith said. “It’s definitely more about building relationships and communities, and that is something that applies to everyone.”