NEWPORT — The weekend after Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, more than 150 college students representing 18 different schools gathered here for the first GOFISH Getaway. The social retreat was designed to bring together young Catholics from across Oregon in celebration of Easter.
Being a Catholic college student is tough, but being able to convene with other students at GOFISH and share in the joy of the Catholic faith was invigorating for the youths.
“I now realize I am not a small island of faith in a large university, sentenced to defending my faith to the masses who don’t share it, but rather now, I understand what it means to be part of the body,” said Chris Anderson, a freshman at Oregon State University.
Students left the weekend with a tangible sense of the larger Catholic community. They returned to their college campuses refreshed, taking with them the love and joy that they had received.
Throughout the retreat, students learned about the four levels of happiness. Father Ivan Pertine, director of the St. John Society and OSU Newman Center, Jason Kidd, director of the office of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Portland, and Society of Mary Sister Bernadette Wilson spoke on the different levels of happiness and how they present themselves in a young person’s life.
Students participated in small group discussions and attended a workshop of their choosing. Workshop topics ranged from great spiritual reads and praying with the daily Gospel, to dating and discernment.
Other highlights included bonfires on the beach, a praise and worship concert, an open-mic talent show, and spontaneous sunset gazing.
Most students, however, were in agreement on the pinnacle of the weekend: Adoration and Sunday Mass.
Evan MacKenzie from Clark College in Vancouver shared a moving experience of being confronted by the Eucharist during adoration. “Father Ivan then started processing around the room with our Risen Lord and he came and stopped in front of me, and I stared at Christ in the Eucharist. I realized — not fully realized, because I think I would have died of amazement — that he truly was present, right there in front of me,” said MacKenzie.
It appears that Christ also was with the team who planned the retreat, from its conception through its finish on Sunday.
“GOFISH just happened to be exactly what I needed and God made it happen,” said Anderson.
The writer is a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at Oregon State University. She serves on the leadership team running the Newman Center’s social media.