Campus ministry hosts fall retreat at Holy Hill


Students at the retreat relaxed by walking in nature. Photo courtesy of Britney Román.

Marquette University students participated in a daylong faith-based retreat Saturday at Holy Hill, getting divided into two different retreat groups: Connect for freshmen and the Holy Hill Road Trip for sophomores through graduate students. 

The pilgrimage to Holy Hill, in Hubertus, Wisconsin, is one of Wisconsin’s most famous religious sites, was the first of its kind for Marquette students, Sara Knutson, director of retreats for campus ministry, said.

Knutson said she wanted to do another pilgrimage this fall after a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin last December went well.

“Holy Hill is so close and a lot of students have never been there before, so we figured it would be a great opportunity for students,” Knutson said.

The retreat began with time for exploration before Mass and lunch. In the afternoon, participants split into different breakout sessions including nature walks, a church tour and stations of the cross. Then the Road Trip and Connect groups joined together for final activities.

Nick Howard, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, said his favorite part of the Connect retreat was going up to a bell tower and seeing for miles. He said it put his life into perspective.

“Since it wasn’t on campus, it allowed me to take a step back from the first month of classes and get off campus and take stock of how I’ve been doing the first month,” Howard said. “It allowed me to connect with my faith in a way that I hadn’t been doing as much on campus.”

 “Since it wasn’t on campus, it allowed me to take a step back from the first month of classes and get off campus and take stock of how I’ve been doing the first month,” Nick Howard, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, said.  

Holy Hill is best known for its stations of the cross, Knutson said. Instead of lining the perimeter of the church, life-size stones are spread for a half mile along a trail that ends at the church.

Knutson said the Holy Hill retreat was important students make their 45-minute pilgrimage to Holy Hill in the fall because of the changing colors and beautiful scenery that the shrine is known for.

“It’s a chance for first-year students to meet someone who has been at Marquette for longer, ask any questions and share their story,” Knutson said about the combination of retreats. “It’s also a chance for the (upperclassmen) students to mentor informally and meet other people of different ages who are both interested and engaged in faith in their lives.”

Campus ministry was already planning for the first-year Connect retreat, which is held annually in Straz Tower. This year, however, they decided to combine Connect with the Holy Hill Road Trip and run them on the same day, Knutson said. 

Both the Connect and Holy Hill Road Trip participants met at Chapel of the Holy Family for an opening prayer before departing and splitting off into their individual retreats at the shrine, said Amy Harrigan, Connect retreat student director and junior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Connect was comprised of two talks, small group sessions and a round-table question and answer session, Harrigan said. Its purpose was explore students find out more about Marquette and meet new people. Harrigan went on Connect her freshman year and again last year as a leader, and she said it is a great start to the semester

“It’s a relaxing day, very low stress and it’s a good way to meet people who have similar interests as you get plugged into all the different parts of campus,” she said. “It was a really cool experience getting to help these freshmen along after they’ve been at Marquette for a few weeks, and help them to realize that not having everything figured out is okay.”

Erynn Lewis, Holy Hill Road Trip retreat student director and senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, has been helping with retreats for over a year, and said the retreat have made her reflect on her time at Marquette.

“It’s a stressful time in the semester, so this retreat is good because you can get away for just one day which is low commitment, and take a break from the stress of school, rejuvenate and refresh yourself,” Lewis said. She said the Holy Hill Road Trip retreat is open-ended with a lot of different opportunities for reflection, prayer and community building.

Lewis said she hopes the combined Connect and Holy Hill Road Trip retreats become a tradition for Marquette students.

Laia Aguilar, a junior in the College of Communication, said she went on the Holy Hill retreat because she had questions and concerns she wanted God to answer.

“I definitely got relief from it,” Aguilar said. “I always feel so much pressure taken off my chest after praying on holy grounds.”

Knutson said the retreats at Marquette are really valuable.

“The feel of a Marquette retreat can be different from mandatory retreats,” she said. “People want to be there, and they want to dig in and get everything out of it that they can. It can make it a really powerful experience that would have a hard time replicating anywhere else,” Knutson said.