Carpe Diem (CD) retreats have become a staple at Mercyhurst. Occurring once each semester, CD retreats are hosted by Campus Ministry. They are student-led, nonreligious retreats that give an opportunity for students to get off campus and build a lasting community with one another.
“The retreats are student-led and provide an opportunity for students to take a break from their studies, meet new people and learn more about themselves,” said Jenell Patton, assistant director of Campus Ministry.
CD 9 will take place Nov. 17-19. Students will board a bus on Friday afternoon around 4 p.m., travel to Villa Maria Retreat Center, and then return early Sunday afternoon.
“Carpe Diem eradicates any pressures that hold you back from being your true self,” said Thomas Matheson, ’17.
These retreats are about creating an atmosphere where students can be open, dropping the cardboard cutout that they often show to the world. Student leaders strive to help cultivate this environment through transparency and honesty.
“CD retreats are about stories and how they connect us, and how they give us meaning and hope,” said Greg Baker, director of Campus Ministry. “These retreats are so powerful because of the amazing student leaders who plan and run the entire retreat. Their hard work, their nonjudgmental spirits and their desire to help others to seize the day more fully is what makes these retreats so special.”
The CD retreats represent a growing experience for many students across campus. Amelia Kanonczyk, junior Criminal Justice major, is a leader on the upcoming retreat and commented on her own experience at CD 5.
“The Carpe Diem retreat made me step out of my comfort zone and meet people who are, till this day, some of my best friends,” said Kanonczyk. “I loved every minute of the weekend, and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.”
Brooke Dicks, senior Athletic Training major, almost didn’t go on her retreat.
“I wasn’t going to go because I thought that I wasn’t going to like it and I turned my form in at the very last second. I am so glad that I did,” said Dicks. “I think people should go on CD trips because they are more than you will ever expect. It is a time to just break away from reality and to make some really awesome friends. CD retreats are truly awesome, and you will not want to come home from them.”
Rae Pollock, senior Communication and Graphic Design double major, discussed how CD 5 allowed her to meet people she may not have encountered otherwise.
“I went on CD 5 and it was such a great experience. I didn’t know many people going into it, but by the end of the weekend I had made friendships and connections and memories with people I’d been walking past on campus for a year,” said Pollock. “It was immediately a very safe space that allowed me to open up and tell my story, which I think is an incredibly rare opportunity. I’m lucky to have had the experience and I hope everyone can have a chance to experience it for themselves.”
The community that forms between CD retreatants is a special and lasting one. Friendships formed on these retreats continue long after they return to campus.
“It’s a good time to get to know yourself and make lasting friendships,” said Katie Chontos, senior Biology major and CD 9 leader.
Many students who go on a CD later return as leaders, gaining a completely different, though equally powerful, experience. Three such students are Natalie Merucci, senior Intelligence Studies and Psychology double major; Cole Prots, junior Graphic Design major; and Ryan King, senior Intelligence Studies major.
“Being a leader was the best experience,” said Merucci. “I loved being able to share the CD experience with a new group of students and be with them as they experienced either new things and people or found out more about themselves. I think it’s important for everyone to experience, because no matter where you’re at someone else is there too. It shows you that you’re loved, not alone and therefore should let other people meet you where you are and love you too.”
Prots was surprised by his first experience on a CD retreat.
“When I went on Carpe Diem 5 my freshman year, I had a good idea of what I was getting into,” said Prots. “I had gone on retreats during high school, so I was looking forward to the weekend away from the chaos of college. Little did I know that it would be more impactful than any retreat I had been on before.”
King and Prots expressed the solidarity that can be found in CD communities.
“My Carpe Diem experience was amazing, and going on the retreat is one of the best decisions that I have made in college,” said King. “It was truly a life changing and eye opening experience. You are able to realize that you are not alone in the experiences that you have gone through and that those experiences do not have to define who you are.”
“Being able to experience the stories of people who were at different stages of life was incredibly moving to me and helped me realize that it was OK that I didn’t have it all figured out,” Prots said.
CD 9 applications are available in the Campus Ministry lounge. They are due, along with a $20 deposit, by Oct. 20.
“CD 6 was where I started to believe that there were more good people in the world than bad,” said Deanna Callerame, senior Biochemistry major and CD 9 leader.
Everyone is welcome on upcoming CD retreats, whether in November or on CD 10 this spring.
“I would recommend that everyone try to go on the CD retreats because they are so freeing,” said Prots.