The Things We Value and Strive For

Paul Rochford, COL’20

Paul Rochford is a sophomore in the College majoring in History and minoring in Russian and Jewish Civilization

How has this semester been for you so far?

Returning to Georgetown at the start of this semester, I was excited to reunite with old friends, make new ones, and begin a more focused study in my academic interests. As the semester continued, I found that I was really enjoying my classes even amidst the workload, and I was glad to be back in the university atmosphere after a summer of working and interning back home. As usual, however, things started to pile up and at times, the joys of living and learning were overshadowed by stress and busyness.

What retreat did you attend and why?

I attended the Sophomore Retreat. As the name suggests it is intended for second-year students of all religious and non-religious backgrounds with a focus on the theme of vocation. The retreat came to my attention through my job with the Office of Campus Ministry and was advertised as a relaxing weekend and a great way to take a break from the rush of the semester. A student photographer was needed for the event – a part of my job description, so I decided to give it a go and sign up.

Have you been on a retreat before? If so, why? If not, why not?

Before attending this retreat, I had never attended a retreat with Georgetown before. It wasn’t for any particular reason that I hadn’t, other than that I had never thought about it before or found myself free on a weekend when one was offered. After my experience on the retreat this semester, I wish I would have taken the time to attend a retreat my freshman year; it was a truly transformative experience.

What are your thoughts on the theme of vocation throughout Sophomore Retreat?

As a sophomore, it is easy to get caught up in taking interesting and exciting classes, participating in organizations and clubs on campus, applying for internships, and enjoying the other exciting parts of university life, but too often we forget to take a step back, breathe, and examine our lives to see whether the things we spend our time and money on have an aim or focus that is in line with the things we value and strive for. The discussion on vocation that took place at the retreat, including remarks by Rev. Oskvig and a value-prioritization activity led by Beth Harlan from the Cawley Career Center, were extremely effective in guiding participants like me to take that step back, refocus, and be inspired to continue to work hard and achieve great results.

What will you take from your retreat back to campus as you finish the rest of the semester and your overall school year?

With the reminder I gleaned from the retreat discussion to periodically step back, refocus, and keep in mind my vocation – my personal calling – I am now more equipped to wisely manage my time and make important decisions through my years at university that will shape and direct both my professional and personal futures.

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Finding Community Through ESCAPE

Dajour Evans is a sophomore in the College and an ESCAPE leader.

The Dajour from this time last year had it more together than I do right now. At that point in my life, I was a few months into my first semester of freshman year. I missed my family but I wasn’t very homesick. I was stressed, but who isn’t stressed in college? Honestly, on the whole, I was doing okay around the time I registered for an ESCAPE overnight. I heard from my friends who went that it was fun and that the food was great, which is really all I need to hear to sign up for basically anything. So I did, hoping for fun and food and not expecting too much.

When I think about that overnight retreat, nothing necessarily monumental happened. I didn’t make any new friends from my year who are still my friends today, and I didn’t come back a brand new person or anything. But, I enjoyed myself. I genuinely enjoyed myself in a place that wasn’t exactly my comfort zone with people I didn’t know, which is unusual for me. And on a more personal note, I finally had the time to sit back, breathe, and truly think about my life – what was making me happy and what wasn’t? for all of these reasons, I applied to be an ESCAPE leader.

I think, in hindsight, I was searching for a community at Georgetown. I wanted that same feeling of welcoming that I felt on my ESCAPE overnight, except I wanted it all the time. In my life, I have often struggled with finding comfort with other people and myself. I’m a pretty outgoing person, but it’s hard for me to make connections that truly mean something, that aren’t superficial. ESCAPE provides that space for me. I know I can always go into the ESCAPE office and feel welcomed.

Now, a year later, as I look back on my freshman self, I definitely was more put together than I am now. But oddly enough, I think I am better off now than I was then, and a large part of that has to do with ESCAPE. That space I have to reflect has allowed me to make tough but necessary decisions that I don’t think my freshman self would have made. And the friendships I have made have been more important to me than my friends probably know. That’s the irony of it all, I suppose. Sophomore year has so far been more difficult for me in every way than freshman year has. But because I now feel comfortable admitting when I’m not okay, and I have a community of people to share that with, I feel more at home at Georgetown now than I did just a year ago.

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Let the Music Capture You

Eva Lucchino (2nd row, 4th from left) performs with other choir members at our annual Lessons and Carols event.

Eva Lucchino is a junior in the college majoring in English and minoring in History and Theology.

What does it mean to you to be a cantor?

Ever since I was a little kid I have loved singing at Mass. I remember looking up at the cantor or the members of the choir and wondering when I could do that too. As a child, I mostly enjoyed Mass because of the music, but as I (and my faith) matured, I realized the importance of music in elevating the celebration of the Eucharist. Singing at Mass became less about being like an adult and more about recognizing God’s presence in my life. As a cantor, my hope is that I can help people enter into a state of prayer through the music.

When I sing hymns like “Amazing Grace” or “O, Come, O, Come, Emmanuel,” I am amazed by the beauty of God’s grace. There is so much love, so much faith contained in those songs, not only in the beauty of the words, but in the way music captures me. I hope that as a cantor I can help others to let their worldly concerns go for an hour and enter into the Mass recognizing God’s abundant love and mercy for them.

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What I’ve Done Matters Less Than Who I’ve Become

Truc Nguyen, NHS ’20, second from right

Sophomore Truc Nguyen is a human science major in the NHS. Here, she reflects on her time at the Montserrat Retreat. Catholic Ministry’s annual sophomore retreat.

How has the school year been for you so far?

As a sophomore, I feel more confident and self-assured than I did last year. Since I am an introvert, I have a hard time reaching out to new people, but I have learned from current friendships that courage goes a long way in making new connections. I have a great group of friends who I was so excited to see after a long summer apart, and it’s amazing that we can continue these friendships right where we left off.

What made you sign up for the retreat?

Coming into my sophomore year, I am more aware of what I need and where to get it. If I don’t understand something in class, I’ll go to office hours or email the professor. If I need a place to study, I have an extensive repertoire of go-to study spaces. If I need to recharge and calm myself, I’ll go to a sacred space (like Dahlgren Chapel or Copley Crypt) and physically immerse myself in silence. However, at the beginning of this year, I still felt a disconnect between myself and my faith, and I craved a renewal of my relationship with God. I signed up for this retreat hopeful of the change that could happen and patient for what God has to say to me when I am wholly invested in listening.

Have you been on a retreat before? 

Other than the Montserrat retreat, I have only been on one retreat, which was the Freshmen Loyola retreat. My first few weeks of college weren’t going very well; I didn’t like my classes and I had a hard time putting myself out there and making friends. The stress over my grades, making new friends, and doubts about my major were suffocating and burdensome, so I decided to escape and go on the Loyola retreat. It was one of the best decisions of my life because I realized that God can be found anywhere, if only I let myself find him. It was also on this retreat that I met one of my best friends, who continues to be a great companion on this faith journey.

What did you take back to campus from your experience? 

Coming back from every retreat, I am always delightfully shocked to find something I didn’t think I needed. The things that mattered to me at the beginning of the retreat paled in comparison to the true worth of more important things, like the peace that God gives me, the assurance that everything will work out, and the goal of living with God. Did I still want to do well in my classes and get those pesky chemistry problem sets done? Yes, of course. But these seemingly important tasks were sidelined when I realized that my life does not revolve around grades or my resume.

A simple reminder that resonated with me on this retreat was that, unlike parents or employers, God doesn’t care what my resume or transcript looks like. He won’t care if I get an ‘A’ on an exam or if I get an internship. I realized that if the things I considered important weren’t what God considered important, then why do I worry about them? This is not to say that I’m going to blow off all of my midterms. The privilege of a Georgetown education should never be squandered, but at the end of this school year and eventually my time here as a Georgetown student, I’ll remember that to God, “faithful” looks better than “straight-A-student,” and what I’ve done matters less than who I’ve become.

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The Art of Being Artful

Tariq Touré speaking at The Black House

Art is a part of everything we do, not just something we consume.

As a self-proclaimed creative, I have always wanted to believe that art is something more than just entertainment, a hobby, or a past-time. For as long as I can remember, it’s encompassed nearly every aspect of my life. My drawings have allowed me to express what can’t be expressed in words. My writing has taken me on new adventures. My photography has restored my sense of awe of the world. I’ve always wanted to believe that art is more than just something we consume, and last Thursday, that belief was reaffirmed.

Situated in the warmth and comfort of the Black House, I and student representatives from the Muslim Students Association (MSA), Black Student Alliance (BSA), African Society of Georgetown (ASG), and several other student groups gathered with Tariq Touré for a discussion on Islam, Blackness, and Resistance. Touré, an author, advocate, and poet, recited one of his recent poems featured on AJ+, and led an open discussion. While the discussion touched upon issues such as race, religion, and activism, a significant portion of it was dedicated to the arts, which have proven to be helpful in several areas.

First, the arts are a good framework to start dialogue. When Touré’s poem was first featured on AJ+, it expanded larger discussions on police brutality and ongoing NFL protests. Even the discussion we participated in was preceded by a poetry recitation. For difficult conversations, especially ones where different groups are brought to the table, art serves as a powerful catalyst.

In addition to creating dialogue, the arts also have a healing aspect. As I found out during the discussion, I was not alone in my challenge to create art about joy. A fundamental challenge many artists face is balancing art about joy with art about pain. It has even gone to the extent that some artists feel they cannot produce art if it is not the result of some painful or traumatic factor. It is possible to produce art without draining ourselves in the process. It is also possible to produce art that focuses on accomplishments, celebration, and progress.

One of the most profound parts of the event was our discussion of the imposter syndrome. Since art is a part of everything we do, everyone is an artist in some shape or form. Not everyone’s art looks the same, and this should not be a deterrent against working. One of the most beautiful parts about art is that people resonate with and see themselves in it. In the words of Touré, for another day, it can help someone survive.

After the discussion, I found a renewed sense of purpose and dedication for my art. They say that if people see themselves in an artist’s work, then the artist has done his job correctly. Here’s hoping that my future work will allow people to see themselves within it too. For now, I will keep writing.

Written by Nena Beecham, SFS’18

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