More than 200 students and community members celebrated the Easter season with a day of prayer and reflection, led by Fr. Jacques Philippe. Photo courtesy of Newman Catholic Chaplaincy Centre

Easter season continues at U of T Newman retreat

By  Anna Chelmecki
  • April 19, 2018

Even in the midst of a heavy ice storm, in the middle of exam season, more than 200 students and community members gathered together April 14 at University of Toronto’s Newman Centre for an Easter retreat. 

Fr. Jacques Philippe, an internationally renowned author, spiritual director and retreat leader, led the day-long seminar with a reflection on living the beatitudes during the Easter season. 

“You don’t have to be afraid of your (spiritual) poverty, you just have to give it to Jesus and He will transform your poverty into something beautiful and fruitful,” said Philippe. “The beatitudes are a portrait of Jesus. Through the beatitudes we can discover the heart of God.”

As Catholics, Philippe said we have the opportunity to celebrate the Easter season for 50 days, cultivating a spirit of renewal and new life in Christ beyond Easter Sunday. 

This resonated with Anne Mienkowski, a kinesiology student at the University of Toronto.

“Suffering is a gift because in our brokenness God promises us a new heart,” she said. “In our littleness all we have left to do is lean on Christ and as we give Him our wounds, He loves us with His tenderness, mercy and meekness.”

Virginia Mervar was another student who carved out time from a crowded school schedule to attend the retreat.

“After reading Fr. Jacques’ book, Time for God, I expected he would help me experience a renewed sense of joy and Easter peace amidst the busyness of work and school, and he did not disappoint,” said Mervar. 

“Through this retreat, I was able to pause and take time for interior reflection which should not cease just because Lent is over.” 

The 71-year-old Philippe, a native of France, has travelled the world preaching at retreats and his books on spirituality have been translated into several dozen languages.

When speaking about the consolation only God can provide, Philippe shared that “we have to open our hearts and trust.” 

“God will wipe away every tear from humans’ eyes,” said Philippe. 

For University of Toronto student Marissa Muscado, these words created a powerful experience. 

“Fr. Jacques’ talk on consolation almost made me cry,” exclaimed Muscado. “He explained consolation as a series of steps beginning with the recognition that we are not alone and God is with us. I was slowly beginning to realize this but when he said that, I felt like God was holding me right there in that moment.”

In between talks, Philippe led the group in prayer and reflection though the rosary, Mass and Adoration. With the success of the event, program staff at the Newman Catholic Chaplaincy Centre say they hope to make the Easter retreat an annual event. 

(Chelmecki, 23, is a second-year Master of Teaching student at the University of Toronto.)

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