Regis College Students Participate in Ignatian Urban Pilgrimage

St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches us that God is present in all aspects of our lives and that we can come to know God and grow in our friendship with him in any circumstance – even in the busy and bustling city streets. Starting in 1995, in Berlin, residents and visitors to the Jesuit community in Kreuzberg began to discover, in a new way, the sacred in their city. Guided and motivated by Fr. Christian Herwartz, S.J., they began seeking God in the everyday places and experiences of the city. They called this “retreats on the streets.” Those first, and subsequent, urban pilgrims experienced God at work in deeply moving and powerful ways. As Fr. Christian explained it, “The retreat became a time of wonder and amazement for those taking part. They let themselves be led to various parts of the city, to places that would open them up to aspects of themselves. They experienced healing. In various encounters, they felt the presence of the living God.”

Photo taken by Ashley Tran during the Regis College Urban Pilgrimage.

On November 3, following in the steps of Fr. Christian, Regis College Student Council facilitated an Urban Pilgrimage “Finding God in the City.” Sarah Rudolph, Co-President of the Student Council explains that “Student Council organized the retreat in order to give students an opportunity to practice the Ignatian spirituality that they are learning so much about in their courses. We wanted to provide an opportunity for students to experience God in all things, to be drawn deeper into love of God and love for others, and to be able to come together to reflect on their experiences. A retreat on the streets seemed a perfect way to do this.”

First year M.Div. student Ashley Tran, a participant on this retreat, shared her experience. “Setting aside one day, wholly dedicated to the Lord, was incredibly helpful for my spiritual growth.” The retreat participants gathered at Loretto College in the morning and prayed together in community. They asked the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them throughout the day, putting aside their stress, anxiety, fears and doubts. Each participant departed from Loretto College, walking around the City of Toronto in solitude. “Being alone during this retreat was crucial,” Ashley explains, “It allowed me to spend my day in a spirit of contemplation, reflecting not only on my present vocation in life, but also where the Lord was asking me to be in each moment during that day.” Ashley says she was awestruck but the nature and beauty that is in our city. The leaves which fell from the trees were a constant reminder to her of the beauty and intricacy of creation – a testament to the transcendence of the Creator.

Ashley notes that making room for the Lord required silence. Even within the busy streets, Ashley was able to quiet her heart and truly make room for the Lord to speak to her, particularly through his creation. Ashley was overcome with the knowledge of God’s love, mercy and grace, not just for herself, but for every person. It is something that, going forward, she hopes to share with others. “There is so much hatred in our world, so much loneliness. If people only knew how deeply they were loved by God, not for what they’ve done or accomplished, but for who they are, the world would be a much more peaceful place. The Father, with outstretched arms, is just waiting for them to come home.”