Emmaus XX Retreat 2009 - My Family Travels
During my junior year at St. Edmund Preparatory H.S., I went on the Emmaus XX Retreat with a group of girls from school. As per school tradition, the events that take place on each retreat are kept secret. Everyone goes into the experience not knowing what to expect. I was hesitant to attend, but agreed to go with a huge push from my mother. She repeatedly told me it would be a fun and educating experience and soon, the idea of being away from home for two days didn’t seem so bad.
The retreat day soon arrived and here I was with over packed luggage, completely clueless. I was surprised to see that our first stop was to a supermarket. One of our teachers announced that we were going food shopping because we would be cooking all of our own meals during our stay.  An anxious feeling crept over me because I can’t cook. 
When we arrived at Mount Paul Retreat Center in Oak Ridge, N.J., all of our teachers told us to call them by their first names so that the atmosphere was more comfortable. Each girl was given a notebook to be used as a diary for the rest of the trip. We gathered for meetings in a huge room where the chairs were arranged in a circle. A candle was placed in the middle of the circle and was kept lit for the duration of the trip. It represented the relationship with one another that we would develop on this trip. The melting of the candle represented the time we would spend together growing to know one another.
That night we all sat down for the “apple talk”. Everyone received an apple. We were told to examine it and find similarities between the apple and our lives. The apples varied in so many ways, some green, red, bruised, but none were perfect. We went around the circle giving every girl a chance to speak about what they discovered. We all opened up in ways unimaginable under normal circumstances. It allowed everyone to take a peek into one another’s lives. This is where the tears began. I can’t describe how touching some stories were. We talked for hours and by the end we were all choked up with tears. It was amazing, everyone was genuinely touched and cared about what the other was experiencing. It was comforting to know others were experiencing the same feelings that I was. That talk made me understand the true meaning of “never judge a book by its cover” and that everyone is the way there are for a reason.
On the second day we all received unexpected letters from friends and family. I received at least sixty letters! Many were from people I didn’t know but had been on past retreats. Others were from family and friends. It was unbelievable that all of these people took the time to write to me. These weren’t short letters, but pages long. They contained people’s true feelings towards me, some were so touching that it made me cry. I felt so loved by my family and those from school. I don’t think I had ever been so happy in my life.
When I returned home from retreat, I saw life through new eyes.  In the three days away from home, I had grown emotionally and spiritually.  Girls whom I’ve never spoken to prior to this trip were my new lifelong friends.  We will be forever connected because of our time at the Emmaus Retreat.  It is a time that I will always cherish.

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