Serious Fun, Seriously



When James Erps, S.J., ’72 and Agnes Marie Schon, C.S.J., launched the First Year Retreat in 1985, they intended to introduce freshmen to LMU’s traditions, especially those religious. With about 30 students, they traveled to a kids’ camp in the mountains near Malibu. “We slept in beds that were about four-feet long,” recalls Erps, now director of Campus Ministry.

This year, 350 students attended in Lake Arrowhead. Even with a tradition, change is constant. “Every five years, our students change, culturally and religiously,” Erps notes. “The success of the retreat has been in taking the ‘temperature’ of the students — their hopes and fears — and dealing with it.”

Learn more about the First Year Retreat.

On a clear, Friday evening in the middle of September, 350 students fill seven buses that are headed east, to a respite in Pali Mountain near Lake Arrowhead for a three-day getaway.

It’s the First Year Retreat, a gathering where freshman and transfer students look closely together at what it will mean to adjust to LMU life.

The first year of college is all about change: self-discovery takes a new turn; relationships with family and friends change; faith is challenged, or first encountered. The First Year Retreat is about rootedness: In talks and small groups, students reflect on their expectations of self, others and God.

But for every dose of seriousness is a dose of fun: “Relationship Jeopardy,” the game of relationships; infomercials — spoofs of well-known YouTube videos; and the retreat leaders’ pantomimed skit to “Everything” by Lifehouse. The fun is now crucial to the tradition. Each year, new students ask: “Can I sign up for First Year Retreat? My friends told me not to miss it!”

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