Catholic Retreats Return To The CCC

Samantha Pasciullo Boychuck (C’23) (foreground) with her fellow student retreat leaders at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center.

As a Catholic retreat leader, I have been fortunate enough to lead the Loyola retreat for first-year students, a Catholic Women’s retreat, and the Pamplona retreat for all undergraduate classes both on Zoom and in-person at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center (CCC) in Bluemont, Virginia.

Virtual retreats during the 2020-2021 academic year served as a welcome escape from the classes-from-home environment that was at times unmotivating and draining. During these virtual retreats, I made a number of new friends that greatly enhanced my Georgetown experience and helped me get through the tough times of COVID-19. 

Still, we all longed to be together in person, especially those of us who were lucky enough to experience retreats at the Calcagnini Contemplative Center before the pandemic.  We wished that the engaging spiritual discussions and new connections we were making online were happening at this beloved place. This is why, this past fall, I was so grateful that we were fortunate enough to return to the serene mountain escape and I got to spend a whole weekend at the CCC, leading both the Loyola and Pamplona retreats. 

There is nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation as the bus pulls away from the Hilltop and heads to Bluemont. The CCC truly brings a special element to the retreat experience, physically allowing Hoyas to remove themselves from the stressors and distractions of campus life to immerse themselves in a space of relaxation and reflection. It is so wonderful to see the awe on the retreatants’ faces as they step off the bus and take in their first glimpses of our beautiful retreat facility.

There is so much to love about the Georgetown retreat experience at the CCC. First, there is the excitement of finding your cabin assignment and discovering your retreat roommate. The rooms are gorgeous, spacious, and clean, providing a comfortable place to settle down at the end of a meditative day. Next, sitting on cushions in Arrupe listening to guest speakers, cozying up by the fire roasting s’mores, playing board games, or eating snacks while retreatants and leaders get to know each other. The farmhouse on the grounds is a welcoming spot for small groups to meet or as a personal space for deeper reflection. 

Of course, there are awesome meals and snacks available at the CCC,  and the dining hall is a favorite place for socializing, especially during Jesuit trivia. The retreat center is home to St. Ignatius Chapel, an intimate setting for the celebration of the Eucharist, and allows for unique experiences such as homilies where retreatants can contribute their own reflections. Finally, the environment surrounding the CCC provides a welcomed chance to connect with nature. Hiking and stargazing are some of the most popular activities amongst retreatants.

Truly, the CCC is a blessing. I recommend that all Georgetown students visit at least once. Retreats, whether online or in-person, provide a sacred time for self-reflection and growth. They allow mental and physical distancing from the rigorous schedules attached to academic and extracurricular life. As a leader, I must express how grateful I am to have the chance to guide my peers in deepening their faith- and self-understanding in such a wonderful place as the Calcagnini Contemplative Center. While virtual retreats have their own merits, the CCC enhances the retreat experience in a way that creates lasting memories, whether in the form of silly group photos with the Shenandoah Valley in the background or new friends to attend Mass with at Dahlgren. God’s presence permeates this second Hilltop, creating an atmosphere conducive to sharing, growing, and relaxing. I look forward to returning to the CCC again soon to witness the joy and serenity it brings to all Hoyas.

by Samantha Pasciullo Boychuck. Samantha is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a retreat leader for Catholic Ministry.