Campus Ministry hosts HEC retreat

Katie Eder

The Villanova Campus Ministry hosted a Philadelphia Handicapped Encounter Christ retreat- a program that allows physically disabled persons to take part in a spiritual retreat – at the Villanova Conference Center in Radnor on March 14.

The international HEC retreat program has taken place at Villanova a few times every year since 1977. It gives physically disabled persons the opportunity for this spiritual experience with support and assistance from members of the Villanova community, including students, faculty and those locals.

During an HEC retreat, disabled persons are paired up with able-bodied persons, who provide personal care for their disabled partners throughout the retreat. Able-bodied persons are not just “volunteers,” but full participants who share in the communal and spiritual experiences of the retreat with their disabled partners.

“Campus Ministry has been sponsoring at least three HEC retreats each year from the time that the organization began 32 years ago,” said Rev. Shawn Tracy, O.S.A, a member of the Campus Ministry staff and a founding member of HEC.

Tracy coordinates the Philadelphia HEC retreats with Margie Kernicky, a leader in HEC and a resident of Rosemont.

A handful of Villanova students participated in Saturday’s retreat. John A. Hull, a sophomore chemistry and biochemistry double-major attended his first HEC retreat on Saturday.

“I had been on spiritual retreats, such as Search and Escape, where everyone talks and learns more about themselves and others, and stay on a pretty equal level,” Hull said. “But HEC gives students a different kind of experience. The retreat makes it easier for students to relate to people with disabilities, and you learn that disabled persons have more abilities, feelings and personal senses than what we think they have.”

The retreat incorporates several readings and responses that have a much greater focus on openness and compassion than on religion.

“There is a retreat for everybody,” Hull said. “Even if you are not religious, you should consider going on one because, in the end, you will meet people that you probably would not have had the opportunity to befriend otherwise.”