Venture Retreat Testimony - Riley Sexton

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One of the hardest problems we face as Catholics is determining pleasure versus happiness.

This is what I faced my second week of college as I was deciding what to do for the upcoming weekend.  I had merely moved into my dorm on the Oregon State campus a week before, a small town girl from California, with no true friends and no place to call home.  I hadn’t gone to mass yet because I was scared and I had not quite decided if I wanted to live my faith to its extent.

As I was sitting outside on the lawn with some students from my dorm, everyone was talking about their weekend plans and the parties they were going to attend.  It was my turn to tell about my weekend plans. By this time, I knew all about the freshmen Venture Retreat through the Newman Center. I had been communicating with one of the outreach students on the leadership team and she was trying her best to get me to come, but she knew it was up to me to decide.  I was debating quite some time in my head whether I wanted to party with them or go the radical way and attend a retreat where I knew absolutely no one. I immediately spoke out about my faith and said there was a Catholic retreat that weekend I might attend, in which few responded that they were Christians themselves.  I was still hesitant about going to the retreat, but I knew deep down that if I didn’t go I would fall further from my faith.

At the time, I didn’t know the power behind my decision to come, but the girl I had been communicating with had told me later at the retreat that she had just finished praying a rosary for me when I texted her with the news that I wanted to come.  This was my first time encountering the power and strength of Mary through the rosary.

At the retreat, we reflected on our purpose in life, the things we are chasing, and God’s plan for us.  We came to that retreat not knowing anybody or what was to come, but with the group of freshmen that attended, we all became united as one through our love and desire for Jesus Christ and have remained close friends since.  I realized that by choosing Jesus in that weekend, I was choosing true happiness that lasts a lifetime, not mere pleasure that I would have found for just a second at a party filled with bad decisions.

After the retreat, I grew in my faith so much more than I could have possibly imagined before college.  I had a mentor who I met with weekly that helped me through my daily struggles that come with college and living on your own.  We became great friends and I can come to her for anything. I grew closer with the freshmen retreat group through various Newman events and we even started hanging out in our everyday lives.  As a freshmen, the sophomore, junior, and senior students all welcomed me and became my family as well. One of the greatest things in life is having a community who doesn’t judge, who actually cares about you, and who loves Jesus just as much as you do.  To be able to share your ups and downs in your faith life with those around you is pure happiness.  

The greatest joy for my own faith journey, where I have truly seen the Holy Spirit, is how I am freely able to share that I am Catholic and a follower of Jesus with any peer I encounter in my classes, whether I know them or not.  Many times I will not even initiate the conversation, but others will come up to me and share how they are Catholic but have fallen away from their faith (only because they saw my cross or t-shirt).  It brings me great joy to be able to share Jesus with others, to invite people to mass, and to see how Jesus changes another person’s life.  

Here is my invitation to you: come to Venture and seek true happiness through Jesus Christ alone.  Come as you are - broken, ashamed, scared, needing healing, or whatever you may be. Through Venture, I learned to open my heart to Jesus and to accept him not only as my Lord, but as my friend, and I decided to be convicted in my faith because my faith in Jesus Christ is real and He is worth it.  I found a family and a place to call home through the Newman Center, and you can too if you trust in Jesus and let Him lead you to the cross.

Are you an incoming Catholic Freshman? Do you want to form deep and meaningful friendships in your first few weeks of college? Are you interested in integrating your faith into your college life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Venture is for you! Click here for more information and to sign up. 

TestimoniesRiley SextonVenture