Students Preview 'Passion of Christ' at Conference

BOSTON — Students attending the fourth annual Taking the Pulse conference in Boston got an added bonus — a chance to view a preview of director Mel Gibson's upcoming film The Passion of the Christ.

Steve McEveety, the film's producer, brought to the event his insight into religion in Hollywood along with an early version of the film, set to be released Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25. The film chronicles Christ's last hours on earth, from his agony in the garden to his crucifixion and resurrection.

After previewing the film for the audience, McEveety fielded questions from participants.

With the barrage of media attention surrounding the film, much of it controversial, the preview allowed students to make their own judgments about the movie and its potential impact.

“There are many Christians who are on the fence,” said Tim Leslie, a senior at Boston College, “and I think this movie will push them over because it says, ‘You know what? Jesus was not just some guy who lived a long time ago and did such and such things. This is really what happened, and maybe we should realize it and refocus.’”

Refocusing was what the Taking the Pulse weekend conference was all about.

Approximately 100 students representing 23 schools from across the United States and Canada journeyed to Boston for the event. The weekend gave students a chance to recharge their spiritual lives before heading back to the mission field — their campuses.

Prayer and Reflection

The conference included a half-day spiritual retreat and daily Mass, giving students time to evaluate and focus on their relationships with the Lord as well as giving them the chance to strengthen existing friendships and build new ones.

For many of those who attended Taking the Pulse, finding time to set aside for prayer and reflection in the midst of packed student schedules was challenging but needed.

“College is very stressful,” said Raffaelina Gamen, a junior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “Giving these two days to the Lord, letting go of every concern and spending that time working on my relationship with God helped to restore an inner peace in my life.”

The event was organized through Compass, a network of Catholic college students devoted to transforming college culture, integrating religion and faith into student life, and energizing young Catholics in their faith. Students evangelize students and are supported in their efforts through Compass resources and the network of other like-minded students across the United States and Canada.

The group stayed at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., near the Boston College campus. The celebration of Mass and a half-day silent retreat, led by members of Regnum Christi for the women and Legionaries of Christ for the men, set the tone for the weekend.

“It was awesome to be able to get away and think and pray,” said Miguel Melendez, a sophomore at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. “That time helped me come to terms with a lot of things in my life and in my relationship with God.” Melendez was among seven students from the academy to make the trek to Boston for the conference.

“Being able to share the joys and struggles of life with students who are experiencing many of the same things is incredible,” said Loyola-New Orleans junior Jenica Tramontana. “The friendships that are made through Compass and events like Taking the Pulse are based on truth. They're not superficial relationships. We're all united in Christ. It truly blows my mind.”

Taking the Pulse is one of the organization's national events. Other Compass-sponsored events include a month-long fellowship program held in Europe during the summer and regional retreats. Individual Compass chapters also sponsor events on their respective campuses.

Each Compass event is centered on prayer and study of the Catholic faith. By developing a base of knowledge and love for the faith, students are then better equipped to go to their campuses and share that knowledge and love for Christ through the Church.

“Compass events are always amazing and they always seem to come right when you need them the most,” Tramontana said. “You can't encounter Taking the Pulse and Compass and not be changed completely.”

Cecilia A. Oleck is a senior majoring in communications at St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana.

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