In an effort to make its yearly silent retreats free of charge, Catholic Society requested and received its first funding from the Student Federation.
With only two more meetings left in the semester and over $7,400 left in discretionary funds (not including the surplus), according to Treasurer Evan Welch, the federation awarded $5,040 to Catholic Society to cover the cost of two weekends of retreats, which will allow the club to use the significant portion of its budget tied up in the retreats to expand programming in other ways.
Catholic Society has offered two weekends of silent retreats — one for women and one for men — every spring semester for the past several years. It previously cost students $30 to attend, with Catholic Society subsidizing the rest of the over $100 needed to cover the expense of attending. Despite keeping the fee low, the leadership board decided that it was important that cost not be a deterrent.
“Silent retreats have been one of the most revolutionary experiences in my life, completely unique among the spiritual retreats I have gone on and very near and dear to my heart,” said Catholic Society President Patrick Mitchell in his pitch to the federation. “We have heard only positive things from the students who attend.”
Per the requirements for receiving money from the federation, Mitchell stressed that the retreat is open to any and all students, not just Catholics.
The organization’s goal was to have the entire cost of the retreat covered by the federation so as to have more flexibility with their budget.
“The reason why we’re requesting funding for this event in particular is because a lot of the money in our budget is tied up in this one event,” Mitchell said. “Since it’s so established, we know exactly how much it costs and how much to request. We have found ways to minimize the cost.”
Catholic Society has minimized the cost of the retreats in several ways. Tim and Peri Rose Force, the couple who manages the Grotto, cook all the food for the retreat. Participants clean up after themselves, which eliminates the cleaning cost. They also share the retreat center with students from the University of Michigan, which covers a substantial portion of the overall price of renting the retreat center.
“We’re hoping that with the extra money we are able to save from having this retreat subsidized to expand our opportunities going forward next semester,” Mitchell said. “We would like to have this money freed up to host more lectures and retreats that would benefit the whole student body.”
Several federation members pushed for a reduced grant on the terms that Catholic Society still charge a nominal cost to those attending. Mitchell responded that their intention was to make the retreats free no matter what. The amendment to reduce the grant did not pass, and Catholic Society was awarded full funding
“The role of the fed is not to judge how they precisely spend their money, or whether they charge students or not, but merely judge the strength of their proposal that cuts costs as much as possible, and that represents the interests of the entire student body,” said Representative Kathleen Hess. “Of the many proposals we’ve seen, this is one that does all these things the best.”