One was looking for a community of faith. Another was mourning the death of his wife of more than 50 years. And a third, juggling grad school and a full-time job, just needed time to breathe.
Their reasons are as individual as their lives, yet dozens of alumni are looking to — and heading back to — Holy Cross for alumni retreats as a way to find direction, rest or enrichment.
An Unexpected Community
They were snowed in, but no one minded, including Tom Beecher '56, P90. "It was beautiful," he says of the snowy March 2019 alumni retreat at the Thomas P. Joyce '59 Contemplative Center, tucked away in the woods overlooking the Wachusett Reservoir. "It kind of confirmed that we should be there."
Thanks to a popular new program offering a slate of retreat options for all alumni and their spouses, Beecher was on his second retreat at Holy Cross — over six decades after he graduated.
A humble, high-energy father and grandfather at 84, Beecher works full time as chairman of the board of Barrantys LLC, a wealth management firm, and is a widely respected leader in his community, where he has championed many causes, from healthcare initiatives to scholarship funding for low-income students. In 2017, he received a Sanctae Crucis Award from Holy Cross in recognition of his exceptional life of service, which has been guided by his belief: "If you can do well, you can — and should — do good."
When Beecher made his first alumni retreat in 2018, his beloved wife of 51 years, Judy, had recently passed away, and he was coping with grief. He signed up for a weekend silent retreat, a shortened version of the Spiritual Exercises, a compilation of meditation, prayer and reflection developed by St. Ignatius to help people deepen their relationship with God. His experience was so powerful, Beecher didn't want to go home. This past winter, he made the trip again from his home in Buffalo, New York, for a five-day silent retreat, which was open to alumni and students.
Beecher says he couldn't believe the sense of community that formed, even in silence, and loved experiencing it with current students who were participating over their spring break: "They inspire me at the end of my life by seeing how they are beginning theirs."