Cacti in the Arizona desert against an evening sky
Chaplaincy pilgrimages are helping students to cultivate a life of meaning, purpose, and holistic well-being.
Sam Camp/iStockphoto

A desert respite

January 29, 2022


On an October day, 12 students gathered in the desert Southwest for a period of silence. When they returned 24 hours later, Jamie Lynn Haskins, chaplain for spiritual life, asked them a question: “What did you hear in the silence?”

The contemplative exercise was one of the spiritual tools Haskins and Waleed Ilyas, Muslim life chaplain, offered during Pilgrimage: Arizona. The four-day trip set amid the Santa Catalina Mountains was a way to practice reflective thinking and help students find their own ways of considering life’s big questions.

Pilgrimage: Arizona is one of several travel experiences planned by the Chaplaincy this academic year. Location is a key consideration. The openness of rural Arizona creates the conditions for awareness and grounding. The group also met with a member of the Tohono O’odham tribe to explore how to practice contemplative disciplines with integrity.

By introducing a variety of practices, Haskins hopes the participants will create space for self-care, healing, and contemplation.

Underneath an inky black sky as shooting stars streaked above, sophomore Abby Dalton connected with Haskins over the challenges of transitioning from a difficult childhood to a healthy and stable adulthood.

“The work for my chemistry [degree] is easy,” she said. “The work to heal my inner traumas is not as simple. Talking with [Haskins] felt like becoming a healthy adult is not only possible but probable with all of the inner healing I am committing to.”