May 20, 2016

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Sr. Connie Kramer, S.P.

We are spiritual beings on a human journey

In his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis states that “the greatest discrimination that the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care.”

In our archdiocese, great effort has been made and continues to be made to meet the basic human needs of the poor through the wonderful work of our Catholic Charity agencies.

And in addition to these critical services, Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis has made a commitment to meet the spiritual needs of the poor through what is known as the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP).

This spirituality retreat program was founded in 1998 by the Jesuits in Chicago and brought to the Indianapolis area in 2014. At that time, the leadership of Fatima Retreat House decided to sponsor this retreat ministry for the poor as an outreach program of our archdiocesan retreat house. I am personally very grateful for the opportunity I have been given to help develop this retreat ministry for the poor, which I believe puts a face on the spiritual work of mercy “to comfort the afflicted.”

For me, the greatest comfort I can know at a time of challenge in my life is the knowledge that I am not only loved unconditionally by a God who wishes to walk with me on my human journey, but who also wishes to have a spiritual relationship with me that will extend beyond this life into the next.

The ISP program offers an overnight retreat to homeless persons identified by directors of local shelter housing who have begun a recovery program from addiction, are using a 12-step spirituality program with a sponsor to assist them in their recovery, and who directors of shelters believe are ready to benefit from an overnight retreat experience.

A retreat experience ordinarily includes a welcome, a witness talk, small-group sharing, reflections on fear and trust, a healing of memories ritual, a prayer service, writing a letter to God, an art activity or an inspirational movie, solitude time on the Fatima campus, and conversation about “where do we go from here?” Interested persons, including students from area Catholic high schools, are invited to write letters of support for retreatants, which are given to them during the retreat experience. A follow-up evening of dinner and reflection is offered six weeks after the retreat experience for retreatants.

The local Recovery Network Alliance (RNA) group has been very supportive of this spirituality project, and made it very easy to identify persons for whom this experience would be helpful. All retreats are funded by donations made to the Fatima Genesis Fund, which assists persons unable to cover the full cost of Fatima programs they wish to attend.

All involved in this ISP ministry are volunteers who agree to complete an online formation program offered by the national ISP office in Chicago. A monthly gathering for persons who are interested in this ISP ministry is held at Fatima for community building and additional education and formation.

This ministry has expanded from three retreats in 2014 to four retreats in 2015, and five retreats in the current year.

Anyone interested in more information about this special ISP ministry is asked to contact Providence Sister Connie Kramer, Indianapolis ISP volunteer coordinator, at ckramer@spsmw.org.
 

(Providence Sister Connie Kramer is ISP volunteer coordinator at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, which is part of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization. For more information, go to archindy.org/Fatima.)

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