January 18, 2008

New ‘FBI’ collaboration hunts people for spiritual growth

By John Shaughnessy

There’s the story of how a spiritual retreat made a difference in the life of a mother of three small children—a retreat that gave her strength, perspective and increased faith in God as she was being treated for cancer.

There’s the story of teenagers from different high schools who came together for a retreat, put aside their stereotypes and rivalries, and focused on the common bond of faith that unites them.

There’s the story of the professional salesperson whose job involves tight deadlines and travel around the country, and how she schedules retreats into her life to revive herself and deepen her relationship with God.

Sandy Pasotti and Benedictine Sister Mary Luke Jones routinely share such stories because they know the value of retreats in drawing people closer to the essence of who they are while also helping people strengthen their connection to their faith.

Now, the administrators of the two Catholic retreat centers in the Indianapolis area—Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House and the Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center—are sharing another approach to promote retreats, an approach they call “FBI.”

In the new collaboration for the two retreat centers, “FBI” stands for “Fatima/Benedict Inn” and “Faith Building Institutions.” It also represents a plan for both places to promote the other retreat ministry, emphasizing that what is important is for people to make a retreat, not where they make it.

So the two staffs will combine for two events in 2008, starting with a Lenten retreat at Fatima on Feb. 13 called “Spring Planting for Spiritual Growth.”

“The collaboration is born of the idea that it’s important for people to do retreats, to look at their relationship with God,” says Sister Mary Luke, the administrator of the Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center in Beech Grove.

“We are all called to recognize an awareness of God in our lives,” she says. “Our lives are so busy that we don’t take time to step back and reinforce that relationship, dwell on it and be grateful for it. A retreat allows you to do that. It forces you to listen, reflect, renew, and review your life and your relationship with God.”

Anne Marie Guba has learned the importance of retreats in her life. She works in sales and her job requires traveling across the country. Still, in the past eight years, her faith journey has often led her to make retreats.

“Being in the world, there’s so much noise,” says Guba, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Fishers, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. “Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or working in the corporate world, there’s always someone trying to get your attention. When you go on a retreat, you get away from the world and focus on your spirituality.”

Guba makes a retreat about four times a year. She has been on retreats that lasted a half-day, a full day, a weekend and a week.

“It helps me be grounded,” she says. “It reinforces the need to reflect and be spiritual. I find it to be very refreshing and rewarding.”

That’s the reaction that Pasotti often hears from people after they’ve taken a retreat at Fatima.

“In general, people seem happy. They have a sense of peace. They feel rejuvenated,” says Pasotti, the interim director at Fatima. “Once people experience retreats, especially first-timers, they always seem to tell themselves, ‘I can’t believe I haven’t done it before.’ And people who have been doing retreats for 30 years say, ‘I can’t live without them.’ ”

Pasotti and Sister Mary Luke acknowledge that their collaboration is a response to changing trends regarding retreats.

“The trend you hear from retreat houses all over is that people aren’t coming to the traditional three-day retreats,” Pasotti says. “The question is, ‘Why?’ The family structure seems to have changed. All the things kids seem to do take up so much time. People are so much busier today. Part of it is not taking the time to make it a priority.”

So retreat centers are trying to adapt, from offering retreats in the evening for working people to “mornings for moms” who have young children, even providing babysitting. The collaboration of the two retreat centers is another innovative approach.

“We knew we wanted to do a shared retreat at each facility,” Pasotti says. “And we decided to do it at the two main seasons of the Church—Lent and Advent. Those are big retreat seasons in general.”

The second combined effort is scheduled on Dec. 9 at the Benedict Inn. The theme of that Advent retreat is “A Season for Waiting—A Time of Expectation.”

Both Pasotti and Sister Mary Luke have great expectations for the collaboration.

“What we want to say to people is, ‘If you come to Fatima, it’s good for the Benedict Inn. And if you come to the Benedict Inn, it’s good for Fatima,’ ” Sister Mary Luke says. “We not only want to help each other, we want to help those who are seeking God. The individual seeker is the most important thing. When we can strengthen people in their prayer lives and their spiritual lives, we’re all enhanced. The deepening of your spiritual life is one of the most important things you can do.”

(For information about retreats at the Benedict Inn, check the Web site, www.benedictinn.org, or call 317-788-7581. For information about retreats at Fatima, check the Web site, www.archindy.org/fatima, or call 317-545-7681. Contact either retreat center for information about the Feb. 13 retreat.)†

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