September 14, 2012

Religious Education Supplement

Retreats offer special paths to closer ties with God, friends and family

Cathy Dearing says a prayer before an icon of Jesus in the chapel of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. Dearing takes several retreats a year at Fatima, saying they draw her closer to God, friends and family. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Cathy Dearing says a prayer before an icon of Jesus in the chapel of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. Dearing takes several retreats a year at Fatima, saying they draw her closer to God, friends and family. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

Cathy Dearing’s list includes the major hopes that many people have for their lives:

  • Stronger relationships with family and friends.
  • A better sense of feeling rested and well, physically, mentally and emotionally.
  • A greater awareness of how special life is.
  • A deeper relationship with God.

Dearing not only shares those hopes from her own life, she also shares the path that has helped her reach them in the past 12 years. She sums up her advice in three words: Take a retreat.

“If I didn’t go on retreats, my life would be different,” says Dearing, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. “I feel more connected with living because of retreats. They help me as a mom, a wife, a daughter. They help remind me that God needs to be more central in my daily life. I was always connected to God, my faith and the Church, but retreats have brought me to a deeper level. It’s more personal with God now. It’s a relationship.”

She also credits retreats with helping her to balance and make the most of her many roles as a wife, a mother of three teenagers, the daughter of aging parents, and in her work as a physical therapist and college instructor.

“A retreat is also such a great self-care thing,” Dearing says. “I always leave rested from a retreat. We all need to rest more. It’s a loving thing for your body and wellness. If your body is more rested, it helps you emotionally and spiritually. You’re able to recognize day-to-day gifts, day-to-day blessings. It’s increased my awareness of small acts of kindness and that God is with you all the time.” (Related: A glimpse of the retreat experience)

Dearing offers her testimonial as the seven retreat centers across the archdiocese renew their emphasis on the difference that retreats can make to people’s faith and lives. That renewed emphasis ties in with Pope Benedict XVI’s call to Catholics to enrich their spiritual lives during the Year of Faith that begins on Oct. 13.

The people who take retreats love them,” says Franciscan Sister Olga Wittekind, director of the Oldenburg Franciscan Center in Oldenburg. “It’s a time of peace and quiet to talk with God, and nurture their love of prayer and Scripture. It’s a time to deepen our healing, our faith and our union with God.”

Still, many people say their lives are too busy to schedule a retreat, yet that’s one of the main reasons why people should, according to Father James Farrell, director of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis and pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis.

“Retreats help people find themselves because most of us live at a frenetic pace,” Father Farrell says. “We have to recognize that we can’t constantly go from home to work to dinner to sitting down with the family to watching some TV to catching up with the news without paying for it somehow. We lose touch with the deepest parts of ourselves—presence to the moment, presence to God, and our awareness of the presence of God to us.”

The results of being in deeper touch with ourselves and forming a deeper bond with God are worth the time and the cost of a retreat, Father Farrell says.

“I think if people had the experience of a retreat it would become so valuable to them that they would use vacation time to take a retreat,” he says. “Here at Fatima, we have a wide variety of retreats that meet the needs of people in various circumstances.”

Ranging from several hours to entire weekends, retreats at Fatima help people deepen their faith, strengthen their marriage, heal from the loss of a loved one, and deal with divorce and separation. Other retreats focus on art, silence, poetry, spiritual direction, and the joys and challenges of being a mom.

Some retreats are geared toward Advent and Lent. There’s also a New Year’s Eve retreat that includes a gourmet dinner, spiritual talk, celebration of Mass, welcoming the New Year with champagne and strawberries, and an overnight stay.

Day retreats range from $15 to $38 while weekend retreats generally cost $153 for a single person to $286 for a couple, with meals and a room included.

“Advent and Lent are good times to try a retreat if you’ve never been on one before,” Father Farrell says.

A different twist on the retreat experience is being offered this year during Advent by the archdiocese’s vocations office. “The Busy Persons Retreat” for young adults—ages 18 to 35—will be held during the evening hours of Dec. 9-14 at St. Barnabas and Immaculate Heart of Mary parishes, both in Indianapolis.

“It would be great if this helps young adults acknowledge that prayer is possible with a busy career and personal life,” says Elizabeth Jamison, associate director of vocations for the archdiocese. “The retreat will focus on discernment. For a couple, it could be how to pray better together. For a single person, it could be what vocation is right for me.”

For Dearing, “what’s right” is helping people see how retreats can enhance their faith and their life.

“I tell people, ‘You can come for an hour and go home, if that’s all the time you have. Or you can stay longer,’ ” she says.

“We make time for what’s important in our lives. Retreats help me be more committed to a regular practice of prayer. I think about what Jesus really did for me. I notice God more. I feel an inner strength in dealing with things. My experiences in life are richer.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!