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Retreats help strengthen relationship with God

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

By David Eck

ARCHDIOCESE — Making a retreat — be it a one-day conference event that focuses on a particular topic or a weeklong experience tailored to the individual — helps Christians strengthen their relationship with God and allows for personal reflection.


 
“What it does for the person on the retreat is give them a chance to focus on matters of the heart. Those are the areas in our life that we normally don’t take time to look at,” said Al Cucchetti, pastoral life coordinator at Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford (www.jesuitspiritualcenter.com). “On a retreat you take away all those distractions and you have an opportunity to focus on things that really matter.”

Charlene Huff
Charlene Huff, left, director of the Spiritual Center at Maria Stein and Barb Kozlowski, program director at Bergamo Center, plan a joint retreat. (CT/David Eck)

The four main retreat centers in the archdiocese feature spacious grounds that provide solitude and the opportunity to connect with God. Types of retreats can range from a simple one-day conference with a group to an in-depth, weeklong solitary experience led by a spiritual director.

A three-day Ignatian weekend retreat has been offered at Jesuit Spiritual Center for more than 80 years. That retreat includes five conferences on different topics. The weekend also includes prayer, Eucharist, opportunities for reconciliation, the Stations of the Cross and praying the rosary. About 28-30 Ignatian retreats are held each year with 35-40 people participating in each.

“A good retreat is not what you do here, it’s what you take home,” Cucchetti said. “It’s ongoing in the sense that it’s not an end to itself but a means to an end. What this does is give retreatants a whole new attitude and way of looking at life and what’s important.”

Other programs at the center include a personally directed retreat, where a person spends seven to eight days in solitude for prayer and reflection guided by a spiritual director.

“They need the time to [experience] the rhythm of the retreat so they can slow their own clock down and not feel rushed,” Cucchetti said. “The whole idea is to enable the retreatant to go deeper into their relationship with God.”

The Sisters of Charity Spirituality Center (www.srcharitycinti.org/spirit.htm.) offers a wide variety of programs including Scripture enrichment, bridges of contemplative living and workshops, in addition to directed retreats with a spiritual director.

“The spiritual director helps the person see how God is working in their life,” said Sister of Charity Sister of Charity Annette Paveglio, director. “Some people prefer a directed retreat over a conference retreat.”

In the rural northern area of the archdiocese, the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein www.spiritualcenter.net lends itself to quiet time. The grounds feature woods, statuary and an imposing cross that is lighted at night. The center offers personally directed retreats as well as weekend and daylong programs.

A successful retreat makes the visitor more aware of God in their lives and how much He loves them, said Charlene Huff, director, and the environment helps one become closer to God.

“It’s like you take that breath of fresh air when you pull onto the driveway,” Huff said. “We don’t have those other distractions that we would typically have at home.”

While the centers are Catholic, Christians of all denominations visit them. Huff mentioned a Church of Christ minister who has visited the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein each week for years to work on his sermon for the following Sunday.

In Dayton, Bergamo Center (www.bergamocenter.org.) is known for the groups of high school students that for decades have attended retreats on the expansive, wooded grounds.

Among the programs at Bergamo is a retreat for students that focuses on prayer, faith witness and small group discussion. The program is tailored for different classes and schools. Students from the University of Dayton are trained to help facilitate the retreat, said Barb Kozlowski, program director. Some schools also facilitate their own retreats.

“I think people are always searching for some sort of meaning in their lives,” Kozlowski said. “They come here trying to find what is missing in their spiritual lives.”

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