POMETTO: Retreating from isolation into community

November 24, 2020

At the end of October, I was blessed to help host an in-person retreat for nearly 20 young adults at the Christian Renewal Center in Dickinson. It was the first in-person event our office had sponsored since the COVID-19 pandemic began back in March. While remaining COVID-safe, the weekend was filled with talks and activities, with s’mores and karaoke, confession and Adoration. I believe young adults would agree when I say that it was so good to be together again.

Spiritual retreats are meant to offer participants a chance to remove themselves from a world full of activity and to refocus their hearts and minds on what is most important in life. However, to many, the last eight months of the pandemic have seemed like one long “retreat.” We’ve already removed ourselves from the old ways of constant motion and busyness. Instead of offering a “retreat from” the world, the “Shepherded Beyond My Fears Retreat” ended up becoming a movement toward connection with God and with others.

Of the many activities offered throughout the weekend, the participants especially appreciated the one-on-one partner discussions. During this time, retreatants paired up three times with three different people and were given discussion questions to reflect on together for 30 minutes. It was wonderful seeing the pairs walking through the beautiful grounds of Christian Renewal Center together. This was the retreat from the pandemic that was most needed — the retreat away from isolation and into community.
Christ resides in the heart of every person.

When we are given an opportunity to encounter another human, we encounter a new face of Christ (c.f. Matthew 25:40). As Pope Francis writes in “Fratelli Tutti,” “No one can experience the true beauty of life without relating to others, without having real faces to love. This is part of the mystery of authentic human existence” (FT 87).

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly hindered our ability to encounter “real faces.” The faces that we do encounter are covered with masks or protected behind a plastic shield. And yet, even now, we are still called to live as “authentic humans.” We cannot wait until the pandemic ends to pursue community, relationship and service.

“In the depths of every heart,” Pope Francis writes, “love creates bonds and expands existence, for it draws people out of themselves and toward others” (FT 88).

he only way to overcome the isolation of quarantine is to move toward another. This movement toward community is not easy. This work takes an investment of time. However, time is now a commodity that many of us have in abundance.

Whether community is formed through an online platform or from one masked face to another, it is important to continue seeking meaningful encounters. It falls to each of us to make a commitment to retreat from isolation and move toward others. As we continue to wait for the pandemic to end, this movement outside ourselves and toward another will help us continue to live as authentic humans who encounter Christ in the hearts of others. 

Angie Pometto is an associate director for the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry.