Why should you go on a retreat?

January 14, 2014

HOUSTON — What is the value in getting away from the social and daily demands of life for the sake of peace and spiritual enrichment?
A lay group of men and women is answering that question by responding to what they feel is a calling by God.

The Lay Advocacy Retreat Committee, officially formed in 2009, has been busy inviting the directors of all retreat centers in the Archdiocese to come together in a combined effort to make people aware of what retreat is, what it is not and the value it has to the individual, the family and the greater community. 

What began in 2002 as a grassroots movement to promote retreat attendance has grown into an initiative to expand the effort and provide the Archdiocese’s 1.3 million Catholics with a better understanding of retreats and the benefits the experience offers.

“We believe that there is less than one percent of Catholics in the Archdiocese who regularly attend multi-day retreats and less than five percent who attend any form of individual or group retreat or day of reflection,” said John Rosso, committee member and spokesperson for the group. “Our ultimate goal? We would like every Catholic, 18 years or older, to attend a retreat on a yearly basis.”

The initiative is supported by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and addresses three of the nine objectives set forth by the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan. 
In a recent letter to pastors and priests of the Archdiocese, Cardinal DiNardo highlighted retreats because of the unique opportunities they present to individuals “seriously evaluating the state of his or her spiritual life.” 

The Cardinal appointed Father Clint Ressler, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church, to serve the committee as an Archdiocesan liaison.

“Retreats are to our spiritual life what a weekend away can be for the health of a marriage,” Father Ressler said. “It baffles me why some people resist taking a few days for a retreat. It’s like telling your boss, ‘No thanks, I’d rather stay here at the office and work all weekend.’ From the standpoint of spiritual health as physical health, a weekend or week-long retreat could be just the ‘antidote’ to the poison of frenetic-paced lives.”

Rosso explained that the advocacy committee is seeking a “critical mass of Catholics to find an intimacy with God and accept retreat as a means of personal spiritual development.” 

The committee also strives to clarify any misconceptions related to retreat availability, particularly concerning cost of registration. 

The facts are that several programs are without costs while others ask for donations at a suggested value. All retreat houses and centers have some form of financial aid available.

“I think retreats need to be promoted in part because many people don’t have a realistic and accurate picture of what is meant by the word ‘retreat,’” Father Ressler said. “Furthermore, even if they’ve been on a retreat there are various types of retreats, each with their own design and benefits. As a pastor, especially in the sacrament of Reconciliation, I find myself often saying things like a doctor would: ‘You need a healthier lifestyle. You need to slow down. Take better care of yourself.’ I often ‘prescribe’ or recommend that the penitent consider going on a retreat.”

Members of the committee say that they have seen the life-changing effects of retreat on the men and women they have encouraged to attend — many of whom continue to be active retreat participants.

“When I attended my first retreat I received more and different benefits than I expected. I also witnessed and heard from others who said the same,” Rosso said. “We all attended the same retreat and received different benefits. The thread that linked all of us was that we came away with an internal peace and with a clear, more confident vision of our path forward. Because of the love we (the committee) have for one another, helping others to reap the benefits of retreat has become a mission in our lives.”

In 20 years of priesthood, Father Ressler has never heard someone regret taking time to get away for a retreat: “Rather, they say things like, ‘Why did I wait so long to do this?’ ‘This was just what I needed.’ ‘I’m going to recommend this to my family and friends.’”

For more information about retreat opportunities in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, visit www.archgh.org/retreats.