Women’s Retreat: From Seed to Bloom

June 26, 2024 | Life Lines

On the shores of Lake George — with the water gently lapping just beyond the trees and the Minne-Ha-Ha not-so-gently honking its passage — 36 Catholic women gathered earlier this month at the Wiawaka Center for Women to pray, sing, reflect and dig deep into the rich soil of their faith. The unparalleled natural beauty of the retreat setting was matched by the inspiring spiritual beauty of these women seekers who are committed to strengthening their relationship with God, re-energizing their prayer lives and building community with other like-minded women. And through it all the Rooted in Faith Retreat echoed with laughter and overflowed with joy.

I was blessed to be the retreat presenter for the weekend and relished the opportunity to walk alongside an incredible collection of women from different backgrounds and parishes. While most of the participants hailed from North Country parishes, including the leadership team who has been making this retreat happen for four years running, we had women from throughout the Diocese of Albany and even a few from beyond our boundaries. Together we confronted the hard questions, sat with the uncertainties and focused our hearts and minds on learning to abide in God.

Spiritual growth is no easy thing, and, in keeping with our theme, we talked about what needs to be pruned away in our lives to make room for God, where the weeds threaten to choke out the Spirit, and what we might need to do to nourish the seed that is struggling to blossom. Every woman there was ready to roll up her figurative sleeves and dig in. I watched as new friendships formed over delicious meals and around the flickering campfire. I listened as words of prayer, both spoken and sung, bound us together. As a collective we slowly let the masks drop away, revealing to ourselves and to each other the person God is calling each of us to be.

Someone asked me to share my biggest takeaway. That was easy. The retreat was a reminder that there are so many women on this path as seekers, and any time we can bring women together in a community like this, it shores us up and reminds us that we’re not alone. We need more of this. We need opportunities to gather, to pray together and to accompany each other on the journey.

You might think, “Don’t women do that at their parishes all the time?” Yes and no. Yes, we do gather and pray, but often the women are running the parishes’ critical programs, from teaching faith formation and decorating the sacred space to serving as cantors and distributing Communion. A retreat is entirely different, and oh so necessary. Retreats give us dedicated time away from our home, our work, our ministry, and, most important, away from the incessant “noise” of emails, texts, calls and social media.

For most of us, making time for retreat seems like a luxury, and yet, when it comes to spiritual growth, it’s critical. We tell ourselves we’ll use a slow weekend at home to spend time with God, but, if we’re honest, we know that’s often a losing proposition. Home tends to demand things of us, even when we have nothing else going on. Or, at the very least, it tempts us away from our silence and solitude with nagging demands to clean this and fix that.

This summer season, when nature itself beckons you to sit and soak up God’s goodness, see if you can find a full day or weekend to give everything over to God. Turn off the phone and the TV. Put aside the chores and social outings. Go to a place where you can hear God above the noise of the headlines and demands, and just be. Like the women of the Rooted in Faith Retreat, dig into the rich soil of your spiritual life and coax a tiny seed into a resilient little shoot. Bask in God and, in time, watch that seed blossom.

Mary will be leading the annual Stillpoint Retreat at Pyramid Life Center on Sept. 6-8. Click HERE for more information.

This post originally appeared in the June 26, 2024, issue of The Evangelist.

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