(Wisconsin, USA) The joy and excitement were palpable as 40 Partners in Mission – professed Redemptorists and lay people – gathered to learn, grow, reflect and pray together at the Redemptorist Retreat Center in Oconomowoc on October 19-22. We came from seven of the eight Redemptorist provinces and vice provinces in North America. Our faces, experiences, countries of origin, and mother tongues were a wonderful and rich picture of diversity, and evidence of the power and universality of the message of Plentiful Redemption.
Our time together was a combination of retreat and workshop. We began by sharing our life experiences, focusing on how we have been drawn to the most abandoned and the proclamation of the Good News of Plentiful Redemption. In joy and wonder, we heard stories of how we had been drawn to service in our families, through groups we had become part of, or through Redemptorists and the opportunities they provided. Our discussion ushered in a time of reflection on Luke 4:16-20, the passage in which Jesus stands up before the people in the synagogue and first proclaims his mission, “I came to proclaim good news to the poor.. liberty to captives…”
Much of our second day together was spent exploring the “four pillars” of Redemptorist spirituality – crib (Incarnation), cross (Redemption), altar (Eucharist) and Mary (particularly under the title Our Lady of Perpetual Help). These sessions were led by Fr. David Louch (Edmonton-Toronto), Fr. John Fahey Guerra (Denver), Fr. Francis Gargani (Baltimore) and Anne Walsh. We were especially grateful that Fr. Piotr Chyla, Director of the Center for Redemptorist Spirituality in Rome, was able to join us and frame our retreat with an eye-opening session about the foundation of the Congregation and stories of the 20 Saints and Blessed of the Redemptorist family.
Our sessions were very interactive – a combination of presentation and discussion in small and large groups – with plenty of time for individual reflection and only a few awkward silences! Participants were curious, intrigued and engaged as we bounced our experiences against what we were hearing and learning, and discerned whether and how we were called into partnership in and for this great mission of proclaiming Good News to the most abandoned, particularly the poor.
On the third day, we explored how lay people and professed and ordained Redemptorists can and do share this mission of redemption. We looked at how “mission” is a bigger reality than “ministry,” and how lay partners who share the spirit can take the message of Plentiful Redemption wherever they live and work and socialize, extending the reach of the Redemptorist family into all corners of our mission field. As examples, we looked at the experiences of the participants. Some – very few – work in explicitly Redemptorist environments. Most of us don’t, but viewed through Redemptorist “glasses,” we saw how work as veterinarians, real estate agents, hospice ministers, teachers, retailers, and caterers (the list could go on and on!) brings us into contact with people who exist on the periphery of society and the Church and explored how important collaboration is to extend the message of God’s love and redemption to all.
Of course, we spent time socializing, getting to know one another better on long walks around the beautiful property and during our evening socials. Sometimes the best sharing happens in these relaxed moments! A renewed and refreshed, excited and passionate group was sent forth from the retreat! Our time together was graced, and the only appropriate response is “Thank You!” We hope that this retreat and workshop will be the first of many, and that it will bear fruit in the creation of Circles of Redemptorist Associates all over North America dedicated to empowering and strengthening lay people and Redemptorists working together for mission.