Retreats at Maryknoll Center in Eastbay Offer Unexpected Opportunity for community and silence

Retreats at Maryknoll in San Lorenzo…

I have participated in many retreats at the Western Regional Center in San Lorenzo. The main reason for that I am on the staff and therefor I play a key role in planning and executing retreat weekends. Our retreats are always a team effort and no one person does everything alone, which is advantageous for several obvious reasons. One maybe not so obvious reason is the opportunity to grab a little retreat time when the other leader is facilitating a session. It is a chance to forget about leadership, dishwashing, and cooking and view the retreat through the eyes of a participant.
It is always amazing to me how quickly we bond to each other. The first night we start out with social time before dinner: a glass of wine or soda and a few snacks. During the winter, we build a fire in the fireplace, which adds tremendously to the sense of home. It is a great time to chat with people I know and get to know those I have just met.

Then we gather around a big table and share a simple meal. By the time the meal is finished, it is as if we have known one another all our lives! Jesus really knew how to bring people together when he invited himself around different homes for meals. Table fellowship is crucial to a retreat and it seems the food and the conversation benefit from each other.

Participants engage in a quiet activity that first night for several reasons. First, it gives a chance to let go of the world we have just left and that awaits us just outside the door. Most of us would agree that our lives are busy, we have many concerns for family and work and it takes a bit of time and assistance to let that all go for a weekend. And is really is important to let it go. A retreatant can even leave their watch and cell phone at home if they want and in fact, that’s encouraged. Everything will be taken care of. Second, a reflection at the beginning of the retreat sets the tone, and gives something to ponder for the evening.

For me personally, I love the mornings when everyone is around the breakfast table and it seems like I am part of a big family, which I did not have growing up. People are laughing and talking, drinking coffee or tea and helping each other with breakfast. Lunchtime is another chance to relax and eat, sit outside on the patio, read, or pray in the chapel.

Every retreat includes a spiritual ritual of some kind. The ways to encounter God are limitless. I am also greatly touched knowing others are encountering the Divine and that I am blessed enough to be present to that encounter. I have had some very profound experiences myself during our time together, under one roof, with the Spirit dwelling among us. One such experience was during our retreat on forgiveness when I realized I had been harboring anger over something from my childhood. With the help of the other participants, the ritual exercise, and of course God’s spirit of love I was able to forgive and move on. I experienced the joy of letting go of a tremendous weight and gained a deeper understanding of what Jesus meant when he urged his disciples to forgive: it’s not to benefit the wrong-doer, it’s for the victim’s freedom and happiness.

I have made many new friends during retreats and gotten the chance to know my long-standing friends on a deeper level. I look forward to every retreat!!