By Becky Aubut
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. — A Charis retreat titled, “What Next? Finding Answers with Faith Retreat,” will be held at Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham, and there is still time to register for the March 3-5 retreat that will help young adults between the ages of 18-35, connect with fellow peer members who are navigating a period of transition while focusing on ways God is present in the midst of uncertainty.
“We do a different theme each year. That’s one of the reasons the Office of Campus Ministry partnered with Charis about four years ago,” explained Father David Frederici, chaplain at UMass Dartmouth. “When Deacon Frank [Lucca] had come on board back in 2013, we were looking for a retreat that would be a great catalyst for getting people more involved in their faith. We were looking at off-college retreats, and there were a couple that were popular among campus ministries in young adults.”
Faced with substantial numbers of young adults leaving the Catholic Church, Charis was founded by the then-Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus in 2000 to reach out to these young men and women with the unique gift of Ignatian Spirituality. St. Ignatius of Loyola challenges individuals to find God in all things. Charis helps young adults see this grace or “charis” in the midst of transitions in careers and relationships, in their struggles and joys. Charis offers retreat experiences in the Jesuit tradition for men and women in their 20s and 30s, helping them to develop deeper Spiritual lives and stronger connections to faith communities.
Father Frederici said he and Deacon Lucca liked the structure already in place with the Charis program. Materials were already created, and Father Frederici knew he “didn’t have to recreate the wheel” to offer a comprehensive and Spiritually fulfilling retreat. Father Frederici is rotating through each of the eight themed retreats currently offered, and Charis has been adding new retreats as the years have gone on, though the foundation of peer fellowship has always remained the same.
“When we create our team, it’s made up of college students and one or two other young adults in their late 20s or early 30s, so that when we break down into small groups,” said Father Frederici, each group is formed with age-related group members.
“Small groups and personal reflection are important aspects of the Charis retreat model,” he continued. “A lot of people like the Emmaus model, but what really captures the students and the young adults with the Charis retreats is the fact that they’ve had some pretty intense Spiritual experiences; one of the most powerful retreats I’ve been on was when I went to a private retreat at a monastery. I didn’t have a lot of activities or table discussions, or things like that; ultimately the retreat is about the experience with God, and the encounter with God.
“There are many different ways that can happen. A lot of people when they think of retreats, they’re thinking back to their high school retreats, and this [Charis retreat] is totally different. In the Charis retreat model there are still presentations given, opportunities for prayer, Mass, and taking some prayer experiences from the Liturgy Hour. It is a Jesuit retreat program, so there’s an introduction to the Ignatian Spirituality.”
Ignatian Spirituality invites individuals to encounter God in the practical, real experiences of daily life. Based on the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the 15th-century patron saint of retreats, it promotes an understanding of God as an active, loving, and constant presence in our lives. In community with others, people respond to God’s love and come to know Him through the world around us. Seeing “God in all things,” the Ignatian contemplative strives to become a “man or woman for others,” demonstrating faith through everyday acts of love. More than just a way of thinking or belief, Ignatian Spirituality is a concrete way of life that fosters deeper prayer, offers a medium for discernment, and nurtures a commitment to social justice. It is a Spirituality of the heart that recognizes the Sacredness of lived experience.
Even as a team member leads each small group, there is plenty of time offered for individual reflection time. Spiritual direction is also an integral part of the retreat “to help them learn about God’s presence.”
“Some of them after the retreat, either with one of us or a pastor near their home, will seek out Spiritual direction afterwards,” said Father Frederici. “Everyone’s journey is different but there are some fundamentals. Everyone is searching for meaning and purpose, and when they go on the retreat and get there, and actually experience and encounter God in a very powerful way — and it’s different for every person — they ultimately discover that underlying desire that there’s something more.”
Common questions that many who attend include: “How do I keep this going after the retreat? How do I continue this when I go back to school? When I go through finals? When I graduate? How do I keep this going while balancing work, and perhaps even family?
“In any retreat program, as in the model of Charis, is we need to stay connected to others,” said Father Frederici. “It’s important to create those communities closer to home in a local parish with another group of young adults. We help them identify how to take control and responsibility for that in their own life.”
It can be challenging for young adults in their 20s and 30s to negotiate the many transitions, challenges and obstacles life presents. By taking time off and time away for a Charis retreat helps provide the practical tools of Ignatian Spirituality in a community of peers, helping them to see God’s presence and work in their lives.
For more information, directions and registration for the upcoming Charis retreat, go to www.FallRiverCampusMinistry.com.