By Kay Cozad
HUNTINGTON — One hundred twenty-five women from around the diocese gathered at St. Felix Catholic Center in Huntington on Saturday, March 21, to pray, reflect and encounter Jesus. Sponsored by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend’s Office of Adult Faith Formation, the retreat, aptly titled “Women Encounter Jesus,” offered encouragement to those present to open their hearts and deepen their relationship with Christ.
“Give space to the Lord to speak to your heart and let Him love you the way He wants to love you,” exhorted Cindy Black, director of the Office of Faith Formation. Black urged the women to enrich their spirits during the day of retreat by using Scripture and the majestic building and sacred grounds of St. Felix to encounter their Lord.
Moving hymns and songs were an integral part of the day’s offerings with keyboard, guitar and harmonious vocals provided by Natalie Pugh and Vanessa Proulx, both of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne. Following song and communal prayer several speakers brought the women of the Bible to life with inspiring reflections.
Sarah Hill spoke of Martha and Mary’s biblical encounter with Jesus and Martha’s bitterness about serving while her sister Mary sat listening at Jesus’ feet. She challenged the women to consider that though Jesus rebuked Martha He didn’t ask her to stop serving, but instead to change her heart. “Seek Christ and the will of God first and everything else will fall into place,” Hall urged the women enthusiastically, adding, “Worry steals our joy.”
Mary Glowaski, Secretariat of the Office of Evangelization and Special Ministries, followed Hill with encouraging words on the Blessed Mother’s encounter with her Son Jesus. Mary’s “yes” to God in bringing the mystery of Love to humanity is the perfect model of discipleship she said, relating that Mary lived out the character of God. Glowaski gently reminded those present that God offered many graces that stretched from letting go to the power of love. God, she said, calls all to not just be like Him but love like Him.
Plenty of quiet reflection time was interwoven throughout the day offering these busy women a chance to journal their thoughts as they pondered reflection questions and Scripture verses, walk the grounds of St. Felix and visit the beautiful tree nestled grotto. Lunch and dinner times gave the guests the opportunity to encounter Jesus in one another.
A simple bell called the women back to the St. Felix chapel where they had the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Confession with Father Ben Muhlenkamp, parochial vicar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, before witnessing the biblical woman at the well tell her story. Diana Anderson, in the persona of the Samaritan woman, told her rapt audience that Jesus planned His encounter with the sinful woman at the well. He thirsted for her as He does for all of His children, she said, and offers waters of everlasting life. “We are all women at the well,” she said.
Several women then gave a witness to the entire congregation of how the retreat day had affected their hearts. One attendee was celebrating her encounter with Jesus along with her aunt who joined her at the retreat and had been by her side as she was welcomed into the Church 26 years ago.
Following more coveted reflection time the ladies gathered to walk the journey that Jesus took to Calvary with the Stations of the Cross. In reverent cadence the meditations read by Pope Francis on Good Friday in Rome in 2014 invited the women into Jesus’ story, inciting deeper awareness of solidarity, compassion and the power of love.
A very powerful hour of Eucharistic Adoration concluded the day of reflection in which the faithful women rested deeply in the love of God. Cindy Black encouraged the women to “Come before Him and sit at His feet. Converse with Him. This is personal time with Jesus. Allow Him to speak to our hearts. He knows what we need.” She spoke quietly of the woman of the Bible who had hemorrhaged for years and was immediately healed when she touched Jesus’ cloak in faith. Affixed across all sides of the beautiful marble altar were strips of tattered fabric symbolizing the tassel of Jesus’ cloak to which the women were invited up to pray. The healing energy of God was palpable there at the altar as the women prayed humbly together in silence.
Attendee Michelle Rupright of St. Joseph-Hessen Cassel Parish in Fort Wayne felt enriched by the prayerful day. “I could feel God working in me very personally. … I needed this day to pull away from all the business. God is healing me today,” she said.
Aubrey Pfister and her aunt Carol Quella, both from Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw, attended at the suggestion of Pfister’s dad. With two little boys Pfister was grateful to have the quiet time. Rosemary McAtee, of St. Aloysius Parish in Yoder, along with the youngest female at the gathering, her toddling daughter Melinda, agreed saying, “Melinda is my fifth. I have a desire for quiet and reflection.” Our Lady of Good Hope parishioner Carol Kern added, “You could focus and be in the silence and let things go.”
Norma Baisinger from St. Charles Parish felt the atmosphere was “amazing.” “And you can’t beat the content — women of the Bible,” she said, adding, “It’s nice to be with ladies who are here with the same intentions.”
Mary Glowaski said of the importance of the day, “Women are important in the spirituality and life of the Church. There’s a lot of language in the Church to say that but its not always reflected.”
Cindy Black added, “It’s important for us to step away from everyday life and let God love us … to hear His still small voice. … There are 125 here who hopefully are encouraged and will leave here and take that to their loved ones.”
A peaceful rendition of Tantum Ergo and final offering of gratitude for those who committed their day to Jesus and to those who organized and facilitated the retreat were shared with a promise that this was the beginning of many more retreats for women across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
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