Typically, retreats take place over a weekend and remove the participants from their daily lives, to focus on their faith and relationship with the Lord, for at least a couple of days. But the Year of St. Joseph has a special surprise in store for fathers and sons of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend: a six-hour retreat dedicated to the foster father of Jesus and offering an opportunity for fathers and sons to connect with each other and with Christ, all within a Sunday afternoon and evening.
The retreat, offered in Spanish Aug. 1 and in English Sept. 19, is designed to be a hands-on experience for fathers — or male relatives — and boys between the ages of 13 and 17. It will take place at St. Patrick’s County Park, South Bend, from 2-8 p.m.
This retreat is designed for men to grow closer to one another and be more confident in their role as the masculine figure in the young lives they currently or will one day mentor. The retreats were inspired by Pope Francis’ declaration of 2021 to be the year of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church.
The recognition of St. Joseph in this way inspired the director of Marriage and Family Ministry, Lisa Everett, to organize an event that would bring together fathers and sons to learn about manhood and the profound example given by St. Joseph. Director of Hispanic Ministry Esther Terry joined in the effort to create a similar event for the Hispanic community. Everett, Terry and their teams met with men in the diocese to brainstorm engaging activities those attending would do as they explored the landscape of St. Patrick’s park.
A cost of $20 per family is requested upon arrival and includes the entry fee to the park, snacks, dinner and a keepsake crucifix. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will be present to give a talk dedicated to the example of St. Joseph. After Bishop Rhoades’ reflection, fathers and sons will have a chance to discuss what stood out to them.
St. Patrick’s County Park is uniquely situated within the Indiana Birding Trails. Following the bishop’s talk a brief introduction to bird watching will be offered, encompassing different bird calls, and the groups will look for local bird species as they take a leisurely walk along the St. Joseph River.
Upon returning to the site, participants will learn more about the life of St. Joseph as a carpenter. Jon Adamson, a local woodworker, will provide a physical and a spiritual lesson about the construction of the crucifixes, with step-by-step guidance and corresponding meditations.
“We really need to do what we can to build up families,” said Caty Burke, associate director for Marriage and Family Ministry and part of the planning committee. “It’s important to make sure they know that they have a place in the Church and that the Church is here for them: that they belong and they’re not alone, and the life that they live and the vocation that they have is a really beautiful call.”
Everett hopes the retreat can become a reoccurring opportunity for the men in the diocese to deepen their faith and the bond between father and son. For that to become a reality, this first encounter’s success is essential. For more information or to register, visit diocesefwsb.org/joseph-retreat. Everett is also asking men of college age and older who are interested in volunteering at the retreat to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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