“In Luke 1:38, when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and asks her to be the mother of God, Mary answers, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ In the Hebrew translation, Mary’s reply, ‘Behold’ doesn’t just mean acceptance. Mary’s answer meant an exuberant joyful wish. Mary’s ‘yes’ was an embracing of the will of God with her whole being. And the Lord is longing for us to give Him that same joyful yes: Here I am, Lord.”
With these words, Dr. Mary Healy, keynote speaker for the fourth annual Rejoice Women’s Retreat, opened up the weekend for over 130 women from 36 parishes contemplating the Scripture passage “Nothing Will Be Impossible for God.” The retreat took place at Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center in Donaldson.
Healy, a professor of sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, guided retreat participants through stories in both the Old Testament and New Testament in order to dive into the story of Mary’s “yes” and show how women can emulate her trust in God’s plan for their healing, their salvation and the salvation of the entire world.
Nicole Bobay, a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul, Fort Wayne, and a first-time attendee at the retreat, appreciated the scriptural background that Healy brought to the experience. “As a Scripture scholar, she was so engaging, I was just trying to take in every word and just digest it. It’s nourishing.”
Debbie Blum, a parishioner at Corpus Christi, South Bend, stated that this was her third year attending the retreat. “I need this weekend in order to fill me back up and give me perspective as I’m going into Advent,” she said. Blum also noted that attending the retreat makes an impact in her work at the parish. “Sometimes you just need to be filled spiritually so that you can go out and give of yourself. That’s what this retreat gives me,” she said.
The theme of healing was another important component of the weekend retreat, something that organizer Jan Torma appreciated.
“I’m just simply grateful to be here. I have journeyed with the Lord in my battle. He is overcoming, and He is healing.” Torma fought an intense battle with cancer over the past year and despite initial negative prognosis reports, she experienced healing. “This walk has been very intense, but very good and very rich and filled with abundant prayer of God’s people, my family, my own personal prayer and a wonderful medical staff,” Torma said.
A healing service took place Saturday night in Ancilla Domini Chapel. It was significant to include healing within the retreat, Torma stated, because “it was a major part of Jesus’s ministry. He came to heal the sick and we are all sick. We all need His healing differently. Mary Healy came to teach us about that and build our faith and strengthen us so that we can move forward in Christ.”
Blum said she had attended healing services before. “We all need different kinds of healing: physically, spiritually and emotionally. You need that shot in the arm. At a healing service, it’s good to just be able to go and be able to rest in the Lord and give Him our fiat.”
The best part of the retreat for Torma was the community and comradery among the attendees. “I loved being with the women and seeing the Holy Spirit move among us,” she said.
Andrea Kane, from St. Joseph Parish in South Bend, agreed. “I love to make friends. The whole year, I’ve been looking forward seeing the women I met last year. It just creates more unity in the diocese, and that has stayed with me.”
Debbie Green from Corpus Christi keeps returning to the women’s retreat because, she said, “It’s good to see the different people you meet from different parishes. You need a weekend to rejuvenate and there is healing in that. I thought that Healy was very interesting and as a professor, she is teaching us as well. Healing starts with you and your own family, going on to churches and the world. Your words are very important, they can make and break people.”
At the end of the weekend, Healy encouraged all the retreat participants to remember that as the first evangelist, Mary carried the promise of salvation.
“Women are called to keep this promise alive: the promise that sin and suffering are not the last word, that God will have final victory.” She gave three examples of how women can keep the promise alive, namely by bearing children, bearing suffering with great love and by bearing the Good News to others. “What’s most important here is not just bringing the Good News in the form of words. While words are extremely important and while we do have an obligation to use them to spread the Gospel, what is important is to have a heart overflowing with the Holy Spirit,” Healy continued. “Like Mary, we are pregnant with Jesus within us, and when we give birth to His light in the world — we make Him present in the world around us. This is exactly what we are called to do.”
Fourth-year attendee Kathleen Black, a parishioner at Corpus Christi, enjoyed the orthodoxy of the weekend’s speakers.
“They are top-notch every time. I like the time with my friends and meeting people from other parishes who are sharing different experiences together. The speakers are wonderful, because they share insights that we can take back home.”
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