Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
November 5, 2017 // Special

Women’s retreat seeks to deepen the gift of faith

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

Sister Ann Shields

Catholic women in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will have the opportunity Dec. 1-3 to further explore the faith they received at baptism during the third Rejoice! Women’s Retreat at Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center, Donaldson. The theme for the retreat, taken from 1 Peter 1:7, is “Faith, More Precious Than Gold.”

Retreat leader and featured speaker Sister Ann Shields, SGL, is already praying that each retreatant’s faith comes alive, so that what she affirms at Mass during the retreat can blossom in every aspect of the participant’s daily life. “I don’t think we fully grasp the power available to us in the Word of God and the sacraments,” Sister Shields said.

The retreat begins at 6:45 p.m. Friday and ends at 2 p.m. Sunday. On Saturday evening, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will lead a guided meditation and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. There will be ample time during the retreat for corporate and personal prayer and adoration, but also relaxed time for fellowship with other retreatants. Vanessa Proulx and other young women from St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, will lead the music.

The beginning of Advent is a good time to come apart and set the right tone for the season and the new liturgical year. The busier a woman is, the more she needs a retreat like this. As Sister Shields told Redeemer Radio interviewer Kyle Heimann, “We’re living in a world that’s full of noise. But every human being needs quiet time. There’s nothing selfish about giving God his rightful place and the opportunity to speak to our hearts.”

Sister Shields preached the first diocesan Rejoice! retreat in December 2015, with a Marian theme: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). Reflecting on that experience, she said, “It was delightful being there. The women were eager and attentive, and I believe it bore good fruit in your diocese.” Debbie Herbeck led the second retreat last year, with a theme drawn from Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” However, new participants are welcomed every year.

St. Jude parishioner Jan Torma had the idea of planning a diocesan women’s retreat as she was praying about Pope Francis’ words to the 37th National Convention of Renewal in the Holy Spirit on June 3, 2014. The pope told participants, “This is your definition: a current of grace.” He reminded them, “This is the foundation: to adore God. Seek sanctity in the new life of the Holy Spirit. Be dispensers of the grace of God.” Torma had also been moved by Pope Benedict XVI’s words in his apostolic letter “Ubicomque et Semper:” “At the root of all evangelization, there is not a human plan of expansion, but the desire to share the inestimable gift that God has willed to give us, making us sharers in his own life.”

Sister Shields belongs to Servants of God’s Love, a small, charismatic religious order in the diocese of Lansing, Michigan, founded to bring God’s love where it is most needed in this particular time. Their current work includes teaching in four Catholic schools, caring for foster children and providing a home for the elderly who have no family and no financial means. In the early years of Emmanuel House, Sister Shields was sitting beside a dying woman who had been unresponsive for some time. She said to her, “Helen, when you see the Lord, remember us to him.” Helen opened her eyes and answered, “Every day before the throne of God, I’ll thank him for the Servants of God’s Love.”

Sister Shields led her first retreats at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1975. She has preached all over the world as part of Renewal Ministries. She said it was very moving to meet believers in Eastern Europe who had suffered under communism, and inspiring to participate in the lively worship of African and Latin American Catholics, who gave her much more than she brought them.

She has authored several books, including “Deeper Conversion,” “To Be Like Jesus,” and “More of the Holy Spirit.” However, she said that her most satisfying ministry over the past 23 years has been a 15-minute radio program, “Food for the Journey,” based on the Mass readings for each weekday. Broadcast worldwide, the program provides nourishment for people carrying heavy crosses. “I often read emails from listeners, on my knees,” she said. “They have no idea how holy they are!”

Members of the planning team for the retreat are Torma; Carol Miller, St. Matthew Cathedral parishioner and retired pastoral minister at Marian High School; Mary Glowaski, director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization; and Cecilia Aguilar-Tussey, assistant in the Office of Evangelization. For more information visit

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