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 | By Elizabeth Hansen

The Power of Retreat

Making Time to Quiet and Open Your Heart

What comes to mind when you think of retreats? Silence and solitude? Talks and music? A guided experience with a spiritual director? Simply time to rest?

Maybe a more relevant question is: does taking a retreat even seem feasible for you?

Bert Schomberger, program director at the diocese’s St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt, knows that giving up a weekend is a big ask, especially for people in the thick of work and family life. But when possible, she encourages it, for the sake of a more fruitful retreat.

“People come in on Friday night, and they bring the world with them,” she said. “It’s hard to settle in, so they need the extra time away to quiet their hearts. And then they can listen.”

Still, for people who need more flexibility, the St. Francis Retreat Center offers affordable overnight stays for individuals, along with resources to make a self-directed retreat. Bert is also working to develop more one-day programs, “where people can come and be home by dinner.”

And then there is nature’s cathedral—nearly 100 acres of it at St. Francis, with gardens and walking trails open daily.

“We hear many times that there’s something special about this place. It is holy ground,” Bert said. “And it’s set aside to be that.”

There are as many ways to encounter God as there are people, and the same applies to the different ways people find renewed spiritual strength through rest. Here’s how some Catholics in the Diocese of Lansing approach retreats – and why they take the time to do it.

Bert Shomberger, St. Mary Parish (Williamston):

“Because I lead a retreat center, I have to go somewhere that’s less structured and more silent. It’s hard to step back and just be fed, myself. So I need a silent retreat somewhere away from where I live and work, that gives me time to ponder, to question, to journal. Where the Blessed Sacrament is available to you at two in the morning when you can’t sleep. Abiding is a word we’re not good at – just to be with him without any expectations. We ask, ‘what do you want me to do, Lord,’ and he just wants you to be with him.”

Emily Mattson, St. Thomas Aquinas/St. John Student Center (East Lansing):

“I just graduated from Siena Heights University, so kind of stepping out more into the adult world. (On retreats), I find journaling super helpful. My notebook and pen are my best friends, writing all my thoughts out to God. Also walks – rosary walks, saying the Divine Mercy chaplet, just walking and talking to God. I generally have a book I’m bringing, or the retreat might have talks, and I’ll talk to the lord about those. For me, a retreat is an opportunity to learn to listen. Journaling, and the walks, and conversation with God are practices I want to do in my daily life. I want to learn how to listen, and retreat is a chance for me to practice.”

Brian Fink, Church of the Resurrection (Lansing):

“I made a retreat in November of 2022, the first since getting married in 2014. I'm a husband and father of five young children, living on a small hobby farm with goats, pigs, and chickens. Going on retreat means asking my wife to shoulder the full burden of the domestic church (cooking, cleaning, child-wrangling, etc.) which requires heroic virtue on her part, and for which I am eternally grateful. Given my personality, and as a father of five, I find silence and structure incredibly beneficial: time for silent prayer, adoration, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual reading, even being able to take a long, unencumbered walk. (On this recent) retreat, I also benefited from healing/intercessory prayer and quality time with the men from my parish who were also there. It (helped me) to recognize the tremendous gift of my vocation and renew my commitment to it. It also gave me the chance to grow in fraternal charity with my friends, bringing new depth and power to those friendships.”

Cathy Treadwell, St. Thomas Aquinas (East Lansing):

“(As parents), we’re always needed at home, there’s always physical needs, spiritual needs. I have five kids, we’re homeschooling, my husband’s working a demanding schedule. It’s really easy to get caught up in with what everyone needs. But trying to seek God is definitely fruitful. Sometimes my time away is praying a rosary on the front porch. I’d get interrupted, but that was part of the call for me. One Saturday, I left just for the day and was home by four – and part of my time was grocery shopping! – but I could pace myself. That day was so peaceful. I found a trial that was new to me and got to explore it by myself. And then I went to adoration after. Pretty early on in ‘momming,’ I read The Mother’s Rule of Life, and that spoke to me—the idea of scheduling into your life what’s important to you and praying about how to do that. I get up super early to have downtime. I know some moms do better with staying up late, and there were times in my life when I couldn’t have done that, but that is essential to me to have sanity.”

Elizabeth Hansen is a freelance writer in Lansing who attends the Church of the Resurrection.