By Celine Klosterman
Mila Grady has gone to plenty of retreats.
But for her, nothing compared to a Christian Experience Weekend.
“There was a palpable sense of God’s love,” says the member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City of the CEW she attended last March. “… You have other spiritual experiences, but this was intense.”
Some parishes in the Davenport Diocese are hoping to offer similarly intense experiences for participants in upcoming weekends, many of which are slated for February and March. (See chart below.) Open to Christians 18 and older, each retreat will offer witness talks, Mass, the sacrament of reconciliation and discussion. But what Grady thinks plays a large role in the spiritual intimacy she and others felt on her retreat is the “power of prayer. People are praying for this retreat all year long.”
Hearing from fellow Christians who’ve been through trying times helps bring people closer to God, too, says Bill Roush, advisory board chairman for upcoming CEWs at St. Mary’s in Riverside.
Witnesses share stories on everything from divorces and financial struggles to stories of inspiration and finding God in creation.
“CEW allowed me to confidentially collaborate with other men in the community who experience the same questions as I did when it comes to our faith and how we experience and live it daily,” says Dave Sharp. A member of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, he’s attended annual CEW retreats since 2006 because he feels it’s “powerful” to be with those who also want to be close to Christ.
“It builds our community,” says Bev Heintz. She is women’s lay director for an upcoming CEW at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, which is joining with Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire for the retreat. Weekend participants take spiritual benefits gained in a CEW “when they go out to the grocery store, when they work with teachers at school. It influences everyone in daily life.”
Since their respective first retreats, Grady and Sharp say elements of the liturgy hold more meaning for them. “I pay a little more attention to the Mass readings,” says Grady. Witnesses on her retreat often quoted Scripture, which gave her more appreciation for the Bible.
Sharp previously didn’t put much thought into the sacraments at Mass each week, but “learned through CEW that the sacraments are our identity with the saving acts of Jesus.”
After taking part in three CEWs, Roush has come to expect changes in participants. “They’ll go in with an attitude that ‘This isn’t for me; I’m too apprehensive or private for this,’ and you can just see a transformation taking place within them. It’s amazing how God works through CEW.”
Upcoming CEW retreats
Bettendorf, Our Lady of Lourdes Church and School: Women’s weekend 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 to 5 p.m. Feb. 8. Men’s weekend 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20 to 5 p.m. Feb. 22. Cost: $30. Contacts: Connie Cervantes, (563) 359-4952 or Fred Joers, (563) 355-5140.
Clinton, Prince of Peace Academy and College Preparatory: Women’s weekend 8 p.m. Feb. 20 to 5 p.m. Feb. 22. Men’s weekend 8 p.m. March 6 to 5 p.m. March 8. Cost: $30, $10 deposit required at sign-up. Contact: Cathy Eggers, (563) 243-2177.
Davenport, St. Paul the Apostle School: Women’s weekend 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20 to 5 p.m. Feb. 22. Men’s weekend 7:30 p.m. March 6 to 5 p.m. March 8. Cost: $30. Contacts: Karen Kaalberg, (563) 323-5046 or Brian Wiedenhoeft, (563) 322-8185.
Davenport, Holy Family Parish: Women’s weekend Oct. 9-11. Men’s weekend Oct. 23-25. Cost: $30. Contacts: Kathy Bierl, (563) 391-3081 or Terry Hendershott, (563) 676-9025.
DeWitt, St. Joseph Parish: Men’s weekend 8 p.m. Feb. 6 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 8. Cost: $35. Contact: Don Fuglsang, (563) 659-9958.
Long Grove, St. Ann Church: Women’s weekend 7:30 p.m. March 6 to 4:30 p.m. March 8. Men’s weekend 7:30 p.m. March 20 to 4:30 p.m. March 22. Cost: $35. Contacts: Bev Heintz, (563) 285-4947 or Matt Wilson, (563) 285-9095.
Mount Pleasant, St. Alphonsus Church: Men’s and women’s weekend March 6-8. Friday, 7-10 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost: $35. Contacts: Judy Hoover, (319) 696-2196 or Jim McCormick, (319) 696-3466.
Riverside, St. Mary Church: Women’s weekend 7 p.m. March 6 to 4:30 p.m. March 8. Men’s weekend 7 p.m. March 27 to 4:30 p.m. March 29. Cost: $50. Contacts: Sue Waterman, (319) 354-5882 or (319) 400-5882, or Mark Fiagle, (319) 331-4820 or (319) 354-7048.