By Barb Arland-Fye
Ten years ago, Karen Kilburg of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport organized a retreat for adults with disabilities that has become a cherished parish tradition.
Originally from Bellevue, Iowa, Kilburg had been volunteering since high school at retreats for adults with disabilities in the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Later, she decided to organize a similar retreat at Our Lady of Victory, recruiting experienced volunteers from the archdiocese to mentor new volunteers from her parish.
The success of that first Adults with Disabilities Renewal Day has encouraged Kilburg to offer the event year after year at Our Lady of Victory with help from family, friends and other parishioners.
This year’s event paid tribute to the first retreat by repeating its theme: “Stop for God.” Held Feb. 22, the retreat focused on how street signs remind people to take time and “stop for God” in everyday life. All together, 57 individuals from throughout the region participated in the event — 21 adults with disabilities and 36 volunteers, including staff.
Participants made crafts such as prayer beads and mobiles, listened to talks, sang songs and worshipped God in a prayer service that Deacon John Wagner, a parishioner, led. The retreat concluded with a reminder to “Go” make a difference in the world.
Deacon Wagner, a nurse by profession, previously volunteered as a nurse at the retreat. He also participates in activities with retreat participants and team members. Newly ordained last July, Deacon Wagner served as deacon for this year’s retreat. “I led the prayer service, read Scripture and gave a homily. This was a very rewarding and challenging task. The challenge with giving a homily to the intellectually disabled community is that the homily must be adult in focus, but also presented in a clear fashion, not simple, but direct and communicated clearly.
“The past few years I had the opportunity to watch Deacon Steve MacDonald from the Dubuque Archdiocese in the deacon role and was able to learn quite a bit,” Deacon Wagner said. “It was a real treat as Deacon Steve was a speaker on the weekend, and a bit nerve wracking as he attended the prayer service, but, he said that I did fine.
“The main message I conveyed was that they (the participants), being baptized, were called to minister to others, just as all Christians are. I told them that they had many people in their lives — family, friends and those who cared for them — and that they could be Jesus to these people, that they could bring joy and faith into the lives of others.”
Parishioners Cliff and Jan Tappa of Tappa’s Steak House in Davenport have been providing the retreat meal at cost and volunteering in the kitchen to prepare it these past 10 years. Each year, the Tappas choose one young adult male employee to assist them “so that the employee “can see how wonderful this event is,” Jan said. It’s especially moving when the workers are pulled out of the kitchen for a blessing from the participants. “That’s when they get to see that Christian love and support,” she added.
Parishioners Chris and Lynn Olds are longtime volunteers at the retreat as well. Their daughters have also helped out. Chris leads music with fellow parishioners Paul Krzmarzick and Mark McGraw.
“Originally, I did it as a favor to Karen. But as I got more involved in it, I realized I was getting back more than I was giving,” Chris said. “It is such a fun and powerful day to see people come out of their shells and get a chance to really express themselves.”
Kilburg appreciates her volunteers and has blossomed in organizing the retreat, Jan Tappa notes.
“It just has a special place in my heart,” Kilburg says. “I love getting to see participants come back year after year. We don’t realize how easy our lives are, compared to what they struggle with sometimes.”