By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
WHEATLAND — When planning programs and retreats at Our Lady of the Prairie in rural Wheatland, the advisory committee looks at what is going on in the church. “Pope Francis’ peace messages and themes have been the focus the last couple of years,” said director Sister Kathleen Storms, SSND.
The pope’s release of his encyclical Laudato Si and designation of the Year of Mercy provided plenty of ideas for events at the Prairie.
“Several of our programs and retreats are specifically designed around this goal (of mercy),” Sr. Storms said. The Second Step of Mercy: A Men’s Retreat was held Jan. 29-31. Women of Mercy: A Women’s Retreat, will be held March 18-19. Kathy Coffey, author of “Women of Mercy,” will lead the retreat. Journey to Forgiveness, by Pat Shea, will be held April 29-May 1. Works of Mercy in Action is scheduled for Aug. 7 and The Promise of Restorative Justice, with Fred Van Liew, author of “The Justice Diary — an Inquiry into Justice in America,” will be held Oct. 21-23. Sr. Storms noted that “all of our Come to the Quiet days are an aspect of Year of Mercy.”
To highlight Works of Mercy in Action, Sr. Storms plans to have a speaker who will talk about works that have been set up in Cedar Rapids and the outreach for those who suffered because of the 2000 flood. Also, “we intend to have Humility of Mary Shelter and Housing, someone from RiverBend Food Bank and other folks. I am open to others.”
Sr. Storms said the first of two fundraisers for Our Lady of the Prairie has a mercy theme: Rooted in Love: the Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang. That event will be held at St. Ambrose University in Davenport on March 10 at 7 p.m. Sister Nancy Murray, OP, will perform a one-woman play about Sr. Stang, an American nun who was murdered in Brazil.
Relating to Laudato Si and Earth Day is “Compassion for Our Fragile Earth,” by Sister Janet Maliak, SSND, and Sister Paulette Zimmerman, SSND, from April 22-24. “I have studied both the Year of Mercy suggestions and Laudato Si in coming up with the programs,” Sr. Storms said. “Speakers sometimes are local and have been suggested by participants in our ongoing programs. I read books on the topics and check out the availability of presenters. Programs are set up seasonally as well — Lent usually has presenters for both men and women’s retreats.”
She is especially excited that Coffey, a well-known international presenter, is doing a weekend at the Prairie on Women of Mercy. Reflecting on mercy with “skin and a human face,” Coffey asks “What can better lead us into the quality of mercy than seeing it at work in the lives of those who make it tangible? Mercy can remain an abstraction until we see it flourish in Teresa of Avila, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katharine Drexel and many more merciful models.” Through the art of Michael O’Neill McGrath, lively storytelling, discussion and quiet reflection, participants will discover “what mercy means to me.” Taking thoughtful ownership through this process will enable us to better embrace Pope Francis’ invitation.
To see all the programs the Prairie has to offer, visit www.chmiowa.org and click on Prairie Retreat. To book a program or to inquire about financial assistance, call (563) 336-8414. Many programs book early.