By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Participants in two recent diocesan retreats – one for men and one for women — had the opportunity to step away from the busyness of life and focus on their relationship with God.
Carlos Obando, programs director for the Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, Calif., led a men’s Lenten retreat on April 6 titled, “Disciples According to the Heart of Jesus.” The 22 participants reflected on their faith journey and relationship with Christ, listened to short talks and participated in prayerful reflection times and group sharing.
“I spoke about discipleship, our struggles to please the Lord and how we can become ‘bridge people’ where we can connect the profane with the divine by being disciples according to the heart of Jesus,” Obando said. “I believe giving this retreat was a blessed opportunity for me … I felt not only a special connection with the guys but I also felt welcomed by them. It was as if we had known each other for several years. I can only assume that the topic brought us closer to each other.”
Obando “could reach into one’s mind, heart and soul,” retreat participant Paul Goedken of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell said. He felt a closer relationship with God as a result of a thought Obando shared. The thought goes something like this: “The more in touch we are with God, the more sensitive we are to life, not only our life, but the lives of others around us.”
During the diocesan women’s retreat on April 13, 60 women reflected with facilitator, Ana Ibarra, on the role of Mary in their lives. Ibarra, coordinator for Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Las Vegas, invited women to consider “Mary: The ‘Yes’ that Changed the World.” They explored how Mary’s life is a model for all women, especially during the ups and downs of life.
“The women who attended the retreat brought an eagerness to discover their gifts, open their hearts to God’s love and share their journeys of life. It was a joy to listen to each story of courage and love and it filled me with renewed hope and faith,” Ibarra said. “We expressed ourselves through art, the creation of a rosary and prayer to offer all of our ‘yeses’ to the glory of God. As women, we seem to always be busy with work, projects and, of course, solving the world’s problems. Sometimes we get down on ourselves for doing too much, but we have the greatest role model, Mary, the Mother of God, who always said ’yes’ (to God) and changed the world forever.”
Retreat participant Jeannie Kingma, a member of St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa, said the retreat helped her to better understand Mary, what she went through and how Catholics can relate to her. “My husband attends Mass with me but was not raised Catholic; he has always wondered why we pray to Mary. The day helped me understand how to explain how the Catholic Church holds Mary so close.”Cynthia Gillham, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City, said she enjoyed being with other Catholic women of all ages from around the diocese and sharing stories of faith. “One of the activities I enjoyed the most was reflecting on the wall of photos of key times in Mary’s life. We really got to stop and think about how Mary handled each one of them in her young life, and everything she had to overcome. She handled each and every one of them with patience and love. What a wonderful role model we have in our Blessed Mother of God!”