Regnum Christi

retreats

Rest and Retreat Mississippi

Rest & Retreat Offers Authentic Rest for Body, Mind, and Soul

Earlier this fall, Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi, Lorianne MacDonnell, and Regnum Christi member Tara White, collaborated to host Rest and Retreat (R & R), a Christian retreat experience focused on God’s plan of authentic rest. The retreat is designed to provide a personal, peaceful, and playful environment where people can gather together in community to be restored, renewed, repaired, replenished, and revived spiritually, mentally, and physically. It is the goal of the retreat that participants will come away with the knowledge and practices needed to thrive in their daily routine towards a healthy well-being.

 

It was while Lorianne was working in Cincinnati that the idea for the retreat started to take shape. “The Lord placed the word rest on my heart, and it was a word that I just kept praying about.” During Covid, Lorianne gave an online retreat exploring various Gospel passages that shed light on the word ‘rest,’ but even then, she knew this was just the beginning. “I knew there was more to unpack, and the Lord, in his generous and patient timing, started to reveal this little by little.”

 

Tara, who is a Pietra fitness instructor, had also been exploring, for many years, the wholeness that comes from integrally caring for and nourishing the whole self – body, mind, and soul. And for Tara, this care includes rest.

 

“We’re so fixated on modern productivity in our culture that we don’t know how to seek authentic rest, and often we’ve made our lives so saturated in doing more things that we have lost the balance in doing the most important things well. Authentic rest is a spiritual discipline that affects everything we do, from going to Mass and spending time with God in prayer, to moving and fueling our bodies with clean, whole foods. It is not a luxury: it is a spiritual practice. It’s a choice. Rest is a grace we extend to ourselves, and this grace gives us the opportunity to put back into order anything that has shifted out of alignment with God’s plan. It’s the key to how we live and move and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28) – God didn’t just give us a soul, but he also gave us a mind and a body, and authentic rest asks us to consider how we are bringing these all together and caring for all of these gifts.”

 

Initially, Lorianne and Tara had imagined the retreat to be a source of evangelization for those who were still taking first steps along their spiritual journey, or a gentle encouragement for those who had fallen away from their faith to return to the sacraments. For this reason, they had invited twelve women with a variety of spiritual experiences, not just seasoned Mass-goers, but also those who did not go to church at all. What they found was that even those who were already strong in their faith often lacked the balance and well-roundedness that comes from integrating authentic rest into all aspects of life, and that even the long-time Regnum Christi members who attended gained a new and refreshing wholeness from their participation in the retreat.

 

The one-day retreat was held on September 9th in Pass Christian, Mississippi, and hosted 12 women. The day began at 10:00 a.m. with a welcome and opening prayer, followed by a Pietra Fitness movement session, a workout which combines stretching and strengthening with Christian prayer and meditation – this session was led by Tara herself. Retreatants then enjoyed a juice and snack while they learned about the lymphatic system, then participated in a journaling session and a Christian meditation on rest, led by Lorianne. After lunch, the women attended several different sessions on a wide variety of topics on the theme of healthy and creative rest, including general nutrition, mind detox, dance, leisure, painting, and gratitude. The day wrapped up with an examen and round table discussion, closing in a Litany of Self-Love. Mass and confession were also available.

 

While Lorianne and Tara are the co-founders and the retreat directors, they had four other Regnum Christi women give of their time and talents towards making the event a success, by presenting talks, offering hospitality, and designing the print materials and artwork for the retreat. “It was beautiful to watch these RC women bring their gifts and put them at the service of their sisters,” says Lorianne. “I enjoyed seeing that come to life, women building up other women, our own RC sisters using their talents, and opening the door for many more of our members to use and share their gifts.” In the R & R experience, even Lorianne herself was able to put her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Consumer Studies, which she obtained before she became consecrated, to good use. “I love how the Lord uses everything – nothing goes to waste if we’re willing to surrender and make it available to him, to give him access to our heart and use everything the way he wants to use it.”

 

The goal of the retreat was to help the women feel the sense of wholeness that comes when mind, body, and soul come together, and to be urged to continue to seek this wholeness in their daily lives. Their motto of “Rest well and be well” reflects the idea that peace, health, and healing come from the integration of the whole self. In this way, R & R echoes Regnum Christi spirituality, one which is centered on the integral formation of the entire person. “I think that’s why the idea of this retreat resonates with Tara and I so much,” says Lorianne. “With the love we both have for Regnum Christi, the love for our spirituality, it’s been beautiful seeing this integration come to life, and seeing how it can serve women and make them more whole.”

 

With the next retreat booked for March 22-23, 2024, Tara and Lorianne are eager to see where the Lord will take this R & R initiative. “He’s opening the doors and we’re taking steps,” says Tara. “We’re all in, and ready to see how God wants this all to unfold.” Tara and Lorianne hope to offer weekend retreats, in addition to their one-day retreats, and their dream is ultimately to be able to host these retreats in different locations, like the beach and the mountains, where participants can spend time in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

To find out more about the R & R initiative or to inquire about hosting a retreat in your area, email [email protected]. The R & R website, restandretreat.org, will be launching soon; email to be put on their newsletter to receive news and updates on the R & R initiative.

 

You can also read more about Tara’s own journey towards health and hope, and becoming a Pietra Fitness instructor, here.

Rest & Retreat Offers Authentic Rest for Body, Mind, and Soul Read More »

Women in Transcendence, An Apostolate for Women to Flourish and Be Transformed

Women in Transcendence is an apostolate begun by the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi for pastoral work for women. It has its headquarters in Mexico City, and it also accompanies women in other cities and even other countries. Their website is www.mujerestrascendiendo.com, where they offer information about a dynamic and practical certification that has four modules: The Identity and Greatness of the Woman; Feminine Communication; The Peace of the Feminine Heart; and Transcend as a Woman. It is offered both in-person and online.

Consecrated woman Martha Oseguera, who created this apostolate, considers it  important to work in this area because women rarely receive formation about their beauty or dignity; she doesn’t believe it, or doesn’t know how to live it fully. When a woman finds it, she flourishes and is transformed, thus transforming her surroundings.

For this reason, at the end of each module a spiritual retreat is offered with the theme of that module, as well as weekend retreats for healing of the heart and for prayer from the heart, so that the Holy Spirit may work deeply in each woman’s heart.

This apostolate is open to the participation of any woman, though it has a Christian focus. Most participants come to know about it through the apostolates of the Regnum Christi schools and sections, and the most incredible thing is that in their experience, it is passed on by word of mouth.

“Women in Transcendence is a program that came into my life to transform it,” affirms Maricela Covarrubias, a participant. “I arrived as a woman not knowing myself, my gifts, my qualities, or knowing the importance of loving myself. Every module had its own meaning, which together helped me know myself and grow spiritually, to have fuller relationships and experiences viewed in a new way. Knowing that I am loved by God has changed me in many aspects; I have let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit, and this has allowed me to discover myself. It has given great peace and tranquility.

“I leave with a very significant change in my life, very aware and well-equipped to keep working, and so to find my mission in life.

“Understanding my femininity and the gift of my heart has given me a profound peace that allows me to see things and situations in another way. I am always thankful for doing this workshop; it is a fundamental part of my life. Thank you for everything,” she concludes.

Martha Oseguera

Martha Oseguera has been in consecrated life for 32 years, and she lives in Mexico City. She has served in different fields, such as education, marriage ministry, personal accompaniment, and youth formation and accompaniment. She now serves women in the apostolate she founded, with the aim of accompanying them on a group and personal level in the living of their feminine identity to the full.

 

Translated from the original Spanish publication.

Women in Transcendence, An Apostolate for Women to Flourish and Be Transformed Read More »

Spiritual Exercises | Lourdes: “After this week long retreat I can tell you: the heart is so well made that it needs its time to connect”

Lourdes Gómez is a young woman from Valencia, Spain, who is studying her fifth year of medicine. She is a Regnum Christi member and has participated, along with three other young women, a consecrated woman, and four young men, in spiritual exercises preached by Fr. Jaime Rodríguez, LC, during Holy Week. She tells us that she has received many lights and that “one of them has been gaining clarity to choose and desire what best directs me to the purpose for which I have been created, which is to give of myself, because I, and each of us, are a gift!”

Lourdes is from the young women’s section of Valencia. She values the importance of silence as one of the fruits of these weeklong spiritual exercises: “This has helped me greatly, but above all, it taught me much. It is so necessary for everything… but truly fundamental for prayer!” Lourdes also speaks to us about disconnecting from the internet and explains to us that “in the hyper-digitalized world in which we live, where everything goes so fast, sometimes we young people are afraid of missing out by not ‘always being connected,’ but if you don’t order your priorities and your time, life leaves you behind!” Ultimately, “these were days when I have been able to be alone with Jesus and put my life at his feet—all my worries, fears, desires, dreams, everything—and let him work in me!”

Lourdes, with her group of ECYD girls in Valencia

Have you gone on retreat before? What did these weeklong spiritual exercises bring you as opposed to weekend retreats?

Thanks to my high school (Cumbres School Valencia) and Regnum Christi, I have always had the opportunity to do weekend spiritual exercises every year.

Compared to weekend spiritual exercises, I have realized that this time is necessary to enter into harmony and so to reach a true encounter with Jesus, to immerse yourself in his mysteries, and to let that transform our lives. As St. John Paul II told us: “God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” And this requires time to order our lives, desires, choices, and the purpose for which each one of us has been created around this encounter.

They have been a “little school”: now it is time to share and put into practice everything we have learned, like the Apostles, who didn’t stay all twelve together forever.

Did you feel like returning to your daily life, or did you prefer to stay on that Tabor?

I had never experienced a retreat this long, but after this week, I can tell you: the heart is so well made that it needs time to make itself available, to disconnect from so many “noises” that lurk in our daily life, to connect and enter into prayer little by little. I have realized that we just have to offer ourselves, and he does the rest!

I arrived very eager because I felt that I needed these days of intimacy with Jesus, and they have been days of many graces: “It is good to be here!” I thought that was the feeling Peter, James, and John had when Jesus brought them up the mountain. But, as Fr Jaime told us well, these days have been “real life,” not when each one returns to their city and home, because these days are when the soul has had the most clarity and the least noise and distractions. These are days in which we have truly been able to live in the light of the Truth and illumine our lives with that light, and that is totally how it has been!

As Father also told us, these days have been a “little school”: now it is time to share and put into practice everything we have learned, like the Apostles, who didn’t stay all twelve together forever; rather, Jesus sent them into the world with the Holy Spirit. Now it’s our turn!

Sharing their experiences after spiritual exercises

How do you handle silence and living without social media?

The truth is that, in spite of being a little scared of so many days of silence at the beginning, I now seek it in my daily life! Silence has helped me greatly, but above all, it taught me much. It is so necessary for everything… but mainly fundamental for prayer! Sometimes we complain that Jesus doesn’t speak to us, but Jesus ALWAYS speaks. It’s just impossible to listen to him if we don’t seek out that silence. These days revolved around prayer, and now I ask myself every day, “How am I only going to leave the day’s leftover ‘crumbs’ for prayer?” Prayer is an encounter; you can’t improvise it!

Something else they recommended to us was to turn off our phones and social media. I thought, “All or nothing!” The night we arrived, I sent an email to change an internship at the university, and I turned it off for nine whole days. It was amazing! In the hyper-digitalized world in which we live, where everything goes so fast, sometimes we young people are afraid of missing out by not “always being connected,” but if you don’t order your priorities and your time, life loses you!

They recommended us to turn off our phones and social media. I thought, “All or nothing!” It was amazing!

Spiritual exercises are an opportunity to meditate, dialogue with God, consult him, and let him put light, love, forgiveness, and inspiration in your life. How do you live that experience?

These days have been a true gift! These were days when I have been able to be alone with Jesus and put my life at his feet—all my worries, fears, desires, dreams, everything—and let him work in me! Letting him be the one who gives light, clarity in the Truth, and great peace for each one, and asking him, like the Blessed Virgin, that my life be a “let it be done to me” for each of his plans!

Moreover, having lived Holy Week with this recollection has been a true blessing and one more grace. I realized that everything—his Passion, Death, and Resurrection—is for me, for each one of us, to open for us the doors of heaven! My life has no meaning if it is not in light of his cross because I am worth no more than or less than the blood of Christ!

The participants in the exercises were accompanied by the novices during these days.

Could you share with us a light that you had during these exercises? Is it going to change your life in some way?

I have received many lights, but one of them has been gaining clarity to choose and desire what best directs me to the purpose for which I have been created, which is to give of myself because I, and each of us, are a gift! So I desire a dedicated life, a life of service. Where? How? I don’t know! But I’m not worried because it is clear to me that my purpose is to arrive in heaven, and every day I ask for this trust and filial abandonment to my Father, who, as the Gospel says, knows what we need before we ask him and has even counted all the hairs of my head. Then what do I have to be worried about? Just living in the truth each day, letting him be the one to keep guiding me.

 

Original article published in Spanish here.

 

Spiritual Exercises | Lourdes: “After this week long retreat I can tell you: the heart is so well made that it needs its time to connect” Read More »

“Altogether Beautiful” Artists’ Retreat Explores the Connection between Art and Theology

“Art is the Way of Beauty. It has a special way of piercing our hearts in order to receive grace.”

These are the words of Holly Schapker, a Cincinnati artist who has been working closely with Fr. Thomas Flynn, LC, and Called to Create, an initiative established in the Ohio Valley area by artist and educator, Laura Kline, and designed to spiritually nurture Catholic artists and encourage them to use their creative gifts as a means of sharing God’s truth and love through their artwork.

One of the many offerings of the Called to Create apostolate is the annual artists’ retreat, which provides the space for artists to create in a way that collaborates with the Holy Spirit while exploring a different spiritual theme each year. Last November, in response to 2021 being declared by Pope Francis The Year of St. Joseph, the Called to Create group decided to delve into what St. Joseph, who was a craftsman and artisan himself, could mean to them as artists. At the retreat, Holly shared the process that went into her creation of an oil painting of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus, while Fr. Thomas spoke on the theme of the fatherhood of St. Joseph, demonstrating to the participants the important and profound connection between art and theology.

Indeed, for Holly, her Catholic spirituality and the creative process are closely linked. “My paintings depict my quest for truth, goodness, and beauty. Before my easel, I may practise lectio divina meditation or a centering prayer;

Joseph and Jesus by Holly Schapker

I intend to relinquish my personal control of the brush to God, which results in unexpected gifts that I humbly receive.” During the November retreat, Holly and Fr. Thomas collaborated on prayers, meditations, and the overall structure of the weekend. Fr. Thomas created his own portrait of St. Joseph and Jesus along with the other artists, and upon Holly’s request, allowed her to paint on his canvas. “I enjoyed working with him, and in the process, we created a new friendship as well as a new piece of art!”

It was the Associates Degree in Fine Arts that he received during his time spent at the Legionary Novitiate in Cheshire, Connecticut that initially inspired in Fr. Thomas not only an interest and appreciation for art, but also a zeal to reach out to and collaborate with artists like Holly and the Called to Create group. “I have always been very interested in the relationship between theology and art, and how my work as a theologian can help artists in the shaping of their work, and how it can help spread the faith,” says Fr. Thomas who, along with ministering to local artists in the Ohio Valley, serves as the chaplain to the Women’s Regnum Christi Section in the Greater Cincinnati area, the chaplain to the Consecrated Women, and the assistant chaplain to the Regnum Christi Men’s Section.

Debbie Graviss, a Kentucky artist who attended the St. Joseph retreat, shares the fruits from her own retreat experience: “It is so encouraging to be with other artists and share in the creative process together, and I found Fr. Thomas’ presence and support, and especially his participation as an artist, a real comfort. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is moving through art in and new and powerful way, and I’m finding in my own professional art studio and practice that art is a gateway into healing and evangelization with people who would otherwise not step into a church.”Called to Create member, Karrie King, attended her first retreat in 2015, and has attended every retreat since then, including the virtual retreat held in the fall of 2020; the artist retreats provide a yearly spark for her artistic and spiritual progress and well-being. But for Karrie, and many other Called to Create members from Northwest Ohio who make the annual pilgrimage south to the retreat, once a year simply did not feel like enough. “It left us thirsting for more of the marriage of art and spirituality!”

Together with her aunt, Lucille Smith, who has attended every Called to Create retreat since the first one held in 2014, Karrie decided to organize a monthly gathering, called “Paint and Pray,” with artists from her parish and the neighbouring parish. The group, which started with six individuals and has now grown to nearly 20, meets once a month to create art and pray the rosary together. And when even meeting once a month was not often enough, the group started gathering weekly for plein-air painting sessions (called “Van Go”) at local sites or a member’s home, inviting people of all faiths to join them in praising God through the creation of art.

The newest development that has stemmed from these art groups and, initially, the Called to Create retreats, is an art gallery that the group established at their church of Holy Trinity Parish in Assumption, Ohio. The group curates spiritual exhibits that are displayed in the St. Joseph Commons Gallery, and are changed every two to three months. Some of the exhibit themes include “The Many Faces of Jesus,” “All Saints,” “Mary Gardens: A Celebration of God’s Creation,” and “Building God’s Kingdom,” which was a student project and parish photography exhibit that presented images of the church and the parish grounds. The gallery also features an exhibit entitled “Called to Create,” where participants display the artwork they created while on the annual artists’ retreat. The current exhibit on display, called “Building God’ Kingdom,” features architecturally inspired artwork accompanied by related passages from Scripture.

“As you can see, the Called to Create Catholic Artists’ Retreat has inspired many additional art experiences for our local group of artists, and Laura Kline lit a fire when she started this series of retreats,” says Karrie. “May all future Called to Create retreats continue to enkindle a fire in both the artists and those who are drawn closer to God through their art!”

The theme for this year’s upcoming retreat, to be held November 3-6, 2022, is “Altogether Beautiful,” inspired by a newly discovered retreat for artists written by John Paul II in the late 1960s. The November retreat will be one of the first ever to utilize this work by John Paul II and directly experience the ideas he wanted to convey to artists about the power of beauty to draw people to God. Bill Donaghy, from the Theology of the Body Institute, will be the artist presenter, and Eric Genuis, a well-known concert pianist and Regnum Christi member, will perform for the retreatants and the public on Saturday night. For more information about registering, volunteering, or promoting the retreat, or for attending the public portions of the event, please email [email protected].

Currently, Holly Schapker is working on the Stations of the Cross for a church on the west side of Cincinnati. She also has an exhibit based on Ignatian Spirituality which will be showing at St. Francis Xavier Church until July 31. You can check out her artwork on her website at hollyschapker.com.

 

 

 

“Altogether Beautiful” Artists’ Retreat Explores the Connection between Art and Theology Read More »

María García: I discovered there the one my soul longed for

María García is the director of the Educational Guidance Office of Francisco de Vitoria University. She was born in Madrid and is the oldest of eight siblings. After a time of discernment, she has decided to say “yes” and to become a part of the Regnum Christi family as a lay member. In this interview, Maria tells us what her experience has been like up to now – the conversation with a consecrated woman that touched her soul, her healing in the Masters program in educational accompaniment at the university… and how this decision has affected those around her. “I feel happy and grateful towards God for this gift. This clearly resounds in my family, my marriage, my work and my desire to evangelize and bring many people to the love of Christ.”

How did you come to know about Regnum Christi?

Five and a half years ago I came to work at Francisco de Vitoria University, led by the hand of Our Lady of Fatima. I needed a change of profession, I asked her and she brought me here. Before that I had not had the opportunity to get to know anyone who belonged to Regnum Christi, nor had I even heard of the Movement.

What brought you to say ‘yes’ to Christ?

It all began with a friendly conversation with a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi who works at the university. We met because we were working on a project together. That conversation touched my soul. I felt welcomed, accompanied, loved, heard. My heart experienced the love of Christ through that encounter. I was touched by Love and I decided to begin the Masters in Educational Accompaniment program. I felt called to take it.

The Masters program changed my life, moved me profoundly, uncovered my wounds and thanks to the accompaniment that I received and the grace of God I was able to understand what was happening to me. I felt a very clear call from God to live closer to Him, to enter His Heart and from there to love my family and all people more.

The charism of Regnum Christi renewed me spiritually, and I discovered there the one my soul longed for, who in the end was Love with a capital ‘L’. Through the accompaniment from the people on my team and in the different activities that I have been participating in throughout this past year, I understand with greater clarity that it is in Regnum Christi where God wants me to be, and He wants me to develop as a person and apostle, by being a contemplative as well, according to the Heart of Christ.

Maria, in the center of the photo, accompanied by friends, members of her team and the Masters in Accompaniment.

How has Francisco de Vitoria University helped you in the faith?

More than the university in itself, many of the individuals who form part of this community have helped me so much. During the first few years I noticed the sincere welcome and kindness of the people around me. As the years passed, the environment I was in made me contemplate a change in my life, but I didn’t know where exactly I should go. I needed to be accompanied, without even knowing it.

What does Christ say to you in prayer?

Lately he has said many things, but above all I feel his love, and it moves me to be better, to love him more, and to collaborate more actively in evangelization.

God wants me to be Regnum Christi, and He wants me to develop as a person and apostle by being a contemplative as well, according to the Heart of Christ.

What was the celebration like for your association? What did you like the most?

I associated on Monday, the 2nd of February in the chapel of the university in a simple celebration. Many of the people were there who, in some form, maybe even without knowing it, had been part of my story during the process of discernment – professors of the masters program, mentors, classmates and colleagues, the people on my team and friends.

What is going to change from this point on in your life?

I think that the principal change is on the inside. I am happy and grateful to God for this gift. This clearly resounds in my family, my marriage, my work, and my desire to evangelize and bring many people to the love of Christ.

Translated from the original Spanish.

María García: I discovered there the one my soul longed for Read More »

An Instrument of Encounter: Father Kenneth LeBlanc, LC, on Preaching Retreats

In the quiet village of Rogersville, New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada, lies the peaceful Cistercian-Trappist Monastery of Our Lady of Calvary, not far from where Father Kenneth LeBlanc, LC, was born and raised. Here, amid the rural stillness, the LeBlanc family came to pray and celebrate Mass with the Trappist monks, whose silent prayerfulness fascinated Father Kenneth as a young boy. Here, too, is where his father said something to Father Kenneth that would remain with him for a long time: one day, they would spend the entire weekend on retreat together at the monastery. The idea stuck.

When he was sixteen years old, Father Kenneth attended his first weekend retreat at Our Lady of Calvary Abbey. In a subtle but significant way, he knew that he had been changed. The very next weekend, he returned to the monastery for another retreat, this time with his brother and cousin, who were curious about this experience that he had had the week before. The three of them went the following weekend as well, and when word got out that the three were attending retreats at the monastery, the boys’ friends were upset that they had not been invited. By the next weekend, Father Kenneth had brought six young men to the monastery with him for a retreat with the Trappist monks and, as the one who had attended the most often, he became their designated retreat guide.

Two years later, Father Kenneth entered the Legion of Christ, and in 2002 in Rome, he was ordained a Legionary priest. “Thinking back on it,” says Father Kenneth, who now spends much of his time preaching retreats, “it is funny how God was already preparing me in my teenage years to guide retreats for others.”

Currently, Father Kenneth is back in Canada, serving as the Superior of the Legionaries of Christ Community and Chaplain for the Women’s Section in Calgary, Alberta. Besides the many duties that these roles entail, Father Kenneth is also busy preaching retreats. These include eight-day Spiritual Exercises for Legionaries, Consecrated women, and Regnum Christi members and friends; Triduums of Renewal; weekend silent retreats; mornings and evenings of reflections; and even parish missions, from time to time.

Of all the retreats and days of reflections that Father Kenneth has had the opportunity to lead, his favorite are those that last seven or eight days. According to Father Kenneth, the longer the retreat, the better. “It allows for more time for retreatants to digest the material given, and permits people to really enter into prayer on their own,” says Father Kenneth. “I see my role as an instrument of the Holy Spirit, and try to follow what he wants for each person and their needs. The longer I have on the retreat, the more I can help follow up individually with each person.”

In order to be that instrument of the Holy Spirit, and the guide that God is calling him to be, Father Kenneth turns first to prayer. “The first thing I do is to pray,” Father Kenneth says, of the steps he takes to prepare well to lead a retreat. “The more we are in union with God, the better we can be a good instrument of the Lord, and speak with conviction, enthusiasm, and joy.” The second thing he does is to prayerfully prepare his meditations, basing them on Scripture, and framing them within the structure of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises as much as possible. Finally, he tries to come up with considerations and questions that his retreatants can take to prayer, and which, he hopes, will provoke interior reflection and create a space where they can encounter Christ. “I try to foster the right atmosphere and the right framework,” says Father Kenneth, “to bring people to a real union with God.”

The hardest thing about preaching retreats, however, according to Father Kenneth, is first convincing people to attend. “A lot of times, people are afraid of the silence, and having to face themselves,” says Father Kenneth. “It can be scary.” The second hardest thing is convincing retreatants, once they are there, to not be nervous or afraid. “There is nothing to fear with the Lord,” is the message Father Kenneth strives to impart on his retreatants. “He is gentle and patient. He will accompany us with his presence and give us inner peace and freedom.” This is why Father Kenneth knows that once someone arrives at one of his retreats, God’s grace has already done all the work, and it’s up to him, as retreat guide, to merely be an instrument of that grace for the remainder of the retreat. “God can do incredible things with someone who enters a retreat with hunger and thirst for him,” says Father Kenneth. “I marvel at the Holy Spirit, and what he is capable of doing with imperfect instruments like me.”

As retreat guide, Father Kenneth never ceases to be in awe of the fruits that an encounter with God’s grace through retreat can produce. A young man, struggling with his vocation and his future, decides to discern the priesthood when he leaves the retreat. A mother returns home inspired to encourage her husband to start a Conquest boys’ club. A woman receives healing, and is ultimately able to get back on track with her life. A man accepts the forgiveness from God that finally allows him to let go of his own crushing guilt. And, what Father Kenneth has the opportunity to witness most of all, over and over again, are simply the many people who “get a renewed vigor and enthusiasm to fight another year for holiness in their families.”

And the participants aren’t the only ones who experience the fruits of retreat; Father Kenneth feels that, whenever he preaches a retreat, he participates in it just as much as, and if not more than, the retreatants themselves. “When you preach a retreat, you have to really get into it. You spend a lot of hours and days preparing, and then you do it with them,” says Father Kenneth. “John Paul II used to say that the more you share your faith with others, the more it expands inside of you. I found this to be very true!”

Unfortunately, many of the retreats that Father Kenneth had recently scheduled have had to be cancelled due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, he hasn’t let this stop him from preaching and, despite feeling somewhat shy in front of the camera and needing a fair bit of coaxing, he’s transitioned his reflections, retreats, and conferences to an online format. “In certain ways, it has expanded my field of preaching,” says Father Kenneth who, although he’d much prefer to preach retreats in person and face-to-face, is growing accustomed to this new way of transmitting the Gospel. “I think if St. Paul were around today,” he says, “he would be in the media for sure.”

In May, Father Kenneth began producing a new video series called the Pilgrim Sojourner Series, which explores the Our Father, phrase by phrase. You can find this series by following and subscribing to Regnum Christi Calgary on YouTube.

An Instrument of Encounter: Father Kenneth LeBlanc, LC, on Preaching Retreats Read More »

Spiritual Weekend Getaway for Moms and Adult Daughters

The Regnum Christi young woman’s section of Almagro (in South-East Madrid, Spain) organized an event for young women to have a weekend away with their moms.

Thirteen young women between 18 and 29 signed up to spend the weekend with their mothers in Avila, Spain, home of St. Theresa. Paty López, age 29, who runs an event agency, spoke about it. She concluded, “I recommend this event to all mothers and daughters, and encourage them to leave their fears aside and launch into this adventure of getting to know each other more, sharing, forgiving, and spending quality time and many laughs together.”

Paty explained the history, “This new spiritual adventure getaway began five years ago with two Regnum Christi consecrated women who have been accompanying young people for a long time, Tere Rodríguez and Cecilia Ruiloba. They began to consider the possibility of a weekend with mothers and daughters. After much prayer, trusting in God to know that He was going to choose the right moment, and with enlightenment from the Holy Spirit; they decided to do it.”

Paty explained the goal and planning a little more: “The weekend was intended for young women from the Almagro section, between 18 and 29 years old, so that we could have some time with our mothers. The relationship with a mother is fundamental and, many times, it can be wounded by both parties, so it is an important thing to work on. Deepening in this relationship and addressing these hurts is something that is not often done, and it has a very positive impact since it gives a deeper personal security, spiritual and personal growth, and also helps to bring forgiveness.”

Paty noted that her team of RC young women got the ball rolling, “With great enthusiasm, we signed up 13 young women who, in turn, invited their mothers to spend the weekend with us. Some of the mothers traveled to Avila from their areas of residence: Barcelona, ​​Madrid, and Córdoba. It has been two and a half days squeezed to the fullest. We have been able to share, mothers and daughters have gotten to know each other better, we toured Ávila, played team games, had times of prayer and encounters with Christ, and had the opportunity to meet other mothers and others young women from the Almagro section.”

Paty continued, “It has been a joy to see our mothers so excited, and to see the entire team so enthusiastic and enjoying every moment, every activity. It is incredible to see how, in just one weekend, you can create so much deep unity with each other, where people who were complete strangers have ended up having a beautiful friendship and wanting to continue keeping in touch. We have had a true  atmosphere of trust, joy, and fun times.”

She noted, “The daughters were very happy to be able to teach our mothers about the charism of Regnum Christi, what we do in our section of Almagro, what an Encounter with Christ is, how we enjoy our Regnum Christi family, and the joy we feel from keep Christ present in our lives.”

Paty when on to explain how Regnum Christi had helped her, “It has personally helped me make a break in the week and in my life, to see everything with a spiritual perspective and to share it with Jesus. It has also been a gift to be able to live it with my mother, Isabel. We love spending time together but, in the end because of the whirlwind of day to day life, we do not often have the opportunity to enjoy moments like these. I loved that my mother met the Consecrated Women, my friends and their mothers. My family is Catholic but, except for my cousin, no one else belongs to Regnum Christi, so I am happy that my mother was able to know a bit about what RC is.”

Paty concluded, “Without a doubt, I recommend to all mothers and daughters who are considering making this weekend that they leave their fears aside and launch into this adventure of knowing each other more deeply, sharing, and forgiving.”

The original is on the Regnum Christi site of Spain.

Spiritual Weekend Getaway for Moms and Adult Daughters Read More »

Retreat Center Offers Marriage Renewal Based on Emotionally Focused Therapy

Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center, run by Regnum Christi, has begun a new set of marriage renewal weekends based on emotionally focused therapy. This combines faith and psychology to offer couples an opportunity for renewing their relationship.

What made this retreat different from most other Marriage Renewal events was that it was based on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT shaped everything in the retreat providing the structure and a large part of the content.

Our Lady of Bethesda, on the Maryland side of the DC metro area, has run 2 weekends so far with 38 couples.

One Couple on Retreat

Samantha Davies went to the retreat with her husband Steve who had just celebrated 20 years of marriage. She felt that her life was too hectic with their kids and all the demands of life so they didn’t have enough time for each other. They also had a few specific points to focus on. This was pointed our to them by their spiritual director, Fr. Stephen Ellis, LC.

Asked to describe the retreat, Samantha said, “It very beautiful. It was very unifying for us. My husband went on the retreat very doubtful that it would help us resolve our conflicts.” Before they had been on typical marriage retreats focusing on one thing like communication but didn’t go as deep and didn’t help them much. Samantha said that Steve was happily surprised after the fact by how much it helped.

“I had really been looking for an emotional connection,” explained Samantha, “I had really been pursuing a retreat like this to get that connection back.”

She continued describing the time after the retreat, “We found that when we left the retreat, there was a lot that we got from it and there were still some things that had to be unpacked afterward. I feel like it was a launching point to go more deeply. Now we are more unified and thankful for each other. We are back towards the closeness at the beginning of our marriage.”

Emotionally Focused Therapy

EFT has been shown extremely effective for couples. 90% of couples trying it see improvement and 70-75% of couples move from distress to recovery. This is more than double the success rate of other couples therapy.

Dr. Jonathan Marcotte who helped facilitate the retreat described the process, “Dr. Susan Johnson has found that couples get caught in a cycle, they get caught in a dance. There is what she calls the ‘demon dialogues’ where one – either the man or the woman – in the couple becomes ‘the pursuer,’ who’s always pursuing a relationship. The other one is ‘the withdrawer’ who’s always trying to avoid conflict for the sake of improving the relationship.”

Dr. Marcotte went on to describe how such a cycle creates conflict. The goal of resolving relationships with EFT is to move the couple to see the cycle as the common enemy they can fight. For this, there is a lot of training in how to recognize a cycle and help the other get out.

Empathy plays a large role in EFT as that is a main path out of the cycle, explained Dr. Marcotte. Once they empathize, they can often see how their actions pushed the other person into an emotional place that caused a lot of conflict. They can then take responsibility for their actions.

Dr. Johnson created a weekend workshop to help couples with EFT, including certain key topics the couples need to work through.

The Marriage Renewal Retreats at Our Lady of Bethesda

The general structure of the weekend is around eight conversations. For each conversation, there is a 30-40 minute talk. After, they do a 5-15 minute role-play with a real couple to give the couple an idea what the conversation will look like. The role-play should help them go deep rather than stay on the surface. The couples have about an hour to go over one or two exercises in that conversation. This repeats for the eight conversations.

During the hour couples had to talk, a team of therapists trained in EFT was available for whenever a couple wanted help.

Samantha found these conversations helpful. She noted, “It required both spouses to be in tune with what the other spouse was experiencing which could be something completely different from what they are experiencing. It really helped each spouse to understand each other better and be empathetic to where the other spouse is. At the same time, the conversations touched on some emotional and deep topics.”

Dr. Marcotte explains how they adapted this for Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center, “We made it Catholic. We integrated things like renewing marriage vows and integrating Catholic teachings into each of the conversations.” This involved things like mentioning prayer, adding the spiritual level of intimacy to the section on intimacy, and a number of the speakers using spiritual elements in their talks.

The retreat had a team of psychologists on hand, creating a ratio of about 1 therapist per 3 or 4 couples. Fr John Paul Durán, LC, was the chaplain and the whole team at Our Lady of Bethesda welcomed the couples.

Samantha concluded her words, “This was the best marriage retreat we’ve ever been on. You just feel a little bit remiss… We’ve been married 20 years, Why have we never received some of these tools before now? I think everybody should do the retreat at some point.”

You can find out more about Our Lady of Bethesda’s events for married couples on their website.

Note: Steve and Samantha Davies were pseudonyms for obvious reasons.

Retreat Center Offers Marriage Renewal Based on Emotionally Focused Therapy Read More »

Six Days in Silence for the Soul

In our busy world, everyone looks forward to getting away for a week, but not often the way Mary Jo Kenny from Chicago is. This summer she is going on her first six-day Spiritual Exercises, a silent retreat run by the Regnum Christi Movement, which will be held July 24-29, 2018 at the Cardinal Strich House in Chicago.

Mary Jo, a Regnum Christi member, wife, and mother who has been attending annual three-day retreats for a long time, shares, “I am really looking forward to more silence, more immersion in God, and hopefully learning better how he speaks in my soul in prayer. I seem to leave three-day retreats wishing they were longer.” Even Mary Jo, who is serious about her spiritual life and developing a deep relationship with God, admits that while she is really looking forward to the six days of silence and prayer, “the prospect is a little scary – you know, the fears ‘will I be able to really open my soul?’ and ‘what will God ask of me?’”

What are the Spiritual Exercises?

Six days in silence

The traditional Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are a silent retreat meant to go through four weeks, or more correctly, four stages which may each take about a week to explore. Each stage focusses on different mysteries of Christ. The popular three-day version gives a taste of each of the mysteries, while the six-day retreat offers the chance to go deeper into dialogue with God through each one.

The stages are:

Week One: A time of reflection on one’s life in the light of God’s limitless love for us. The retreatant sees and understands how their response to that love has been wounded by sin, they acknowledge the ways sin has affected their own relationship with God and repent of it and resolve to follow him with a renewed intention.

Week Two: The meditations and prayers of the second week teach participants how to follow Christ as apostles. They reflect on the mysteries of his life, preaching and ministry. Through this reflection, they allow God to lead them in changing their lives so that they love him more intimately and see how they can join him concretely in his evangelizing mission.

Week Three: Retreatants meditate on Christ’s Last Supper, passion, and death. Accompanying the Lord intimately in his suffering and in the gift of the Eucharist, they experience this ultimate expression of God’s love more deeply in their hearts and minds.

Week Four: Meditating on Jesus’ resurrection and his apparitions to his disciples, they experience themselves how Christ walks with them, and they set out to love and serve him in concrete ways in the world around them.

Following the tradition of Ignatian prayer, retreatants do not only meditate on these mysteries, they contemplate and discern. Contemplation, as St. Ignatius encouraged it, is more a movement of the heart than of the intellect. It is using the heart, imagination and emotions that God gives human beings to allow him to touch us deeply. Contemplation allows truths, that our mind believes to become realities, that our hearts and souls live and experience first-hand.

Discernment, or discernment of spirits as St. Ignatius called it, is a prayerful process of noticing the interior movements of our hearts and understanding where they come from and where they are leading us. These include our thoughts, imagination, emotions, desires, feelings, repulsions and attractions. By understanding this better, retreatants learn to listen to the voice of God in their lives and make decisions to act based on his will.

The silent retreat format unites the Church’s spiritual traditions like daily Mass, confession, adoration, the Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary, and the Stations of the Cross, with extended times of personal silent prayer. Each retreatant also meets one-on-one daily with the retreat director, a priest, who will guide them through the Spiritual Exercises, help them in the discernment of spirits, and provide personalized material for meditation.

The spiritual exercises are not simply a relaxed time of passively listening to talks and reading, but they require the active participation of the retreatant who applies their mind, will, memory, imagination, and whole heart to seeking Christ.

The priest’s perspective

Six days in silenceFr. Brett Taira, LC, who will be the retreat master in Chicago this summer, explains that for many people who are very familiar with the mysteries of Christ’s life and have an established life of prayer, only having three days to touch on all of them is not enough. They may feel they need more time and more silence to go deeper and unravel the mysteries of Christ that they only had time to touch on before. He gives an analogy, “If you only had three days to visit Rome, you would still be able to go everywhere and see all of the important places, but you wouldn’t have a lot of time to stay in any one spot for long or understand it very deeply. If you had a week, you would see more and your experience would be different, spending more time in the places that resonated more with you. That is essentially the difference between the three-day and six-day spiritual exercises, too.” However, Fr. Brett cautioned that the retreat is not a vacation. Being able to spend more time going deep into the mysteries of Christ’s love also means spending more time being uncomfortable in the mysteries of sin and the crucifixion.

The experience helps people see the mysteries of Christ in their own life, and understand more clearly how Christ is working in their souls. Daily spiritual direction with a priest is a part of that discernment. The hope is that after leaving the retreat, people have learned to see the mysteries of Christ that God makes present in their lives and how to live them by applying the discernment they used during the spiritual exercises.

Six days in silenceFr. Louis de Vaugelas, LC, who preaches the six-day Spiritual Exercises in the Ohio Valley, explains how the longer retreat is different than the three-day spiritual exercises which Regnum Christi runs over 100 of in various cities around the country every year. “You put yourself in special circumstances that give more space to the Creator to speak to your heart. You allow him to deal with you in a very unique way, investing your time in what he wants to do. After a few days, entering more deeply in the silence, your interior heart becomes more receptive to the voice of the Lord, and his voice becomes what you want to listen to. The silence is no longer uncomfortable, but a way to hear God’s voice.”

Even as a preacher, Fr. Louis finds the experience transformative, “In the two years that I have preached six-day retreats, I felt deeply evangelized by what the Lord is doing in each one of the participants and I felt that that the Lord uses them to teach me ‘the way of the heart’ in dealing with Jesus. He asks them what they are looking for, the way he asks Mary Magdalene at the tomb. He brings them to see the desires that are being shown through their emotions. Through their emotions, he reveals himself to them in a way that, like Mary Magdalene became the apostle to the apostles, those participants become apostles to me, allowing me to see the resurrected Christ in a way that is very transforming for me.”

Check here for a list of retreats near you.

Six Days in Silence for the Soul Read More »

Scroll to Top

Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!