As we find ourselves continuing to practice physical distancing, it has called us to be creative in how we can go on ‘retreat’ and connect with faith-filled communities.
The Vincentian Lay Missionaries, Vincentian Mission Corps, and St. Vincent de Paul Young Adult Center collaborated to offer a Lenten retreat for alumni of the young adult programs of the Daughters of Charity Province of St. Louise. 12 alumni of VLM, VMC, and VSC West (now a part of VMC) have gathered once a week throughout Lent on Zoom for prayer, reflection, and community.
“I rarely take retreats for myself. I knew I needed something different to mark Lent this year and receiving an invitation to this retreat felt providential. Sure, I’d love to meet in person but a virtual retreat lets me connect with people I never would have otherwise” shared Gino Altamura, an alumna of the Vincentian Service Corps West 2013-2014.
The retreat was themed “Cultivating and Letting Go”. Each week was centered around the topics of Wilderness, Uprooting, Cultivating, and Letting Go. The group reflected on entering the desert of loneliness and cultivating it into a garden of solitude. A social justice component tied into the theme as the group learned about mass incarceration in the United States and guest speakers of the Vincentian family who work with people who are or have been formerly incarcerated joined the group. Throughout the time together, participants reflected on cultivating virtue within ourselves and with one another as we are called to deepen our relationship with God to truly offer ourselves to help build a community of encounter.
Gino shared about creating a retreat space in his home: “I’ve loved created my own physical retreat space at home. I’d set it up months ago: it’s where I do yoga, virtual church, and men’s group meetings. I have some lights that create a really meditative ambiance. I loved getting the tea because it’s totally something I do to help create a mood; I love the steam rising like incense. “
Participants shared a picture of their retreat space in their homes.
Retreatants received a package with materials to use during their time together to create a retreat-like feel in their own homes. It included tea bags, colored pencils to do an art reflection with Sister Angele Hinkey, DC who shared about her ministry at Cooks County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, and stickers of St. Vincent and St. Louise. It also included plant-able paper and soil that was used to cultivate their own physical garden after writing a reflection during a session led by the Dismas House, a project of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Long Island.
“I have loved being with alumni of the Vincentian young adult programs. Having a shared experience of service and intentional community and a love for the Vincentian charism brings us together. It is great to be able to continue to reflect on our experiences of our time with the program, and how we all continue to carry that with us today,” shared Jordan Bouchard, Director of VLM and an alumna of VSC West 2013-2014 and VLM 2019.
A participant shared, “All of these weeks have been about encounter for me. How do I encounter myself in solitude? How do I encounter others in hospitality? How do I encounter God?” Although we are unable to be together in person, we are called to encounter the Holy Spirit with one another in new ways during this Lenten season.