By Angie Broussard, Clarion Herald Contributing writer
As I headed to my first “Retreats for Young Women” (RFYW) retreat, I dropped off kids and bags at various places and tapped my fingers through rush-hour traffic to get to the Jesuit Spirituality Center at Grand Coteau.
When I finally arrived and opened my trunk to get my own bag, I realized I’d left it on the sofa at home. Sadly, this was pretty typical for me – rushing to get things done and spending more time retracing steps or redoing tasks because I messed up as I hurried.
Over the course of the weekend, starting with the silent walk I took along the grounds that evening, the message I was meant to hear became clear. A giant oak tree between two lanes in the road held a sign that said SLOW. “I get it,” I directed my words skyward. “That’s what I’m here for.”
RFYW retreats combine group activities, solo exercises and free time centered on being still, listening to God’s voice and feeling his presence. I knew I would enjoy the silence and the escape from conversation or hear “Mom” called every few minutes.
Serenity of Metairie retreat
On my last retreat in April at the Archdiocesan Retreat Center in Metairie, I was surprised at how, after a few hours, my mind went silent. No more to-do lists in my head. No more replaying conversations or planning my next few days.
The serenity of the retreat center and the calm presence of our facilitators, Jane Hebert and Yvonne Hymel, invited me to slow down, embrace the silence and enjoy the moment. The welcoming and open circle of young women gave me a safe place to explore my spirituality in a way I hadn’t in many years, if ever.
Jane and Yvonne guided us through exercises to draw us into communication with God. Through Scripture, music, poetry, art, writing, walking and sitting in nature, we each found a way to ask the questions in our hearts and to listen, sometimes for answers and sometimes for comfort in the uncertainty.
Through the different ways of connecting with God, I learned a way that fits me, even if I didn’t find it in an instruction manual on meditation or prayer. I wasn’t surprised that I connected best through two of my favorite things – writing and spending time in nature. I hear God’s voice best through my hand as I write a dialogue between the two of us. I work out my pinging thoughts best by taking a walk down my tree-lined street. And sometimes the best place for me is in a rocker on my front porch, watching birds dance across the yard, listening to God’s voice and feeling God’s love in the silence.
I’m still working on remembering to slow down and listen each day, but I’ve held onto the lessons of the retreat and managed to find pockets of peace and a ready connection with God, who patiently waits for me to check in.
Retreats for Young Women is a gift of love and service from two remarkable women. I wish all of the young women I know would accept this gift for themselves. It’s an experience I plan to return to year after year.
Angie Broussard is an active member of the RFYW Leadership Team and is presently creating a RFYW reflection journal. For retreat details, contact Jane Hebert at firstname.lastname@example.org.