Women find inherent beauty, qualities on retreat

Silence is a gift, said Archdiocesan Spirituality Center associate director Bonnie Chase to an all-female audience at the recent day of reflection, “The Woman I Was Created to Be.”

“Breathe in the breath of God … and break out all the tenseness and destruction … to allow the Spirit to open your mind and heart,” Chase instructed the women at the beginning of the retreat. “Breathe out, to let the Spirit know what you want to know.”

Sitting under majestic oak and magnolia trees or in the chapel at the Archdiocesan Retreat Center in Metairie, silence was amply afforded to the more than a dozen women. Chase and Charlene Rovira, her long-time friend and fellow spiritual director trained through the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center, gave guided reflections to facilitate the women’s hearts to open to the Lord.

Chase and Rovira first gave this women’s retreat in 2007, on the encouragement of their spiritual director Cenacle Sister JoAnn Vivian. But, with their spouses, they had conducted marriage ministry together for approximately 30 years. They culled experiences in their lives as touching stones for women to then take with them as a guided prayer experience while perusing the serene grounds of the retreat center on Lake Pontchartrain. 

While admitting tough times along the way, Chase and Rovira revealed how their lives improved once they gained a perspective about themselves as women and allowed God to walk with them. 

Although the lives of those gathered might be vastly different than theirs, they insisted that there were no right or wrong journeys. The end game was to grow in faith.

“I didn’t know me, so how could I know God?” Chase admitted. “There is a personal God for you.”  

Encouragement was given throughout the day for the women to continually seek God in their lives and to always know that God is a loving God. 

“Women relate to other women and realize how special they are, the gifts they have and the person they were created to be,” Rovira said about the retreat. “It challenges women to take care of themselves, and if we can take of ourselves, we can take care of others.”

To set the mood from the start, Chase and Rovira read a poem containing the words, “Not the woman I try to make myself become … the woman that you formed … the one your eyes behold … not the woman the world expects to fit its mold.”

The songs “Lingering Grace” by Jacque Darragh and “All I Ever Have to Be” by Christian artist Amy Grant were played, and the meditation, “What I Really Want,” from the Paula D’Arcy book “A New Set of Eyes,” was read. 

“It’s time alone to reflect if who I am is what God created me to be besides what society says and how we were raised,” Chase said about the day.

Reaction from participants

Angela Hummel, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Lake in Mandeville, crossed the Causeway for the retreat.

“It’s a day of refreshment,” Hummel said. “It’s good for my faith to always grow and learn. It’s like a booster shot for my faith. I always want to be actively engaged in my faith and learn. Going to a day of refreshment is nourishing my soul.”

Hummel, who tries to make an annual retreat, enjoys nature and found a shady spot under an oak tree for the first reflection.

“When you are in nature you focus more on God,” Hummel said. “It makes me focus on what’s most important in life. … You are forced to be quiet (without feeling the need to pick up the phone and check texts and emails). I think I want to be challenged.”

She later escaped to the chapel and enjoyed talking with other women during lunch.

“By sharing and listening to others, I found we were more alike,” she said, adding how they shared the same struggles, hopes, fears. “You learn from others and can grow from others.”

Another regular retreatant said it was her first specific retreat that concentrated on herself as a woman. 

“I love this place,” she said. “It’s spirit-filled.”

Rovira said women who attend the retreat always say they want more.

“They want more time to look at who they are as a child of God, not just their roles of mother, wife and grandmother,” she said.

Other upcoming women’s retreats are a Women’s Ignatian Silent Retreat Aug. 23-26 at the Rosaryville Spirit Life Center in Ponchatoula at (225) 294-5039, and Roots and Wings Nov. 2-4 at Archdiocesan Retreat Center in Metairie at 887-1420.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org. 

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