Women’s retreat: a beautiful gift from God

“It would be nice to go on a retreat together.” That is how it all started earlier this year. An idea, a humble dream that one of us voiced during an organisational meeting of the Women’s Group of Sint-Kwinten. Some of us, however, made sure that it became a reality. Looking back, it feels like a miracle that this little retreat did actually take place. What a joy and what a beautiful gift from God!

On Friday evening, 1 September, ten members of the Women’s Group headed for the spiritual centre of Notre Dame de la Justice (Our Lady of Justice) in Rhode-Saint-Genèse. Father Walter Ceyssens SJ was waiting for us there and he would guide us during our retreat that we called “Walk in His light”. We were indeed going to look for God’s light on our lives past and present while discovering the spirituality of Saint Ignatius.

Ten people we were with just as many reasons to come to this retreat: to have a good start of the academic year, to make maybe some choices, to build a closer relationship with God, to discover new ways to pray, … How do I feel tonight? What do I bring with me? That was the start of the retreat on Friday evening. Together, with the word of God among us, we simply took time to arrive and shared how we felt at the start of this retreat. Maybe tired from work, worries on our minds, joys in our hearts, … With this, the tone was set, the trust found, and it was time for some socialising with a good old game called UNO. The first challenge in this game (also very useful to test the group) was to choose which rules would be used!

On Saturday morning, we took a deep dive. Deeper into scripture and deeper in our lives, deeper also in listening to each other. Together with God we revisited our lives during an individual moment of prayer and silence, and then came together to make a beautiful lifeline where each of us shared three important moments that we went through in life, be it positive or negative. This colourful lifeline became the treasure of the retreat, cherished by us all. Although there were all kind of emotions coming up during this exercise, it was a safe place to show them, carried by the group and carried by our loving God. This shaped our group and bound us stronger together.

As the weather was good, we went for an Emmaus walk on Saturday afternoon (in groups of two or three), after another individual contemplative prayer with scripture, during which we reflected about the events that we noted down in the morning. Where was God during those times in our lives? After the prayer time, we set out on our walk and shared our insights about this question. It was good get out and get some fresh air, into the 4th chapel of the spiritual centre, namely the Zoniënwoud.

Sunday came too fast. Before we left, however, we had another prayer exercise, called contemplative dialogue. As a group, we prayed with a scripture text, receiving the text and each other’s words that we shared as gifts. After this, Father Walter gave us some advice on how to continue prayer life at home during our daily routines. With new joy and filled with the impressions of our retreat we celebrated Mass together before we left Notre Dame de la Justice, already thinking of our next retreat. Thanks to all who participated!

Some impressions from the participants:

For me the retreat really came at the right time and has helped me a lot to look into some issues and gave me ideas how to adjust my prayer time at home. I really appreciated the trust, fellowship and also fun that we had as a group and the way Fr. Walter guided us by introducing us to the exercises and creating a calm space for us. It was great to have a full weekend to focus on silence, scripture and prayer. (Stephanie)

Powerful moments, these three days have given me direction. (Lea)

Going on this retreat was an amazing experience. I didn’t know what to expect, as it was the first time I had ever gone on a retreat. One of the things that touched me was hearing people’s stories. It made me realize that we all have similar stories, although we are different individuals. We are all on a journey to find ourselves, rekindle our faith and strengthen our faith in God. In order to achieve all these things, one must be willing to be vulnerable and transparent with God. The location of the retreat was calm, which gave one a certain focus and a serene feeling within oneself. After the retreat, I felt renewed in my faith in God and healed, as I had let go of my previous worries. I would recommend this retreat for anyone who is looking for some days to reflect on their life and journey with God. The retreat gives tools that one can use to pray, have a deeper connection with God and most importantly, learn how to be consistent in having a relationship with God. The priest and organizers who led this retreat did a great job. (Dimma)