Bishop James P. Powers takes a picture with speaker Barbara Heil, left, and associate director of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship for the Diocese of Superior Loree Nauertz. The bishop commented that the weekend retreats with the men and women “are a real gift to my priesthood.” He added, “It brings me great joy to be a part of them.” (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Since 2018 for the men and 2019 for women, the Diocese of Superior’s adult ministry retreats have experienced steady growth, said director of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship Chris Hurtubise.

For the women, he added, it has been “explosive growth.” For 2023, one men’s retreat was held in January and the women increased to two weekends in February.

The men’s retreat “continues to be such a huge blessing to the growing number of guys that come,” wherever they’re at in their journey with Jesus, Hurtbise said.

He added that each year’s speakers have addressed the men “where they are at,” but that this year’s speaker, Nick Redd, “just nailed it.” Focusing on the proclamation of the Gospel, Redd walked participants through the good news of salvation slowly and deeply.

“While the talks were good, the energy of 60 guys worshipping together … diving into the content in prayer and conversation – that is the real lasting memory for me,” Hurtubise stated, adding that their goal for next year is to fill the space.

“I feel like the Holy Spirit is awakening the men of the diocese to some needs that we as guys are really good at ignoring: our needs for deep, authentic friendship; for rich, focused formation; for time away from everyday life with the Lord in prayer,” he said. “These retreats meet all of those and are making a difference in the lives of the guys that come!”

One of those men is Aaron Halberg of Hayward. He admitted feeling the tug of war, when considering going on retreat, “between the need to be home as a husband and father and the desire (or fear) of doing something different.” Halberg experienced this year’s retreat as particularly encouraging and fruitful.

“It reminded me of Stephen Covery’s lesson to take time and sharpen the saw. Yes, men should be concerned with the work they are called to do (like the trees that need to be cut), but if we don’t take the time to do some regular maintenance of our faith and our relationships with other men (sharpening the saw by going on retreat), we won’t show up as the best version of ourselves to do the work God is calling us to do.”

He is already looking forward to next year’s retreat, and he hopes to bring others with him.

Loree Nauertz, associate director under Hurtubise, iterated her colleague’s sense of the Holy Spirit’s movement. Starting with 42 women at the 2019 retreat, from 2020 to 2022 that number tripled to 120. For 2023, an additional weekend was added, and the women responded – 195 participants all together.

“There is something very special going on in our diocese,” Nauertz asserted. “To see so many women of all ages – high school and college students, young moms, middle-aged women and even great-grandmothers – coming together to experience fellowship in Christ is a beautiful thing to witness.”

Nauertz also said she’s encouraged that in 100 percent of the evaluations received (almost half of the participants) said they would like to come back and many would encourage others to join them.

Nauertz specifically thanked Bishop James P. Powers for his commitment to be at all three retreats, to hear confessions all day long and for the financial support to keep the retreat costs affordable. She added what a “huge blessing” it was to have the various priests who offered their time to come and hear confessions during the retreats.

Rachel Nau, a parishioner at St. Francis de Sales in Spooner, shared what a powerful experience the retreat has been. “You don’t have to be at a certain level of knowledge in order to attend … All you have to do is open your heart to God.”

St. Anne, Somerset, member Ann Austreng commented, “I’ve been to every women’s retreat and it has come a long way since the first year. It is always so wonderful to get together with women of faith. So many positive things come out of weekends like this!”

A first-time retreatant from St. Joseph in Hayward, Lisa Andraschko called the retreat “a very uplifting experience.” She said she felt “very pampered” by Heartwood and the diocese.

“It was great to reconnect with so many wonderful women,” she said and expressed her gratitude for all involved in organizing and serving those days. “I think I can speak for many in saying that hearts were opened.”