Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

As successful as the 2019 men’s and women’s retreats were, diocesan assistant director of Catholic Formation Chris Hurtubise is “crazy excited” about the 2020 offerings.

Embracing input from participants, changes in location and schedule have been implemented this year.

The 2020 Women’s Retreat will be Feb. 1-2, and the Men’s Retreat is scheduled for March 7-8. Both retreats will be just one night, from Saturday morning to noon Sunday. The change will better accommodate parents juggling family and work schedules and allows for driving in daylight.

Heartwood Conference Center in Trego is the retreat site, chosen for its central location and welcoming environment.

While retreats are open to all ages, Hurtubise said the target audiences are men and women raising families, a “taxing time of life.” Not much is offered for this age range when it comes to spiritual enrichment, and they wanted retreatants to encounter Christ and connect with a religious support system.

He said building community has been the biggest fruit of past retreats, something they want to build on for the second year of the women’s retreat, third year for the men’s.

“Our goal,” Hurtubise said, “is to serve women (and men) in the stage of raising families and juggling work with home responsibilities and family life with careers.”

“Living out discipleship in that context is just very different” than for young adults or adults further into retirement mode, he acknowledged. A lot can be gained from intergenerational connections, but the hope is that the retreats will be particularly nourishing to what is often an underserved population in the diocese.

Each retreat will offer daily Mass, adoration and times for personal prayer, confession and private dialogue with a priest.

Liz Kelly

Women’s theme: “Jesus Approaches”

Author, speaker and “Blessed is She” contributor Liz Kelly will present a number of talks covering what contemporary women can learn about healing, freedom and joy from the women of the New Testament. The theme is based on her 2017 book, “Jesus Approaches.”

Kelly has presented the retreat content to many groups of women. She said it has been well-received, “because there’s something in it for all women, no matter your age or stage of life.

“Jesus came, not just to save mothers or wives or single women or the divorced or widows, he came for all of us, and this retreat recognizes the unique ways that Jesus reached out to heal all women,” she said.

For Kelly, immersing oneself in Scripture is important: “There’s a wound in the feminine heart that only a living encounter with God’s living word can heal. As Catholics, we tend to be really good with sacraments and devotions and novenas and spiritual reading. But we cut ourselves off from one of the chief methods by which God has decided we should come to know him when we don’t immerse ourselves in Scripture.”

The women of the New Testament, in a particular way, “can help us to find our way to making the Gospel story our own — to see ourselves in salvation history,” Kelly said.

“Jesus Approaches” offers an honest and vulnerable look at women’s need for healing and an encounter with “the Healer” and an experience of being healed.

“This wisdom and grace must extend to the hurting world around us,” Kelly affirms. “Part of our mission remains exactly the same as it was for Mary at the Visitation – to bring Jesus to the rest of the world and declare his healing majesty.”

The author noted, “One of the things that strikes me about the women I serve in ministry is their fatigue. They’re spent. Spiritually, physically, emotionally. This is part of why it is critically important that they take some time away for themselves, to be on the receiving end for a while.”
Kelly added, “Something special happens when women gather together. It’s like heaven unleashes extra graces on us when we come together in prayer and support.”

Ryan O’Hara

Men’s Retreat: “Priest, Prophet, King”

Men’s retreat presenter Ryan O’Hara serves as the Director of Mission Resources for Saint Paul’s Outreach. Ryan has a M.A in Theology from the University of Notre Dame and has worked with various age groups in outreach settings since 1997.

A husband and father of four, O’Hara knows firsthand the importance for men to gather in formation and fellowship. Hurtubise describes O’Hara as a “phenomenal” speaker and said he is a personal favorite.

The theme addresses men’s call to imitate and participate in the identity of Jesus Christ as priest, prophet and king.

“All of us men share in this three-fold office of Jesus as priest, prophet and king,” O’Hara explained. “Not only are we given this commission and this duty, but there’s also grace connected to it, so we have power to fulfill those roles… there are some specific and challenging implications for us in (our unique vocations).”

Summarizing each of the three aspects, O’Hara started by describing the aspect of priesthood as “a call to sanctify.”

He said, “We do that primarily through prayer and sacrifice for others. We stand in the gap, for others – in many cases for our wives, children, friends and co-workers.”

O’Hara introduced the prophetic piece as “a call – in word and deed – to always speak the truth, no matter the cost. Everything from instruction to correction to encouragement and good example.”

“The kingly piece,” he added, “is a call to serve and govern with love. A good king serves, unifies and protects … those entrusted to (his) care.”
The speaker acknowledged the parallel to men’s natural inclinations to provide and protect.

“And then there’s grace to help it become true,” he affirmed. “That’s what is really exciting and often missed, and something we as men can pray for – because it’s hard,” O’Hara added, clarifying that what he summarized as definitions for the three-fold office of Christ is a “high bar.”
O’Hara admits when he speaks to men, he is addressing a group that can feel “defeated, discouraged, discarded… This is an opportunity – not in a ‘rah rah,’ macho kind of way, but in a way that aligns with the truth of who we are in Christ – to amplify and challenge… for the sake of others.”

“It’s about addressing the things that matter most in life,” he said. “There’s more that we want. This is an opportunity to step into something greater, and to be given the help and support and vision and ultimately the grace to fulfill that sense of call into something greater,” the speaker added.

Commenting on both the men’s and women’s retreats, Hurtubise said their purpose is “ongoing formation and deepening understanding of the faith. But the ultimate goal is to facilitate a really deep, beautiful time of prayer for the participants.”

He noted Bishop James P. Powers’ investment in ministry for adults and heads of families. A higher caliber of accommodations comes at a cost, and Hurtubise knows that to ask parents of young families to come up with a couple hundred dollars would be a “huge challenge.”

With the backing of the Bishop’s Legacy Circle, Bishop Powers has funded about half of the cost of the retreat. Cost to attend is $100 per person in a double-occupancy room.

Hurtubise hopes many will take advantage of the opportunity for rest and reflection.

More information and online registration is at or by contacting Chris Hurtubise at . Registrations are requested by Jan. 15 for the women’s retreat and Feb. 15 for the men’s. Babies may accompany mothers.