(CNS file photo)

(CNS file photo)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald Staff

To retreat is to withdraw; in spiritual retreat, people draw back from their lives to reconnect with God.

Fr. Gerard Willger, pastor of the Medford cluster of parishes, believes a change in perspective is the greatest benefit.

“You step back from your regular routine,” explained the priest. “It’s a change of routine, a change in pace, so it helps give a different perspective in life.”

Fr. Willger attends at least one retreat each year; he has been involved with the Koinonia movement for a decade or more and, before that, the Cursillo (“short course”) movement.

Koinonia, Greek for “communion” or “fellowship,” focuses on enriching retreatants’ personal relationships with Christ and community building. Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Medford is hosting a Koinonia weekend March 14-16, the parish’s first in several years.

“The Koinonia retreat is scheduled two to three times a year in different parishes throughout the diocese. The purpose is so that people throughout the diocese can experience the Koinonia Retreat firsthand,” he said. They are conducted “within the parish setting to encourage more parishioners to experience the retreat.”

“In our fast-paced world,” parish retreats provide much-needed access to Catholics who can’t afford the time to drive a distance, added Fr. Willger. “They’re put on by people who’ve already attended a Koinonia retreat (who) come back to work on the retreat.”

Parishioners with more time may wish to venture further from home.

Koinonia retreats are interactive, Fr. Willger observed. Those who prefer less socializing can withdraw to a hermitage or commune with more intimate groups at a retreat center.

Both options are available in the Diocese of Superior; the cloistered Carmelites in Hudson open their doors for hermitage retreats, and the Marywood Fransiscan Spirituality Center offers retreats for men, women and groups.

“Marywood’s lakeside setting is conducive to many different forms of retreats, including preached, directed or private retreats,” said the director, Sr. Elizabeth Amman.

According to Addie Halfmann, marketing manager at Marywood, retreatants who relish the benefits of spiritual guidance can continue their journey at home. The spiritual guides at Marywood also conduct sessions remotely.

“Usually they start in person … and then are able to continue via Skype,” Halfmann added.

Whether retreating to a church, a lakeside cabin or a monastery, Catholics will enjoy long-term spiritual blessings, said Fr. Willger:

“People who have a retreat experience remain more faithful to the church and develop a closer relationship with God.”

Retreat facilities in or near the diocese

  • Carmel of the Sacred Heart Monastery, Hudson. Cloistered Carmelites of the Ancient Observance Order invite guests to stay for restful, meditative hermitage retreats. Information: 715-386-2156.
  • McCabe Renewal Center at St. Scholastica Monastery, Duluth, Minn. A monastic community of Benedictine Sisters runs the center, which offers retreats on topics ranging from traditional Catholicism to contemporary spirituality. Information: 218-724-5266.
  • St. Anthony Spirituality Center, Marathon. Professed Secular Fransiscans and guest clergy host traditional Catholic retreats for those in need of healing, transformation and a deeper connection with God. Information: 715-443-2236.
  • Marywood Fransiscan Spirituality Center, Arbor Vitae. The Fransiscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration offer a program of retreats blending spirituality, healing and the arts. Information: 715-385-3750.
  • Fransiscan Retreats and Spirituality Center, Prior Lake, Minn. The Conventual Friars of Our Lady of Consolation Province run this facility in the Twin Cities area. “Peace be with you … all will be well” is the theme of all 2014 retreats. Information: 952-447-2182.
  • The Well Fransiscan Spirituality Center, St. Paul, Minn. A sister ministry to Marywood, The Well is also guided by Fransiscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration for those seeking healing and inner transformation. Information: 651-739-7953.

Upcoming diocesan parish retreats

  • Life in the Spirit Retreat, Feb. 28 through March 2, St. Bridget Catholic Church, 211 E. Division St., River Falls. Presenter Fr. Jim Livingston will focus on the Holy Spirit at this retreat for confirmation candidates and high school youth. Information: 715-234-5044.
  • “Embracing Your Call to Holiness” Women’s Retreat, March 1, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., St. Mary Community Center, 1828 Lynn Ave., Altoona. Fr. Kevin Louis speaks on the Venerable Antonietta Meo. Cost: $35. Registration: 715-835-1012.
  • Koinonia Retreat, March 14-16, 4:30 p.m. Friday through 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish, 215 S. Washington Ave., Medford. Individuals or couples encounter Jesus Christ through Christian community. Cost: $40. Registration: 715-748-4721.
  • “Marriage is a Gift” Diocesan Marriage Retreat, April 5, Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, 611 First St. S., Ladysmith. Married and engaged couples are welcome to attend the annual daylong retreat; Bishop Peter Christensen will celebrate the Mass. Information: 715-234-5044.