Fifty women gathered on the eastern edge of the Diocese of Superior Saturday, March 11, to pray and learn at a Lenten Women’s Retreat sponsored by the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.
Given by Catholic speaker Elizabeth Kelly, the day was a reflection on three of the last utterances of Christ as he suffered and died on the cross.
Attendees were treated to a homemade breakfast and lunch from the women of St. Peter the Fisherman, Eagle River. Fr. Patrick McConnell was also available throughout the day for confessions and Exposition and Benediction for holy hour.
“We were blessed by the service of this parish community,” said SDCCW publicity chair Susan Gotrik.
Kelly introduced the day with a reflection on the meaningfulness of the last words and moments of a loved one – how people often remember those in a particular when other memories of deceased friends and family have faded away. How proper it is, she observed, to recall those last words and actions of the Savior, especially in this somber season of Lent.
The first talk was on the words “Mother, there is your son. Son, there is your mother.” Kelly presented one of the themes from St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Mulieris Dignitatem”: the feminine genius present at the crucifixion.
She talked about the receptivity of women, that women must order their lives so what they are accepting into themselves from their environment is good and nourishing to the soul.
“Often, women have a difficult time receiving, for we think it means that we have a need to be helped, and that can be profoundly humbling,” Gotrik explained. “But it is precisely in this humility that we express our cooperation with God, as our Lady did at the Annunciation when she emptied herself so completely, she allowed God to fill her with the fullness of His grace.”
“Hail, full of grace,” the angel speaks to her. “Liz invited us to meditate on emptying ourselves in this way,” Gotrik added.
“You don’t get to retire from service,” Kelly told listeners. “Ask God, where are you sending me next?”
The second conference centered on the words “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Kelly presented the difficult theme of accepting suffering as an intimate gift and mercy. She looked to the lives of two saints in particular: St. Teresa of Calcutta, who endured 40 years of spiritual darkness, and St. Pope John Paul II, especially in his suffering of Parkinson’s disease at the end of his life.
Both of these individuals endured great interior and physical suffering and were able to persevere through the love of their Savior, she said. Suffering can make a person bitter or better, if they are able to turn it into an opportunity for self-donation or service.
She encouraged listeners to attempt to see suffering as “a precious invitation to share in the life of Christ and heal the wounds of this world and of our own soul.”
Following these conferences was time for personal prayer and reflection in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Confession was also available. Holy hour was followed by lunch and small-group discussion.
Jesus’ third utterance was, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”
“It was personal testimony of receiving forgiveness and mercy in Liz’s life,” Gotrik said. “She described a vision she had of a double-sided dagger in her heart from her sins and failings that she was terrified of having Jesus remove. The time came for Jesus to remove the dagger, and instead of the intense anguish and physical pain she expected from having it torn from her heart, she only felt a soreness where the scar was. Jesus lovingly told her, ‘I dissolved it.’”
“We were invited to meditate on the places in our lives that need forgiveness and mercy, for ourselves and others,” Gotrik continued. “Then we prayed together the Rosary to the Holy Wounds, a devotional revealed by our Lord to Sr. Mary Martha Chambon. It was new to me, but very similar to the Divine Mercy chaplet.”
The retreat ended with time for sharing the day’s graces, an opportunity to share with the group any graces attendees had received during their time together.
“It was a beautiful way to conclude our time together,” Gotrik said. “I echo the response of the last woman to share: it was a blessing to be present with all these ladies, young and old, knowing that far and near across our whole diocese there are women who continue to seek Christ and to grow in love for Him.”