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Shelly Henley Kelly explores the spiritual benefits of retreats in a time when we need connection with others more than ever.

After a year in quarantine our parish did something a little crazy last weekend. We hosted a four-day, overnight, Women’s ACTS Retreat. Although we had to follow many COVID protocols issued by the retreat center and ACTS Missions, God made straight the path for Him to be present with the women on retreat.

Going on an overnight retreat was something I thought only the “really devout” choose to do, so I avoided the opportunity for years. However, six years ago God called me to an ACTS retreat hosted by a neighboring parish and I returned in a state of excitement – on fire and filled with joy. After witnessing how the retreat could ignite our lukewarm hearts, I wanted an ACTS retreat to set a fire in the soul of our own parish men and women.   

Upon returning and discovering that I really had no idea how to get an ACTS retreat started at my parish, I did the next best thing. I joined my daughter’s Life Teen Confirmation retreat team and spent the next six years serving and speaking at their retreats. Now I witnessed high school students awaken to a deeper appreciation of God’s constant presence in their lives and be more open to friendships with those they’d been pretending to avoid on Sunday nights in class.

Why is this important? What is so special about making a spiritual retreat?

Merriam Webster offered three definitions for the word retreat:

  • an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable,
  • a place of privacy or safety,
  • a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director.

We need the opportunity to experience all of the above in our life. We need to be able to withdraw when tempers are rising, when we find ourselves under attack – spiritually, mentally, emotionally – if not physically. We need a place of privacy and safety where we can find calm and quiet, where we can be supported and lifted up by others. We also need to be connected with other like-minded women who remind us why we’re here and that we are God’s precious daughters, and so worthy of all His grace.

Retreats are an opportunity for a personal encounter with Jesus.


The USCCB states,

Retreats are important moments to listen to God … Retreats foster genuine discernment. In the midst of your busy lives, a retreat opportunity affords you time of silence and clarity that cannot be found in the world. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2021) 

5 women sitting in a prayer circle, smiling


Any encounter with Christ – no matter the size - strengthens your belief in Him and His word, His promise to you. #catholicmom

Take a moment and think of a time when you had an authentic personal encounter with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. During Mass? Adoration? When receiving a Sacrament?

Or was it a simple profound moment that came during an ordinary day? Did you hear God speak to you in a song? A prayer? Did He comfort you in a time of grief? Did He make Himself present in a moment of Joy?

Any encounter with Christ – no matter the size - strengthens your belief in Him and His word, His promise to you. Now, more than ever, we need to feel connected with one another, with God. If He calls you to an opportunity go on spiritual retreat at your parish, answer Him.

Copyright 2021 Shelly Henley Kelly
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