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Spiritual Retreats | A Guide


About this Resource This resource has been prepared to assist Conferences, Councils and members of the St Vincent de Paul Society in the co ordination, planning and offering of a spiritual retreat. The material referenced throughout this resource has primarily been drawn from Catholic resources. This resource will be updated on an annual basis, and if you have any suggestions on how we can improve this resource, please contact the Mission Integration Officer.

Spiritual Retreats | A Guide Prepared by: Livia Carusi Mission Integration Officer Membership & Development Team St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria Inc. 2 St Vincent de Paul Society

Photos: iStockphoto.com


Spiritual Retreats A retreat refreshes and revitalizes, gives the opportunity for more time spent in prayer, contemplation, and rekindles and deepens one’s relationship with God. The purpose of a spiritual retreat, as an addition to daily spiritual activities, is to temporally leave behind the usual distractions we all face for a time long enough to allow relaxation and for inner change to occur: the ongoing conversion of heart that is critical to deepening faith. Planning Committee Like any event, a spiritual retreat requires careful planning and sufficient time to organise to ensure that those participating are clear about the purpose of the retreat, that they have had an opportunity to contribute to the planning of the retreat and most importantly that they view the retreat as an opportunity for spiritual renewal. Spiritual Retreats | A Guide 3


A planning committee is one way to assist in meeting these expectations. In establishing a planning committee, it is useful to give thought to the following: •

How many people do we need on the committee?

Do we need to appoint a committee chairperson?

Do we need to appoint a committee secretary?

Do we need a standard agenda for the committee to assist the committee in staying on track?

What is the budget for the retreat?

How often should the committee meet?

How does the committee inform those that are not on the committee, however are interested in attending the retreat, about the progress that is being made?

Should the committee invite a representative from the local parish to be part of the committee?

In instances where a priest is facilitating all or part of the retreat and his ministry is outside of the Archdioceses, the committee may require permission from the Archdioceses in which the retreat is being held. If permission is required, the committee maybe required to complete some paperwork for the Archdioceses. Please check with the Archdioceses.

Do we need to contact the Membership & Development Team to discuss what other supports resources is available in preparing our retreat?

Purpose and Participants The planning committee should identify: •

The aims and participants of the retreat

What is the retreat about

What does the retreat aim to accomplish and

Who are the intended participants

Whatever the purpose of the retreat, define the what, why and target attendees in concrete terms. The more specific and explicitly state the reason, the more achievable the aims. 4 St Vincent de Paul Society


Basic elements of a Retreat Group Retreats Group retreats frequently centre about particular themes, perhaps a presentation by a guest speaker and have the advantage of providing guidance and structure for a portion of the retreat. Retreat Agenda The planning committee should aim to create the retreat program and where possibly gain some input from the participants. The retreat agenda should include: •

The title of the retreat

The overall general theme, for example, “Walking in the footsteps of Blessed Frederic Ozanam”

Specific topics to be offered

Sessions to be offered, for example, group pray, individual pray

Scheduled meal breaks

Inclusion of Mass Spiritual Retreats | A Guide 5


Start and finish times

• Inclusion of important Vincentian celebrations as part of the retreat, for example Feast Day celebrations are held in March and September, you may wish to schedule your retreat around these key times for the Society. •

RSVP details

Information about the speakers, session leaders

General information relating to the venue, parking facilities, contact names for further information.

Mass Mass serves as a fundamental part of the retreat. We leave the world to enter the Church for prayer, contemplation, hearing the Word, lifting up our hearts to the Lord, and receiving the spirit nourishment of the Eucharist. Duration As part of the planning stage for the retreat it is critical to establish the duration of the retreat, will it be for a day, or overnight, or for two days. Costs Costs will vary depending on the duration of the retreat (1 day or 2 days), the venue and also the person or persons who may lead the retreat. It is useful to “brainstorm” the ideal retreat and obtain costings especially around the bigger ticket items such as venue. This information will assist the planning committee greatly, especially if changes may need to be made to the initial agenda put together by the committee. However, if any changes have to be made to the initial retreat agenda due to cost, this should not be considered as meaning the offering of a lesser retreat for people to participate in. Meals Having one or more meals as part of the retreat not only provides much needed nourishment but it also brings into the retreat the very nature of being human – social relationships and connection. When planning a retreat, consider the inclusion of meals and the allocation of reasonable meal and break times to enable the participants to enjoy the meal with others. 6 St Vincent de Paul Society


Prayer and contemplation Since retreats are frequently organised around a formal presentation, to distinguish the retreat from most ordinary learning experiences, the participants should have at least half the time at the retreat spent in such activities as prayer, scripture reading, contemplation, walking nature. Prayer time might include liturgical activities as well as personal prayer. The presentations for a spiritual retreat should primarily those involving religious topics, especially covering subjects that help direct the participations to deepen their faith, these talks should be offered by those who have adequate training and experience with a deep devotion to spiritual life. Setting In order to accomplish the goal of ‘retreat’ the site should have some degree of insulation from ordinary life. For venue suggestions visit Catholic Archidiocese of Melbourne: http://www.cam.org.au/Portals/4/Resources/Retreats%20Centres%20 and%20Camp%20sites%20Guide%20FA.pdf

Spiritual direction Though not everyone may take advantage of it, a retreat should offer spiritual direction, that is, individualised assistance in accomplishing the aim of retreat and in carrying home a renewed sense of purpose. References •

Catholic Retreats, Value of Retreat www.itmonlibe.org/bodytheology/part 1.htm

How to Plan a Retreat, Planning a Spiritual Retreat www.howany.com/hpw-to-plan-a-retreat Spiritual Retreats | A Guide 7


St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria Inc. Locked Bag 4800, Box Hill Vic 3128 43 Prospect Street, Box Hill Vic 3128 Phone: 03 9895 5800 Fax: 03 9895 5850 Email: info@svdp-vic.org.au ABN: 28 911 702 061 RN: A0042727Y

www.vinnies.org.au


Spiritual Retreats | A Guide