By the time you read this the women’s retreat that I helped to plan over the past six months and am facilitating this weekend will be underway.
The retreat is called Christ Renews His Parish and is often abbreviated/referred to as “CRHP.”
When we moved to this neighborhood 8 1/2 years ago many of our older neighbors and friends that we made in our parish started telling us about these awesome retreats they had participated in back in the 1980s and ’90s, when “they were our age.” I was curious to know more and wished I had the opportunity to participate.
I have been a retreat junkie for years, I participated in one for the first time when I was in high school with a youth group and was hooked! I loved having the opportunity to deepen my faith and my spirituality. I also got to help plan and facilitate retreats, which showed me what an incredible experience “giving” a retreat for others can be. I continued to be involved with retreats (both religious and secular, including Operation Snowball) in high school, college, grad school and as a young adult after I joined the workforce.
Finally a few years ago a new pastor came to a church, the one who ended up supporting us with spiritual counsel during our pregnancy with Molly and baptized her in the operating/delivery room after she was born, before she died. Our Pastor knew how wonderful CRHP had been for our church community back then and decided to revive the program!
This happened around the same time Abby was born. So as much as I wanted to participate, I turned down the first three invites I received, because I was still nursing our daughter and didn’t feel ready to be away from her for long.
This past March I was invited to attend again, finally was available (though I hadn’t completely stopped nursing Abby at that time, we were down to once a day and I knew missing a one or two wouldn’t be a big deal) and decided to participate in CRHP.
My retreat experience was just what I needed at the time. It helped me to feel closer to God and my faith, during a time when despite attending mass most weeks and teaching Religious Education regularly to second graders in our Parish, I was not feeling very strong in my spirituality or my relationship with God. I left CRHP feeling refreshed, renewed and recommitted to being a disciple and helping to spread the “Good News.”
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” I heard someone say a long time ago and it has always stuck with me. Some people attribute it to St. Francis of Assisi, but when I looked it up there is no record of him actually saying that.
Its hard to believe that about a month ago we were concerned whether or not we would have enough participants to “make” the retreat. Around that time we only had one woman registered. We had a discussion about the future of this program in our parish and how many people would need to get involved to make it worthwhile to continue.
I was in a meeting with other men and women who had made CRHP retreats at our parish in the past and four of men there told how they were “dragged kicking and screaming” to the retreat weekends that they attended, but that it “changed their lives.” They encouraged me and the rest of our team to, “not take ‘no’ for an answer” when trying to recruit for our upcoming women’s retreat weekend. After our conversation I was part overwhelmed and intimidated by their suggestion and part energized, inspired and motivated.
I started out by calling a close friend and “practicing” with her. She immediately said “no.” I told her that I was not supposed to “take no for an answer” and could I try to talk her into it? She agreed to let me give her my best case for why she should seriously consider participating. At one point she said, “what if I decide to go and the only reason I do so is because I care about you?” I told her, “I’m okay with that!” This was partly because back then I so desperately wanted to get enough women on board to make it happen and because I genuinely believed that no matter what reason she needed to go, she would have a wonderful time. After our conversation she became a “strong maybe.”
In the coming weeks I created a large Google Doc database that our team members used to keep track of women in our parish that we had reached out to inviting them to join us for the retreat. Everyone woman in our parish is welcome to attend our CRHP retreats, however we tried to target those we thought would be more likely to be interested and available, as well as those we have personal connections with.
From there we did our best to touch base with every women on the list to see if they were available, interested and had any questions about the retreat experience. I made countless phone calls and was starting to feel like a telemarketer trying to “sell” our women’s retreat to my fellow parishioners. Our son Sean would tease me, because I would often make the phone calls in the afternoon when he was working on his homework and Abby was playing and after a few days of this he could almost recite my “spiel” verbatim.
We also hung out in the back of church and/or outside after all of the weekend masses for a few weeks with name tags that said “Ask Me About CRHP!” trying to talk with any women that would listen or seemed open to hearing more about our women’s retreat. We had fliers and a sign up sheet and managed to drum up some interest this way too.
In the end I am very happy to report that we recruited and registered 20 women to participate in the retreat this weekend! I can hardly believe it! In one email to the 12 women that are working together to “give” this retreat, I wrote “HOLY COW!” to express my excitement as to how many were now planning to attend. Another team member replied, “not holy cow, HOLY SPIRIT” and I couldn’t agree more.
Whatever drew these women to “make” this CRHP retreat this weekend, I hope and pray that they get as much, or more, out of the experience than I did when I made mine back in March. I ask that you please send your positive, faith-filled and spiritual thoughts and prayers our way this weekend that God will touch the hearts and minds of these women, through this experience, helping them to feel renewed in their own lives and spiritual journeys. I am also hoping and praying that this experience will inspire these women to get more involved with our parish community and share some of their time and talents in the future, which is one of the goals of the CRHP renewal process. Thank you.