A retreat to remember

2017 CWG Retreat Top: Rebecca Willen, Pat Abood, Kathryn Mulderink, Jean Ewing, Cheryl Wills and Joe Cillo. Bottom: Tim Neboyskey, Rhonda Ortiz, Dena Hunt, Nancy Ward, Thora Wease, Sr. Teresa Cardinez and Theresa Alt, photographer. Missing are Lori Crock, Leslie Lynch, Margaret Rose Realy, Elizabeth Scalia and Patricia Sheahan-Hollyer

2017 CWG Retreat, top: Rebecca Willen, Pat Abood, Kathryn Mulderink, Jean Ewing, Cheryl Wills and Joe Cillo. bottom: Tim Neboyskey, Rhonda Ortiz, Dena Hunt, Nancy Ward, Thora Wease, Sr. Teresa Cardinez and Theresa Alt, photographer. Missing are Lori Crock, Leslie Lynch, Margaret Rose Realy, Elizabeth Scalia and Patricia Sheahan-Hollyer

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The camaraderie with other writers at the Catholic Writers Retreat was exciting and the speakers encouraging. The space and time to write was a breath of peace in my over busy life. We had plenty of time slots designated for writing and a critique group of ten writers in various genres.

I wrote a couple of short pieces and two book proposals and loved journaling in the chapel. I got to know and love several new friends and a couple of writers I have networked with on projects for several years.

This would have been enough joy for any retreat. But wait, there’s more! For me, the highpoint of the retreat wasn’t on the schedule of activities, but on the map of the 98-acre site. A walk along the three Natural Cathedral Walkways. No need to look over my shoulder or anticipate what I needed to do next. Here on this long, leisurely walk, I felt the presence of the Lord beside me with the trees bending to pray over us. After a while, bright sunlight appeared and the path widened into a meadow surrounded by gardens. At that magic junction, I experienced a preview of my walk into heaven.

Perseverance and Psalm 23

Natural Cathedral Walkways, St. Francis Retreat Center, DeWitt, MI (Photo by Nancy Ward)

Natural Cathedral Walkways, St. Francis Retreat Center, DeWitt, MI (Photo by Nancy Ward)

The three speakers taught us a lot about Perseverance. Elizabeth Scalia advised us to use words that pierce like a needle to the crux. She said to cut the finished manuscript 10%, let it rest, and then cut 5% more. She reminded us that words are living things and that if we change our words, we change our life. Pray with delight of being with the Lord, and if we get stuck, we’ve gotten in our own way. Let the desire, the passions go. The solution to prayer and writing blocks is just to pray and write anyway. Keep going!

Fr. Doug Osborne used Psalm 23 to remind us how God created us and loves us and how God’s word is “The word who walks among us.” We are his presence in the world, walking among his people and speaking the word of God. Our presence reminds them that God loves his people and how he can work in our lives and their lives. Our words remind our readers of how God has brought them out of circumstances they could never handle alone.

“The world, the people around you need to see hope in you, a hint, a spark, a touch, a whisper of God’s glory in your life,” he said. “They need to see God in your words of goodness.”

Paper dolls and rosaries

Sheri Wohlfert gave us ways to pray constantly and see how God sees us. She kept us hopping with her fun videos and prayer exercises, and hints on handling distractions and procrastination. She gave us a paper doll to color and use to list our God-given attributes. We were challenged to discover any traits in us that distort his image so that he can chisel them off.

I completed the Mary Undoer of Knots Novena during one of the rosaries. A new CWG member, Lori Crock, lead us in SoulCore stretching exercises to music while meditating on the rosary. This rosary was an unexpected demo of the retreat theme of perseverance and gave us insight in integrating our spiritual life in taking care of our body as the temple of God.

Liturgies and marketing

I received incredible guidance from the Lord on my writing priorities during the talks and casual conversations as well as during the liturgies and Adoration. The liturgies were especially well done and inspiring. I went to Reconciliation with a precious elderly priest who shouted because he was hard of hearing. It gave me another perspective in how St. Damian had to confess to another priest who was in a boat a few yards from the island of Molokai, inhabited only by lepers.

The retreat wasn’t all about writing and I took the opportunity our loving and capable Margaret Rose Realy gave us to sell several books and DVDs to the retreatants. Several of us also placed our publications in the St. Francis Retreat Center Bookstore.

Food and fun

I enjoyed delicious meals prepared lovingly and accommodating my gluten-free diet. We lingered after meals for conversations and stayed in the dining room so long one night they had to kick us out so they could clean up!

We all had a blast drinking wine and enjoying the scrumptious snacks Margaret provided us as we gathered around the fireplace at night with lots of games, singing and laughter. My blessings overflow!

(© 2017 Nancy HC Ward)

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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at JoyAlive.net,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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