Retreat offers chance to reflect
BY DONNA WALKER, Correspondent
Every year, parishioners gather at St. John Neumann Church for a three-day renewal that gives them "a new way to approach life."
The renewal, also called a mission or a retreat, happens during the Lenten season, and the timing is intentional. Lent, said church member Paul Currie, is the peak of liturgical season, a time for self and spiritual reflection.
"We are all on a spiritual journey, especially if we are serious about our faith," he said. "Life has a way of demanding my attention. So the mission affords me the time for three evenings to stop and redirect my attention."
To be held March 11-13, the renewal has preaching at its center. Passionist priest the Rev. Blaise Czaja will travel from Citrus Heights, Calif., to share insights on how to deepen one's faith.
"The purpose of the mission is to get people to look more honestly at themselves and their relationship with God and others," Czaja wrote in an email.
He will speak twice a day with 9 a.m. homilies on gratitude, prayer and hope, and 7 p.m. sermons on God's grace as gift on March 11, repentance on March 12 and the Eucharist on March 13.
Those who've attended missions before said they have no expectations; yet, they do expect to be changed.
"I know when I leave there, I'll be really full and have a new way to approach my life," Meg Connors said. "Each time I go, it adds something new to my life."
Connors has attended many missions and said speakers forced her to be introspective without being harsh.
"They make you search, but they're not … ." She jabbed her index finger at the air in front of her and continued, "They're with us, not at us."
Deacon Peter Jupin said that's the speaker's job, to encourage and challenge them to examine themselves and their faith.
"In a time of such great anxiety, confusion and uncertainty about so many things, we need to seek the truth about what we believe about God and our relationship to God," Jupin said. "The truth about so many things has become distorted. (The retreat) is meant to draw us back."
Czaja is up to the challenge. He received his vocation to be a Passionist when he was in eighth grade, and he heard Passionists speak at his home parish in Texas.
"From that day on I wanted to preach missions myself," he said.
Czaja was ordained in 1964 and began preaching missions in 1972.
"The Paschal Mystery, the death and resurrection of Jesus, has been at the heart of my preaching," he said. "I call people to repentance and to move more deeply into the sacramental life of the church, especially the Eucharist.
"When I was a kid the great goal of the missionary was to get people to make a good confession," Czaja said. "I still see that as a goal for some people, but more generally the time of a mission is a time to go into retreat mode for a few days."
The Lenten journey experienced by Christians at this time of year also is a season of joy, Jupin said.
"The retreat helps remind us that even in the middle of Lent, it's a season of great hope and great joy, a preparation for Easter joy," he said
The Renewal is free and open anyone. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 569-6331.
nPassionist priest to speak at three-day renewal at St. John Neumann Church.