By Jerry Duggan
The UCS Province offers retreats for both members of the province and lay colleagues. The pandemic forced the cancellation of in-person retreats, but the commitment and creativity of retreat planners allowed both the Colleagues Retreat and the Province Retreat to proceed online.
The annual Colleagues Retreat has become an important spiritual offering in recent years, with colleagues from each of the province’s apostolic works attending a seven-day silent retreat at either Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas, Texas, or Sacred Heart Retreat in Sedalia, Colo. While the number of participants was reduced by the move online, the retreat gave colleagues from around the province a chance to grow in faith.
Tom Reynolds, UCS provincial assistant for higher education, serves as coordinator for the Colleagues Retreat, while Fr. Hung Pham, SJ, is the spiritual leader.
This year, Fr. Pham had participants interact more, as opposed to the completely silent format of past years. According to Reynolds, that was a welcome addition.
“To get to know others who share in our Jesuit mission and grow in faith at the same time is a blessing,” he said.
While the program had to be restructured, Fr. Pham said it went well, thanks to the high level of participant engagement.
“When you’re online, you have to make people feel like the other participants are there with them,” he explained. “Encouraging participants to interact with each other, putting them in breakout rooms for more intimate discussion, and uniting in prayer and song are ways to recreate that sense of community.”
Jesuit Fathers David Romero and Brian Christopher led the Province Retreat. This eight-day retreat for UCS Jesuits focused on the Society of Jesus’ universal apostolic preferences (UAPs).
Fathers Romero and Christopher adapted their usual retreat preparation to the challenges presented by the online format.
“Leading a retreat is not like a lecture; it’s like a homily,” Fr. Christopher explains. “How I preach changes depending on how I interpret the audience, and it’s difficult to do that online.”
Fathers Romero and Christopher filmed retreat content in the countries where they are missioned (Brazil and Belize, respectively), allowing them to show participants what life is like there.
“Showing participants by video what life is like in Brazil hopefully added an international perspective,” Fr. Romero said. “Many Jesuits contacted us afterward and told us how much they appreciated our work, and how much they got out of it,” Fr. Romero said. “Hearing that means everything to me.”