Thursday, November 20, 2008

It was a cold, gray day in Chicago... Just kidding.

I had the pleasure of being able to set-aside a November Saturday and attend the Men's Retreat at a rather "secluded" location: the North Village Nature Center. Simply driving the road into the location, I knew that I'd be "tucked away" spending the day with God as well as "new friends,” and the day did not disappoint!

Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ was the presider, and upon my arrival, he and his team greeted each of us with warm handshakes, smiles and a table-full of goodies (coffee, Danishes, snacks) as well as a crackling fireplace! It was a very warm and relaxing setting from the start.

What followed was a morning and afternoon of talks and reflections (both group and individual), as well as prayerful meditations. Who could NOT use a day like this in today's troubled-times? It was soooo relaxing, and there was ample time for breaks as well as individual reflection in which, despite being a chilly-day, we were invited to walk the nature-trail along the grounds of the nature center (even spotted a few deer). I cannot WAIT to go back to the nature-center on my own time and take in more of the nature-setting. A delicious lunch was served as well.

Listening to the speakers throughout the day, I was reminded of how we all share the same "struggles" in our daily-lives, and that God truly is our common ground, though we all tend to "stray" in the business of our day-to-day lives. This day served as a quiet reminder that it's alright to "come back" and re-focus. At the day's conclusion, Fr. Michael presided over a simple mass.

Again, who could NOT use a day like this? Did I mention the taffy apples?
:) -Patrick H.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

They call me the seeker...(insert song here)

On Saturday, a group of wonderful young women gathered in the Stella Maris Chapel for the Seekers' Retreat Day for Women. The team gave excellent presentations. Sara's talk "Knowing Myself: Who Am I?" invited us to look back at our lives over the past few years and take a look at the bigger picture. Tina spoke about "Wanting It All Without Losing Everything: Naming What's Important" and how we can reevaluate our priorities in life. Emily shared a time of struggle in her own life as she helped us to look at "Suffering, Healing, and Hope" and how difficult times shape us into the women we are today.

Want more pictures from the day? Check out the Charis Ministries group on Facebook.

Guys, feel like you missed out? You didn't! Check out the Seekers' Retreat Day for Men coming up on Saturday.

-Lauren G

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Almost There

I rarely spend a day relaxing and reflecting. Many times the week goes by in a blur and all I can remember is work, eat, sleep, play, work, eat, sleep, etc. It can be hard for me to find time for deeper prayer, reflecting on everything that goes on in the day, or even to have a conversation and share my more reflective thoughts with others. That is why I am looking forward to the Seekers' Retreat. I am excited to feel like I am a million miles away from all my to-dos and have a chance to pray. I am also excited to share that experience with other young women who are longing for the same thing. I probably don't give myself enough days like this but I am definitely taking advantage of the Seekers' Retreat and looking forward to Saturday.

- Tina F.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Room to Breathe

Emily B. is a team leader on the upcoming Seekers' Retreat Day for Women this Saturday. Call the office (773.508.3237) now to register for this event and spend the day with Emily.

Spending a day with other ladies in their twenties and thirties, searching ourselves & sharing in fellowship, while in the presence of God? Sounds like a much needed breather in this crazy life! I am looking forward to sharing the day with other women who feel a bit overwhelmed by the day to day bustle, and yet a bit bored with the same routine. It is a big old world out there, and I hope to learn I'm not the only one who feels as though she’s constantly searching for my place in it!

- Emily B.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Food for All, Food for the Soul

St. Columbanus was an Irish missionary monk who left home and crossed the Irish Sea to do the work of Christ. Mid-morning Saturday, on the Feast of All Saints, I left home and crossed Chicago on CTA to join about a dozen individuals from Charis Ministries and Amate House for a Service Day at the food pantry at St. Columbanus Parish. This was part of Amate House’s 25 Ton Food Drive to collect food for the food pantry. While I cannot compare my travels from the Rogers Park neighborhood to the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood on CTA with St. Columbanus’ adventurous travels over the Irish Sea in the early Middle Ages (although CTA does have its moments), I have no doubt that the work being done weekly at the food pantry done under St. Columbanus’ patronage is the work of Christ.

The food pantry distributes food to over 350 families every Wednesday. As part of our service, we unloaded food from cars and trucks, and weighed and sorted the contributions. While we were collecting over four and a half tons of food for the poor over the late morning and early afternoon, there was fellowship, fun, and food. (Can you really imagine a Charis event without these elements?)

One could sense the Spirit actively at work at St. Columbanus and in our endeavor. I was immediately struck about how catholic this experience was. It was truly universal and multicultural. There were Northsiders, Southsiders, African-American, Caucasian, Latino, Asian, straight, gay, young and old coming together to “feed the hungry.” In addition to those of us from Charis Ministries, we met high school students from Mt. Carmel High School, volunteers from Amate House and Calvert House, and of course parishioners from St. Columbanus. I was part of something larger than myself to make a real impact on the lives of 350 families – at least, temporarily.

The hospitality of the parishioners, especially LaVerne and Debbie, and the pastor, Father Matt Eyerman, was extraordinary. The parishioners welcomed us with graciousness. In between deliveries, a client of the food pantry stopped by to express her gratitude with a hug to the director of the pantry, LaVerne, for the work of the pantry and then gave what little money she had as a contribution. Talk about a gospel story coming to life in a very real and concrete way.

I left home, in a small way, to help feed the hungry with food. I, in turn, was fed spiritually. And I did not even have to cross the Irish Sea to participate in God’s work…

- Tim S.