“Finding Our Way” at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality
For the past two years, co-director Tony Pichler and a group of six others involved with the Norbertine Center for Spirituality have facilitated Finding Our Way retreats for people experiencing homelessness. The retreats take place at St. Norbert Abbey in January for women and in February for men.
“These are some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our community,” said Pichler during an interview for the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of St. Norbert College Magazine. The retreats may be a contributing factor in enabling some participants to change their situations: several who were homeless at the time of their retreats are now holding steady jobs and living in their own apartments.
Reflections from a Very Special Retreat
As seen in the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of Abbey Magazine (page 17)
Following the success of a men’s retreat for guests of St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter, a retreat for women from the shelter was offered in April 2015. They spent two days and one night on retreat at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality followed by a day of reflection in May. Guided by five volunteers, these women spent time learning about themselves, one another, and God, with sessions punctuated by laughter, tears, and hope. Yet above all, gratitude was expressed for a safe environment, showers, healthy food, and simply being in a place in which they felt respected. Virginia Sue, one of the participants, graciously shared her thoughts regarding the experience. We, who have homes, have much more in common with those who experience homelessness than we tend to realize.
Virginia Sue wrote:
“I did not know what to expect at the Women’s Retreat at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality. As we drove into the entrance of the abbey, I was in awe of the peaceful beauty of the grounds and the friendly greeting I received upon entering the building. I felt at ease, at peace, and welcome.
The room I was to occupy for the night looked out over one of the gardens. Looking out the window, the view was lovely although the trees and flower beds still reflected the winter cold. I was amazed and delighted to see the chapel and its stained glass windows.
Every activity helped me to focus on myself and my relationships. Receiving positive affirmations from the other women boosted my self-esteem tremendously.
Having a time of reflection, drawing pictures, and the other activities directed my thoughts on where I was in life. I was going through a rough storm that was overwhelming, but I realized I had the strength to survive and learn.
I was sad to leave the next day, but will remember the time I spent with some wonderful people, the excellent food prepared for us, and my newfound strength. However, the promise of a follow-up retreat kept the spark alive for my next visit in May.
When I returned in May, I took the opportunity to walk the prayer labyrinth. I realized how my life’s path matched each twist and curve.
This experience has left me with more options for myself and my personal relationships. I can look at myself and smile at the beautiful person I am. One day, I will bring my daughter for our own little retreat. Thank you.”
Since the retreat, Virginia Sue has become employed full-time and is living independently in an apartment with her daughter.
In the News
Homeless and on retreat
St. Norbert College Magazine