By Fr. Louis Studer, OMI, U.S. Provincial
The North American Conference of Oblate Retreat and Renewal Centers (NACORRC) met at Queen of Apostles Retreat Center in Mississauga, Ontario May 22-26, 2022. The theme of the gathering was “Thanks For What the Lord Has Done and Hope For What the Future Holds.”
The group had not met the past three years because of the pandemic so this year’s conference was particularly joyful, with much gratitude expressed for the opportunity to renew former acquaintances and make new ones. This group has been gathering since 1978.
Ten Oblates and thirteen lay leaders, representing eight retreat facilities in Canada and U.S., shared together about what our past has been and in what direction our future might lie.
There was animated sharing about how our retreat programming fits in with the charism of St. Eugene and his desire to lift up the dignity, the self-respect of the poor and abandoned and invite them to become Christians and then saints! St. Eugene’s parish missions also are indications of his ardent desire to lead people to Christ, not content with only their regular faith practices in their parishes, despite the spiritual growth they receive there. Our retreat centers are continuing that legacy.
There was also concern shared about what will be the future of some of these retreat facilities. With declining numbers of Oblates in the region, they questioned and wondered who will lead and direct these facilities and if some might soon have to close.
I was invited to lead the opening Eucharist Sunday evening and give the keynote presentation Monday afternoon. I thanked them for their ministry, for their addressing the needs and desires of folks who come to our retreat facilities, seeking the Lord more deeply at an often crucial and stressful moment in their lives. This important ministry is part and parcel of St. Eugene’s passion to bring te good news of Jesus Christ to the poor!
At the meeting, participants reviewed some striking statistics: in 1978, there were 41 retreat centers in the Oblate Congregation; there were 21 retreat centers in Canada-U.S. region!
Participants expressed gratitude for the fact that no other Oblate ministry in the Canada-U.S. region has invited greater participation of laity than in retreat ministry
Grateful for our rich past, participants at the meeting expressed hope for the future in continuing to offer programming relevant to the cultures and milieu of contemporary society in the Canada-U.S. region. Next year’s gathering will be at King’s House of Retreats in Buffalo, Minnesota, at a date yet to be determined.