Young women’s retreat highlights an important message

2 mins read
young women's retreat
Courtesy of The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist

What could bring more than 50 young women together for a weekend of prayer, talks and friendship? I would not have guessed it would be a discernment retreat. But that was, in fact, the case.

The retreat, hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, was held at the Spiritus Sanctus Academy, a school the sisters sponsor, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was present, having been invited to serve as chaplain for the weekend.

In God’s providence, these young women gathered 40 years after a crowd of 300,000 young people accepted Pope John Paul II’s invitation to meet in Rome to celebrate the Holy Year of the Redemption in 1984.

That day, the pope reminded the crowds that they had freely come to Rome. He told them that freedom allows them to respond to Christ’s invitation by saying “yes” to him. The pope said, “In saying yes to Christ, you give him yourselves; you offer him your hearts; you recognize his place in your lives.” I thought of those words on our retreat and shared them with the young women present.

Purpose of the retreat

Attendees came from all across the country, some from as far as Boston and Phoenix! And these were impressive young women. Each was asking the same burning question: What will be the place of Christ in my life?

That’s the point of the discernment retreat, helping each young woman to hear the voice of Christ and to follow him wherever he leads her. Mother Amata Veritas Ellenbecker, OP, prioress general of the community, beautifully stressed this point throughout the weekend. She assured the women present that the Lord has a plan for each one of them and that he would guide them.

This retreat was wonderful precisely because the young women in attendance could have been anywhere that weekend. Instead, they listened to talks on the spiritual life, made rosaries and participated in all-night Eucharistic adoration (taking shifts throughout the night to pray before the Blessed Sacrament). They were free to choose to follow Christ. And they followed him on retreat.

Freedom to say “yes”

As Christians, we all have moments we replay, moments we wish we had given over to Christ instead of keeping for ourselves. In the Easter season, the Lord beckons us onward. The grace of the Resurrection is that he calls us beyond these, to new horizons of life with him. “Love your freedom; exercise it by saying yes to God,” said Pope John Paul II in 1984. “Do not surrender it. Regain it when it is lost, and strengthen it when it is weak through confession.”

Recognizing Christ’s place expresses something fundamental about what it means to be Christian. Pope John Paul II rightly emphasized that part of the glory of our freedom is the very real ability to say “no.” So many people in our lives say “no” to Christ, but are their lives better for it?

That 1984 meeting with young people laid the foundation for World Youth Day. Since that meeting, millions of young people have discovered Christ’s place in their lives. At the conclusion of the meeting, Pope John Paul II presented the “Cross of the Jubilee Year of Redemption” to them, saying, “Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ’s love for humanity, and announce to everyone that only in the death and resurrection of Christ we can find salvation and redemption.” To discover the place of Christ in one’s life is to pick up the cross and follow the Lord. It has been so since the Lord invited the first disciples, saying, “Come, follow me.”

Father Patrick Briscoe

Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is a Dominican friar and the editor of Our Sunday Visitor. Along with his Dominican brothers, he is host of the podcast Godsplaining and a co-author of "Saint Dominic’s Way of Life: A Path to Knowing and Loving God." He is also the author of the OSV seasonal devotional, "My Daily Visitor."