One of my favorite sayings is, "Every expert was once a beginner," and I can honestly say there are now many experts who enjoy making retreats quite frequently. Allow me to take this opportunity to briefly describe a retreat experience through actual questions and comments received from individuals who had never been on a retreat until their visit to the Center of Renewal at Stella Niagara. Happily, those who decided to try it out have been pleasantly surprised and renewed.
"Can anyone make a retreat? I thought it was only for the religious, i.e., priests, brothers or sisters."
Although it is true these individuals regularly make retreats, the experience is open to all who are eager to pursue their own spiritual journeys, to become closer to God within themselves, or just to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and slow down in a meaningful way. First, locate a retreat center you would like to visit. It could be in a remote section of the country or right in town, perhaps with natural destination sights nearby (such as Niagara Falls). Regardless of its location, one common denominator I have personally experienced is the feeling you get when you talk with caring staff and actually stay on site. You should feel a genuine sense of hospitality and spirituality from the retreat center, and that feeling should help to enhance your overall experience and memories afterward.
"What are the rooms like? Do I bring my own sheets and towels? What about meals?"
Here at the Center of Renewal at Stella Niagara, we have 70 rooms to accommodate up to 93 people in various types of rooms. On average, for example, you will be assigned a single room which has a comfortable bed already made up with appropriate bed linens; a desk with chair, lamp, small fan; either an easy chair or a second twin bed; towels, an extra pillow and blankets; a place to hang your clothes; and a sink with mirror in your room. Bathrooms and private showers are just steps away for your convenience. All three meals are served in our own dining room, but advance reservations are required.
"Once I'm there, what will I be doing?"
This depends upon whether you are coming for a private retreat (one where you are by yourself) or attending a formally scheduled group retreat. A private retreat can be a single day or longer; most people like to come for at least two nights or more. You might opt to schedule time with a spiritual director, a person trained to guide your spiritual journey. Perhaps you want to visit the extensive landscaped grounds, taking in all God has to offer us in nature. Set aside time to read, listen to music, be creative with artwork, and maybe engage in physical exercise along with time for rest and relaxation. This is time to invest in yourself. Group retreats are different with some scheduled group lecture/activities, for example:
Friday afternoon check in with dinner at 5 p.m.
Opening session 7 to 8:30 p.m., then open time
Saturday 8:30 a.m. breakfast, then open contemplative time (reading, walking, praying, journaling, etc.)
Morning session 10-11:30 a.m.
Lunch at noon, with open contemplative time (or a well-earned nap)
Afternoon session 2:30-4 p.m.
Saturday Vigil Mass (or on Sunday morning) and 5 p.m. dinner
Evening session 7-8:30 p.m.
8:30 am breakfast with closing session mid-morning and room check-out
Noon lunch and departure
Whatever you do, make the decision now to take a retreat this year. Contact the retreat center and talk with the staff; they are skilled in helping you determine the best option just for you. We invite you to call the Center of Renewal at Stella Niagara to refresh, revive, rejoice, regenerate, and renew, just for you.
For more information contact 716-754-7376, www.stellaniagararetreats.org.