Last month 53 women from the Housing and Homeless Services division of Catholic Social Services attended the inaugural Women in Transition Retreat hosted by Malvern Retreat House.
The women attending were mostly residents along with a few staff members from Mercy Hospice, Women of Hope-Vine Street, Women of Hope-Lombard Street, Visitation Homes, McAuley House and St. Mary’s Residence.
The overnight retreat was provided at no cost through the generosity of the Malvern Retreat House Golf Classic, which raises funds each year for a charity called Malvern Cares, whose purpose is to provide retreat opportunities for formerly homeless men and women transitioning back into the community.
Malvern Retreat’s president, Jim Fitzsimmons, chose the CSS programs to benefit from the retreat in consultation with Jacki Delaney, vice chairperson of Malvern’s board of directors and a long-time volunteer with Catholic Social Services.
“In a few short hours,” said Delaney, who also attended the retreat, “we came to realize we are all here on this earth to help one another … a gift we gave each other.”
Amy Stoner, director of CSS Community-based Services, also attended the retreat and was touched by how the program residents and staff persons engaged one another as friends and companions on a common journey.
“We were all like sisters, sharing our stories, supporting one another, praying with and for each other,” Stoner said. “I have been on many retreats, while for most of these women this was their first retreat. It was amazing to see how God blessed each one.”
The retreat was led by Blessed Sacrament Sisters Jane Nesmith and Lynn Marie Ralph, along with Father Anthony Orth, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish, Essington.
“God is good — all the time. All the time — God is good!” was the powerful mantra proclaimed throughout the retreat. Its theme, “Knock, Knock! Who’s There? Naming, Claiming and Proclaiming,” invited the women to acknowledge what needs healing in their lives and discover how to become their best selves with God’s healing love.
“It is my hope that the women who participated in the weekend left with a deep awareness of their own personal beauty and strength, empowered to jump over those daily hurdles in life, and knowing how deeply loved they are by God,” said Sister Jane.
The retreat concluded with a powerful anointing ceremony that gave each woman a personal moment of prayer calling forth the grace of God to strengthen them for the journey forward, with “a deeper awareness of how deeply loved they are by their God,” said Sister Jane.
One retreat participant thanked Sister Jane for “giving me my Jesus back.” Another retreatant commented on the warm and accommodating Malvern staff, observing, “These people are really happy about having us here.”
At the closing lunch, Fitzsimmons gave each woman a special pin to welcome them women into the Malvern family, and let them know they are always welcome.