A group of around 50 young adult Catholics gathered last weekend, Jan. 25-27, to take part in a prayerful and intellectually engaging retreat centered on two huge questions confronting Catholics in these troubled times: Why stay Catholic? And do I really need the church?

Learning about previous reformers throughout church history and taking time for silence and prayer in daily life emerged as key ways to answer those questions.

The retreat at Mother Boniface Spirituality Center in Northeast Philadelphia was sponsored by Eagle Eye Ministries, an Akron, Ohio-based organization founded and run by the Congregation of St. John. It was led by Father Francis Therese Krautter, a member of the order, which has existed since 1975 but came to the United States only recently.


This is the second year the retreat has been conducted in the Philadelphia area, but a similar program has been put on yearly in Akron for nearly a decade by Father Nathan Cromley, a member of the order and close acquaintance of Beth Riordan, former director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Philadelphia Archdiocese. She encouraged Father Cromley to bring the retreat to Philadelphia and he agreed.

Marisa Baldassano of Visitation B.V.M. Parish in Norristown was one of the young adult volunteers who helped to organize the retreat. She has taken part in previous programs with Eagle Eye Ministries, including a two-week trip to Alaska centered on theological studies and last year’s Northeast Philadelphia retreat.

Last weekend’s retreat focused on talks about church reformers throughout the years and the people who led the way in forming our understanding of Catholicism, interspersed with prayer and reflection.

Adam Pizzia of St. Peter Parish in Merchantville, N.J., found the focus of the retreat to be very important, given the current climate of the church.

“This is a timely theme because of everything going on with the (Pennsylvania) grand jury report and Cardinal McCarrick,” he said, adding that the opportunity to reflect on the Word of God was both comforting and galvanizing.


Pizzia invoked the words of Pope Benedict XVI, saying the retreat reminded him that “we are not made for comfort. We are made for greatness.”

Colleen Canfield of St. Columbkill Parish in Boyertown connected with a talk by Sister Immaculata, a member of the Congregation of St. John who spoke on the living nature of God’s Word. Canfield was moved by Sister Immaculata’s thoughts on the importance of taking time — even small amounts of time — throughout the day to speak to God and listen to him as well.

Participants got the chance to do just that, joining the religious in the chapel to pray with them in the same manner the order does every day.

Matthew Mazorati of St. Aloysius Parish in Jackson, N.J., appreciated the opportunity to disconnect from the busy world he lives in outside the retreat, noting how rarely one gets to experience silence in daily life.

The stories of the reformers touched him as well. “Throughout the history of the church, there have been ups and downs, but it has always survived,” he said.

By the retreat’s end Sunday morning, Mazorati was ready to bring that confidence home and help inspire others to remain strong in their faith.

Elvina Wardjiman of St. Norbert Parish in Paoli has been to other retreats in the past but this time she had the opportunity to see just how much goes into conducting them.

Getting to see how hard both the young adults who helped run the retreat and the religious brothers and sisters who conducted it worked to help those in attendance grow in understanding and faith was humbling for her.

Because the Congregation of St. John has a communities all around the world, including a U.S. presence in Texas, New Jersey, Illinois and the U.S. headquarters in Denver, retreat participants were able to speak with people from different cultures in all walks of life.