Imagine attending a Dunrovin Come Away With Me retreat for the first time. You enter the building, unsure of what will happen during the day. You leave about 8 hours later, refreshed and rested, perhaps after wrestling with God and then surrendering.
One deacon who came urged us, “You need to keep offering this. People really need this kind of day.” Another person, the husband of a retreatant, said, “All the women had a fantastic retreat – you should do it again and again.”
So, what is the Come Away With Me retreat? And how did it come to be?
The Come Away With Me retreats were born in early 2022 from a simple vision. Give people a framework to encounter God in a personal way by leading them through a day of prayer, and God will show up. Jerome Meeds, Dunrovin executive director and founder of the LEAD youth program, observed the transformation of hundreds of middle and high school students over the years as they spent time together. He recognized the need for adults to experience the transformative love of God as well. Having experienced his own healing through God’s work, due to the teachings of Bob Schuchts and the John Paul II Healing Center, Jerome wanted to offer time for adults to receive healing.
- First, the day is intentionally short. Many people can drive to Dunrovin and back home between sunrise and sunset. Life is busy; one day of quiet prayer is powerful.
- Second, the day is intentionally designed for a small number of retreatants. Although there is no small group discussion, people seem more comfortable in the intimacy of a small group.
- Thirdly, Come Away With Me retreats are offered for free. God freely gives his love and grace, and we want to mimic God. Keeping with the “free” theme, a free-will offering is accepted and designated to bring youth to the retreat center, many of who also come at no cost.
- Additionally, the retreat is offered about four times a year. Much of the content remains similar, using scriptures/themes designed for the liturgical season.
Envision a group of people, fewer than 25, sometimes fewer than 10, coming together to pray. Jerome and Mary, his wife, take turns leading the retreatants in various styles of prayer, including lectio divina and Ignatian meditation. Two short talks designed to help people think outside the box are offered. After all, people coming on retreat often feel stuck or need a boost to look at life differently. Journaling during each time of prayer allows the Holy Spirit a pen with which to speak new thoughts. One woman said,
I decided to try to write even though I did not think I had anything to write. It was amazing. I just wrote and wrote and wrote, and I feel like God was really speaking through those words.”Retreat guest
Jerome and Mary offer prayer reflections and spiritual direction. Guests take time to pray and think and slow down. Retreatants may walk the grounds for fresh air or choose a dorm room for a nap.
People are encouraged to share a God story, essentially a three-minute testimony. Many think of this as public speaking; it is optional. Rarely does someone opt out. The stories are powerful. People share during a meal or perhaps snuggled by the warm fireplace.
The pinnacle of the retreat takes place during the final hour or two. Jerome shares about chairs. (Come on a retreat to discover what is so special about the chairs!) Eucharistic adoration follows and completes the day of prayer. Non-Catholics are as welcome as Catholics, and all enjoy this prayerful peace.
The highlight of my experience was the stillness…silence is a gift…time to ponder.”Retreat guest
The day is simple. God extends the invitation to “Come away with me and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31) All you need to do is show up.