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Following Christ Into the Silence: Twenty-four Women. Five Days. Silence & Prayer.

On the 140 acres of Queen of Peace Retreat Center, Mary and Elizabeth hosted our annual, five-day silent retreat. 24 women responded to Christ’s leading them into the silence where they pondered the mystery of woman and holiness in the desert. The retreat began on Wednesday evening with a votive Mass to St. Joseph, praying for his intercession as we went into the silence.

Gone were the distractions of the everyday world, replaced by the gentle sounds of nature – the rustling leaves, the chirping of birds, and the whispering of sharp winds on some days. Prayer began in the morning with the Liturgy of the Hours, Mass, and the rosary. Days were filled with two conferences, five hours of Eucharistic adoration, additional praying of the breviary, and meals spent facing beautiful outdoor views in silence.

Dr. Anthony Lilles, an international expert in the writings of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity and the Carmelite Doctors of the Church, offered profound conferences that resonated deeply with the hearts of the retreatants. Using his colleague’s recently published text, “Athirst for the Spirit,” he broke open for the group Dr. Nina Heerman’s deep, biblical insights on woman, the mystery of the Church, and Christ’s leading her through the desert; interweaving Carmelite spirituality and mysticism. Altogether there was imparted an urgent, heroic call and great veneration for the role of woman.

Fr. Joseph Sax of the Diocese of Memphis served as chaplain, and he was a gift from St. Joseph. He showed up early to bless the building and rooms, offered Mass and confession daily, and attended all conferences; adding keen insights and reflections. Fr. Sax, Dr. Lilles, Gina Witt of the St. Michael Center, and Heather Voccola, Director of Mary and Elizabeth, all made themselves available for spiritual direction and prayer throughout the conference. Women continually commented in the “sharing of graces” at the conclusion of the retreat, that abundant grace was given by our Lord through the witness and encounters with those who served and ministered to them through direction and prayer.

So many aspects of the retreat were planned not by our team, but by the Lord’s providence. As we ponder and reflect on the many graces of the weekend, we are left in great thanksgiving to our Jesus, the many women who heeded the call to come, and our retreat team who served, especially Dr. Lilles, Fr. Sax, Gina Witt, and our own Heather Voccola. It was a really special retreat.

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