Women at Peace

wip LargeSr Salome and Sr Patricia explaining the activitiesThis year’s Women’s Retreat organised by the Women’s Desk of Kristus Aman Chapel was held at the Methodist Centre at Port Dickson from 21-23 October with the theme “Women at Peace”. There were all together 59 participants with ages ranging from young unmarried women to grandmothers, from the parishes of Jesus Caritas, St John’s, Assumption, Church of Visitation (Seremban) and Kristus Aman. The participants included Filipinas, Indonesians a Papua New Guinean, a non-Catholic Christian, and even a non-Christian who had been a regular follower of the retreats, all out to experience the retreat. They were divided into 8 groups that were named after Biblical women – Hannah, Esther, Judith, Ruth, Sarah, Rachel, Naomi and Deborah.

The retreat objective was to let the participants discern their God-given gifts in the quietness of prayer and lead them to discover which ministry they would like to undertake to grow in their faith, away from the busyness of their daily lives. What would be the activities that would sensitise them to those around them, in which their role would be to help God to be a co-creator to bring new life to others?

The retreat was conducted by Sr Salomi Cruz and Sr Patricia Barasik, both from the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, and Margaret Lye. The Sisters led the participants through Scripture readings which were followed by meditation on the Word. Mary’s “Yes” in The Annunciation in Luke 1: 26-38 and Luke 1:39-56 was seen as a response in faith, and being faithful to her calling, without which faith would not be long-lasting , and culminating in fruitfulness in bringing Christ to us. The Visitation was seen as being in solidarity with our sisters just as Mary was in solidarity with Elizabeth who was also with child.

As women of peace they should be standing up for the rights of others too. The exercise where participants were asked to reflect and to think back of a time when they were in a dilemma with God asking them to do something impossible enabled them to go through a self-awareness and a self-realising process. It led the participants through the process of unearthing of past pains so that they could move on. They were told that relationship was about the present and not about after the person is gone; God was calling them to be life-bearers. The dynamics of group sharing that followed allowed an empowering of self.

Sr Patricia gave her sharing on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, which was really about a woman with no faith. Jesus’ unusually long discourse with her then strikes her that he is really God, and she goes and announces this discovery to the villagers. The moral of the story as shared by Sr Patricia, was that when we are honest with ourselves, we can hear the voice of God. The ensuing question was whether we were willing to let go of past hurts and move on according to God’s signposts. Are we willing to take a step into the unknown and let God lead?

Taize Prayers which started with the lighting of candles, through its repetitive use of music, lyrics and silence was to help participants hear God speaking to them. Reflections as a result of meditations were written down and put into self-addressed envelopes to be mailed back to the participants to remind of them of this encounter with God and carry out what they had discerned to be the job he tasked them. Philippians 4:8-9 was quoted to fortify the women in the carrying out of the renewed mission:

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with whatever is truthful, holy, just, pure, lovely and noble. Be mindful of whatever deserves praise and admiration. Put into practice what you have learnt from me, what I passed on to you, what you heard from me or saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Sabbath meal prayers were enacted and bread was shared. The sessions were interspersed with “significant” and joyous dancing like the Talikum Dance introduced by the Sisters signifying the opening of hearts to God’s will and bringing God’s salvation to many. There was also a counselling session for those who needed to seek direction. Entertainment Night (Saturday) started with a competition where groups acted out the word PEACE, followed by group dancing and presentations of the Hawaiian dance by the Filipinas. It was a night to let the hair down.

Sunday morning was greeted with Mass at the Church of Immaculate Conception in Port Dickson town where the group was acknowledged and welcomed by Fr. Terrance Thomas, the parish priest.

Back at the retreat centre, for the participants to move forward in their lives, healing was through the meditative prayer of passing under coloured cloths with each colour signifying the different stages of healing. The 3-day retreat was then summed up by Margaret Lye by pulling together the self-discoveries of the participants in the previous sessions to move forward. Her talk was basically scripture-based and her style was interactive. The participants were urged to get more out of life rather than living out a mediocre quality of life. And one just had to turn to the Lord to fill up the empty spaces, and in doing so one gets closer to the Lord. She reminded the participants that when the going gets tough, adversity refines to the point of reflecting the characteristics of Christ, producing his fruits as in Galatians 5:22-24. They were told never to give up on God as promised in Rm 8:28 and 15:13. When in doubt they should claim the 3000 plus promises in the Bible.

For the closing, Margaret advised the “Golden Girls” to have peaceful relationships with their children and at the same time maintain sisterhood in old age as it can provide support, and to which one could relate. Even in old age, seniors can bear fruit as in Psalm 92: 14 and Titus 2:4 which call upon the older women to be good counsellors, and to teach the younger women to be responsible wives and to take good care of their families. As grandmothers they would be useful in the task of handing down the faith to the grandchildren. 1 Pet 4:11 sums it up:

If you speak, deliver the word of God; if you have a special ministry, let it be seen as God’s power so that, in everything, God may be glorified in Jesus Christ.

Feedback for the programme was very positive. Many felt that the retreat was very well organised. The talks were appropriate and spiritually uplifting, the sessions well structured. The sole non-Christian participant enthusiastically expressed her appreciation of the programme. Accommodation was good and facilities very convenient. Meals were very well catered for and plentiful. For many it was a good break and a profitable one in self-awareness of one’s strengths and mission.