By Suzy Luecke & Laura Dobson
Special to The Witness
CEDAR FALLS — St. Patrick Church hosted a four-day parish retreat Nov. 4-7. The event, “A Future Full of Hope,” was structured similarly to a parish mission. Each day included time for eucharistic adoration, the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation, inspiring talks, food and social time. High school students provided childcare during several of the sessions for freewill donations to support youth ministry activities.
Father Dennis Colter of St. Patrick Parish gave many of the presentations. He wove Scripture references and information on the lives of saints into his talks to remind all that our hope is in the Lord and that we can look to saints as models and encouragement. He reminded us that saints such as Patrick, Giana, Mother Teresa and Vincent de Paul lived their lives with hope, joy and faith, providing inspiration for all — Christian hope for this life and the next.
Parishioner De Radke shared her reflection on God and motherhood to a packed room in her talk, “Be Not Afraid, but Ponder, Pray and Hope.” She spoke of how though the Bible tells us, “Be not afraid,” on our own, that is not easy. Retreat committee member Rachel Mueller, who has had the opportunity of hearing Radke speak twice now, reflected, “She is truly an inspiration. She’s so raw and real, strong and faith-filled. I don’t think she knows the positive impact she has on others with her courage to share her great but difficult mothering journey. She is a powerful witness of how completely trusting in and befriending God gets you through.”
The final evening featured nationally known Catholic author and speaker Jon Leonetti. Leonetti began with a short visit with faith formation students before his talk in the church. His subject, “Your God is Too Boring,” was itself an attention grabber and attracted Father Colter during the planning process. Leonetti spoke about how everything less than us will never fulfill us and ultimately bores us. God is the only one greater than the human person, and it is only in him we will find the meaning, reason and purpose of our lives. Parishioner Jane Demmer said, “Leonetti’s talk was a great end to the retreat. He shared his personal insight around why he is excited to be Catholic in a very engaging way. It was impossible to not ‘catch’ his enthusiasm!”
Parishioners of all ages and stages of life took part in the retreat. Each night 200 to over 300 people attended the presentations held in the church. Students at St. Patrick School had time for adoration during the school day. “The retreat was an uplifting experience for our whole family,” noted Lisa Ahern, parishioner. “We had many take-aways. One that resonated with our family the most is that we attend church to be fed spiritually, but our true witness and work as followers of Christ happens outside of the parish walls.”
Parishioner and planning team member Kelsey Kersting commented on the success of the event. “I really liked how the retreat not only challenged us to think about our future and the hope of heaven, but it also brought the parish together outside of the Sunday Mass. I’ve been a member here for five years and just now got to meet and really know some wonderful parishioners I’ve seen but never met.”
Suzy Luecke, pastoral associate, reflected on the planning process and the retreat. “It was a huge team effort by the planning committee and staff to offer a multi-day retreat complete with food, music, adoration and reconciliation, and amazing faith-filled inspiring talks! The feedback I have heard is so positive. People loved it and really appreciated the efforts that went into making this a sacred and social time to be together as a parish family. Father Colter, De Radke and Jon Leonetti knocked it out of the park with each talk. Abundant blessings were showered upon so many!”
Dobson is the marketing coordinator and Luecke is the pastoral associate at St. Patrick.
Jon Leonetti signs books on the last day of the parish retreat at St. Patrick Parish in Cedar Falls Nov. 4-7. (Contributed photo)