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Former Volunteers Reconnect at Loretto Motherhouse Retreat

Posted on November 1, 2016, by Loretto Community

Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here! — Seventeen Loretto Volunteer alums gather for a group shot during their Labor Day retreat weekend at Loretto Motherhouse. First row, from left, are Emily Thenhaus, Elizabeth Hardt, Leah Taraskiewicz and Lydia Hanson. Second row, from left, are Jes Stevens, Cecilie Kern, Kathleen Stephan, Charles Riebeling, JoAnn Gates, Kyleah Frederic and Amber Gruner. Third row, from left, are Cathy Jaskey, Catherine Roberts, Kelly Stewart, Susan Classen, Eleanor Humphrey, Cathy Mueller and Molly Butler. Not pictured are Laura Restighini and Mary Jo Trokey.
Photo courtesy of Susan Classen

Seventeen Loretto Volunteer Program alums participated in a retreat at the Motherhouse over Labor Day weekend. They traveled from diverse places, including New York, Washington, D.C., Tennessee, Missouri and Connecticut. Love for Loretto brought them here to renew relationships and nourish the values that have become their guiding life principles. Love for Loretto also inspired two of them to bring a close friend with whom they wanted to share an experience of Loretto.

Retreats have taken place since 2012 and have been called by different names: young adult retreat, former volunteer retreat, leadership retreat and Labor Day retreat. A new named coined this weekend might last — Homecoming Retreat. It is, indeed, coming “home” to Loretto, to each other, and to themselves as individuals on a spiritual journey.

These young women and men are doing what Loretto members past and present have done. Careers include urban planning, social services, international advocacy, journalism and education. Some are in post- graduate programs studying public health, social work, feminist theology and sociology. All are committed to lives of service in the context of the world today. Below is Eleanor Humphrey’s reflection on the most recent retreat at the Motherhouse.

— Susan Classen

By Eleanor Humphey

When I return to the Motherhouse, I’m never sure what I’m going to do, whom I’ll see, whom I’ll reconnect with, but I know life will slow down for a little while. I’ll be safe and able to do as much or as little as I like. And I know that I will learn something new about myself and something new about the Creator in me. I know I will be surprised.

Over Labor Day weekend, I went back to the Motherhouse on a retreat for former Loretto Volunteers. We were encouraged to live fiercely for ourselves as we chose how to spend the time, encouraged to participate in as many or as few scheduled events as we liked. A fly on the wall during the weekend would find former Volunteers and friends sharing stories, reflecting, doing yoga, woodworking, swimming, writing, cooking, walking, catching up with sisters, laughing, being. For me, I prepared music for Mass, colored and talked in the courtyard and roamed through wildflowers and bumblebees.

At the time, the experience was warmly, but strangely, unremarkable. When asked what I would take away from the weekend, I didn’t have much to offer. No bolt of lightning struck me; no butterfly landed on my knee. (Both of these — figuratively or literally — have happened to me at Loretto).

In the past month, I’ve realized that, for the first time, being at the Motherhouse was the wonderfully ordinary comfort of coming home. I rested easy. I reconnected with family. The time was relaxed and energizing. It was not a spiritual epiphany. It was familiar.

And yet, the beauty of Loretto is its constant evolution. What this retreat was for me — a comfy, return home — will be new for some and different for all of us as the tradition (we hope) continues.

I look forward to the change. Like home, Loretto is a little different every time I return and always holds unexpectedly quiet lessons.


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