One of the highlights of Leonie’s Longing in 2023 was the in-person retreat that some of the women of our community were blessed to attend. One of the participants shares her thoughts about this beautiful experience.
The cozy evening skies of Kittery welcomed us as the car rolled up to the Leonie’s Longing retreat. Theresa, Sally, and I were met by Roberta and Elise with warm smiles and tight hugs. As we entered the house, the day was closing behind us. We heard the indistinct mooing of the cows in the adjacent barn and felt the soft evening breeze caressing us with sweet country smells from the wheat fields and pine trees.
The idyllic wooden cabin was festively prepared prior to our arrival by Elise and Roberta (assisted by their families). They showed us around, and we stored our bags in our respective cozy rooms. The living room had pictures that told a story of centuries past, and the old rustic iron cast stove stood in the living room as if an elderly grandparent could be welcoming us home in the country.
We had dinner and talked at length, getting to know each other and sharing the unique stories that providentially brought us together. After dinner, we retired to the living room for a brief discussion of the retreat schedule, followed by a surprise “goody bag” with lovely little notebooks, pens, and chocolates, among other things. The day concluded with a prayer of thanksgiving.
The next morning was quietly exciting as we visited the beach and a lighthouse in Maine before proceeding to St Martin’s Church in New Hampshire to officially begin the “Live Out Loud – Leonie’s Longing in-person retreat, 2023.” After a delicious dinner, we headed inside the church for Adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. Peace filled my being as I sat before my Lord and thanked Him for bringing us together in His name. After this grace-filled commencement, we headed back to the house for our nightly discussion and closing prayer.
The weekend was the highlight of the retreat.
Saturday started off with a heart-warming private Mass celebrated Fr. Andrew Nelson at St. Mary’s Church. Fr. Andrew spoke to our hearts with words of serenity, joy, and encouragement, urging us to continue bearing witness to our vocation beyond the convent. God’s work keeps progressing within us even after leaving a religious order, and Fr. Andrew emphasized that God is not done with us yet. God’s mysteriously beautiful plan is being fulfilled in our past, present, and future, and we have much more to do in our own unique vocations. This was the first step of our inward journey of healing and acknowledgment. Then, after Mass, Roberta led us through guided meditation to reflect on ourselves, our strengths, and our values.
Later in the evening, we participated in a relaxing session of “SoulCore” (led by a friend and instructor, Monica). This involved a series of stretching exercises synchronized with praying and meditating on the holy rosary. After SoulCore, we were so relaxed and yet energized that we decided to take a stroll in the fields behind the house to breathe in the fresh air of the Kittery countryside and to pay a visit to our friends, the cows. Interestingly, Elise received a big kiss from a very hungry cow.
After this little backyard adventure, we returned to the house, and Elise led us through our next session of guided meditation. She used the progressive muscle relaxation technique to calm and center us so that we began an inward journey to the core of our being to tap into our past and present and to ponder our inert ambitions and dreams. This exercise was deeply refreshing and enlightening. We wrapped up the evening with a few quiz-like games and closed the day with another prayer of thanksgiving.
Sunday was the last day and the climax of the retreat, as it was the wonderful feast of the Divine Mercy. We attended Mass again at St. Mary’s Church. This time we met Fr. Andrew’s mother, who had also left a religious order a long time ago! After lunch at a nearby diner, we returned to the same church for the Divine Mercy chaplet, beautifully sung by the choir.
I must include a personal note here, as I was touched on this day by a combination of the Mass readings, homily, personal discussions, and confession. I was reminded of the undying and everlasting love of the Heavenly Father and how He is always with us. He is with us in our joys, in our struggles, in our confusion, and in our times of forlornness. He is always there, and it is freeing to trust in Him and constantly repeat the words of St. Faustina, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
The next morning was the dreaded time of farewells and “Monday blues,” but thankfully, we were still brimming with the warm joy of the grace-filled weekend. After long-drawn, heartfelt hugs, we parted ways with hopeful sentiments, eagerly awaiting the next in-person event or retreat. Until we meet again, may God’s Divine Mercy be always with us!