Story by S.L. Hansen
WAVERLY (SNR) - Catechists from throughout the diocese are encouraged to attend a special retreat led by Father Sean Kilcawley titled, “The Theological Virtues & Joy of the Gospel.”
The retreat will be held Nov. 21-23 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat Center in Waverly.
“The theological virtues are simply the virtues of faith, hope, and charity (or love),” Father Kilcawley explained. “These virtues are foundational to the Christian life at all levels.”
Father Andrew Heaslip, diocesan director of religious education, said he believes the retreat will be very beneficial, and not just within the confines of a catechist’s role in teaching others about the Catholic faith.
“When we go on retreat, the fruit of that begins to pour out in our other areas of our life,” he said. “It’s a time for renewal.”
Father Kilcawley planned the retreat last year when he was head of the Religious Education office. He is now director of the Office of Family Life and Evangelization.
“One of his goals is to teach catechists that the life of faith, hope, and charity is a life of joy,” Father Heaslip said. “That’s important for catechists because if we don’t have joy we are really missing a big part of the Gospel.”
The theme and topics for this retreat were inspired by three papal encyclicals that brought all three of these virtues into focus: Pope Benedict XVI’s “Deus Caritas Est (God is Love),” “Spe Salvi Facti Sumus (In Hope We Were Saved),” and “Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith),” the last of which was completed by Pope Francis.
“What I would like to do in this retreat is look at some aspects from these three encyclicals and relate them to Pope Francis’ document on evangelization, ‘Evangelii Gaudiam (The Joy of the Gospel),’” said Father Kilcawley.
To that end, the retreat will include three different conferences, one on each of the virtues, which will include Pope Benedict XVI’s teachings. Father Kilcawley will then lead the group in applying those concepts to what Pope Francis writes about catechesis in “Evangelii Gaudiam.”
Father Kilcawley said he hopes that attendees will gain two advantages from this retreat.
“The first is that they might encounter Jesus Christ in a more profound way themselves,” he said. “The second is that they will gain insight into how to hand on to their students what they have received from the Lord.”
He noted that Pope Francis demonstrated in his teaching and actions that all Christians are called to evangelize.
“This evangelization begins with ‘the first proclamation of Christ’s saving love,” Father Kilcawley emphasized. “I think it will be interesting to unpack this idea in light of the fact that Pope Benedict taught the theological virtues in reverse order: Love, Hope, and Faith.”
He added. “We will reflect on what significance this might have for handing on the faith to others.”
Father Heaslip acknowledged that the retreat is a sacrifice of time for each catechist who attends, but he is confident that the blessings received will outweigh any expenditure.
“The pay-off is, ‘I’m sacrificing the time, but it enriches my time later, because I’m more renewed in my faith,’” he said.
Father Kilcawley agreed.
“Every retreat is about encountering Christ,” he stated. “We will use these topics in order to facilitate a focus on Christ’s love for us, which leads to hope for happiness, joy, and ultimately eternal life, finally culminating in a renewed act of faith, entrusting ourselves to the love of Christ.”
He said he is excited to pass on what he has learned from the Lord about teaching the faith.
“I see my role as that of a facilitator who introduces two people – Jesus and the retreatant – in the same way each catechist is called to facilitate a relationship between Jesus and the student,” he said.
While the emphasis for this retreat is catechists, all are welcome to attend.
“The ritual for baptism points out that every parent is the ‘first teacher of their children in the faith.’ In other words, every parent is a catechist,” Father Kilcawley reasoned. “So, one does not have to be a religion teacher to attend. Unless we are already saints, we are all in need of continued conversion.”
Catechists will also have the opportunity to interact with other religion teachers and CCD teachers.
“This is a great opportunity to share ideas and ask questions about what is working or not working in the classroom,” Father Kilcawley noted.
To sign up for the retreat, call (402) 786-2705 or go to www.goodcounselretreat.com/retreat/schedule/ and select the Nov. 21-23 event. The cost to attend is a tax-deductible donation of $170, which includes a private room and meals. Catechists with limited financial resources who want to attend should consult their pastors about potential solutions.
“I know that if somebody wants to go, we’ll find a way to get them to benefit from the retreat one way or another,” Father Heaslip assured.