A retreat for those in mid-life

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, June 1, 2014

By the time they make it to their late 30s or 40s. people have learned a thing or two.

They’ve learned about others, they’ve learned about human nature, they’ve even learned a thing or two about themselves.

“For many of us, you confront the reality that you have to pay the bills, you have to pay the rent, you have to get the food,” said Yohanna Mualim, who coordinates Reflect retreats for Catholic singles in mid-life. “People in their early 20s, you have a vision, you have a dream, you want to reach the stars. Not that people in mid-life don’t, but we face a very different set of questions, a very different set of issues about the meaning of life.”

The Reflect retreats started in 2004 in the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., growing out of a young adult retreat called Refresh. They came to Chicago in 2011, with one retreat weekend offered each year at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House in Mundelein. This year’s retreat will be June 20-22.

Reflect retreats also are offered in St. Louis.

Mualim said the retreat follows a fairly standard format, with time for prayer, discussion, reflection, an opportunity for confession and Mass. The difference is that it welcomes people who sometimes have a hard time finding a place to fit in church.

Participants can be divorced, widowed or never married, said Camela Furry, who is part of the volunteer team that runs the retreats in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Many of them are raising children or have children in college, and many have seen their lives take paths they never expected.

“Especially for single parents, a lot of the time they feel they are out there doing it alone,” Furry said. “They feel like there is no one out there in the same situation. There is a certain isolation you might feel.”

But there are plenty of people in similar situations — enough so that there has been a waiting list for the retreat for the last two years. Because it is run by volunteers who have their own responsibilities, there hasn’t been a move to add a second annual retreat.

Organizers are happy to refer people to other Catholic groups for mid-life singles, Mualim said.

Coming to the retreat offers participants the opportunity to refresh themselves spiritually, as well as to meet others who understand some of their challenges.

While there are no permanent groups spinning off the retreats, there is a followup dinner, and many former participants have become friends, Furry said, adding that she knows of one pair of friends who became roommates after meeting at the retreat.


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