DREs and youth ministers retreat to renew


SEABROOK ISLAND — The Renew and Rejoice retreat called ministers to rest and relaxation.

Directors of religious education and youth ministers from all over the state recently settled into Camp St. Christopher on Seabrook Island for a three-day retreat. The camp, located on a beautiful stretch of beach on the Atlantic Ocean, was the perfect spot for some R&R.

“All year they’re giving of themselves. It’s a time for them to re-energize, to regather themselves,” said Paul Schroeder, director for the Office for Evangelization, Initiation and Catechesis.

Schroeder and Jerry White, director for the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, began the retreat three years ago to give ministers a break.

The presenters for the retreat were Bob and Maggie McCarty of Laurel, Md. The married couple began presenting together in the Baltimore Archdiocese about eight years ago. Since, they’ve been called to travel as far as Australia and New Zealand. Bob McCarty is the executive director for the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, and Maggie is the director of development for the Good Shepherd Center for Adolescents in Baltimore. With more than 45 years combined in youth and religious education ministry, presenting workshops is done in their “spare” time. But they wear their joy in doing their ministry on their shirtsleeves.

“I enjoy [presenting] with Maggie; we get different perspectives working together,” Bob McCarty said. “We have some of our best conversations when planning retreats.”

They were described as down to earth and easy to relate to by one participant.

They openly share personal stories of struggle and triumph creating an inviting atmosphere. The three-day retreat at Camp St. Christopher re-energized the ministers by helping them to come to know themselves more fully

The McCarty’s asked reflective questions from which the participants explored their lifestyles and identities. They discussed obstacles along the Christian path and actions that prevent movement along the road; actions included not listening or accepting, not reflecting, putting things off, missing one’s gifts and contentment with superficiality. To overcome these actions, one also has to overcome the obstacles: letting go, setting out, and keeping on.

Bearing the cross is part of walking the Christian path.

“Together, it’s joy and suffering that stretch our hearts and allow us to love more deeply,” said Bob, who along with Maggie discussed disarming the heart through forgiveness and letting go.

“Why disarm the heart?” they asked, “because the failure to do so keeps us from being the creation of God that we are.”

The healing process, as they described it, included seven steps: acknowledge the hurt, decide to forgive, allow time to heal, remember forgiveness is not easy, listen to others who have forgiven, forgive yourself, and try to see someone you hurt in a new light.

“As a Catholic Christian we are required to forgive,” Maggie said. “Unresolved hurt cuts into us. When our arms are busy carrying the baggage of life, they aren’t free to embrace.”

She offered some suggestions for working through the hurt. She suggested physically writing concerns down and store them in a container that’s visible each day. She said every time you walk by the concerns say, “They’re not mine God; they’re yours.” She also suggested keeping a journal, joining a support group whether a professional or prayer group, and having a confessor.

“Only when we forgive can we move forward,” said Bob, who quoted a South American bishop who said, “When we’re truly sorry, God has no memory.”

The McCarty’s used many resources in the workshops from books like Tuesdays with Morrie, their own life experiences, and poets like Joyce Rupp, who wrote: “When the time is ripe, the vision will come. When the heart is ready, the fruit will appear. When the soul is mature, the harvest will happen. Not to worry about the unspoken, the unnamed, the undelivered. Not to hurry the sprouts out of seeds, the weeds out of gardens. Let it all grow, wait for the ripening. Yearn for the yielding if you must but be patient, trust the process. Talk to the restlessness, sit with the confusion, dance with the paradoxes and sip tea with the angel of life. Smile while you wait, empty baskets in hand all too eager to snatch the produce of your spiritual path.”

With this closing prayer the McCartys began the last day of the retreat, during which they asked participants to see life with new eyes.

“Allowing our injuries to be our glorious wounds,” explained Bob McCarty, “that’s when you find the answers.”