Friday, May 22, 2015

Tips for Planning a Catholic Women’s Retreat

Tips for Planning a Catholic Women's Retreat

My parish hosted our first Catholic Women’s retreat earlier this year. When we started planning the retreat, we decided to start from scratch and create a retreat to best reflect and meet the needs of our parish women. None of the organizational retreats out there really met the goals we wanted for our parish ladies. Creating a Catholic women’s retreat from the ground up was a bit overwhelming at first and we learned much along the way.

Since this was my first time planning a retreat, I thought I would share a few tips we learned and will use in planning our next Catholic women’s retreat for 2016.

1. Create a Retreat Planning Team – Invite a group of women who will represent the women in your parish or the potential audience for your retreat. Identify people who will work well together with respect, but don’t necessarily think exactly the same. A unique and different perspective is beneficial to creating a retreat that will appeal to more women. Create opportunities for your committee or team to get to get to know each other, grow in trust and bond as a team.

2. Establish Goals for your Retreat – Prayerfully consider what you hope to accomplish with your retreat. What experience do you wish for retreat attendees to experience? Your goals will set the course and tone and will guide your planning.

Our goals were three-fold. We wanted to bring parish women into a deeper relationship with God, to rest, relax and enjoy the weekend and to come together in fellowship as a community.

3. Identify your Potential Audience – Who would you like to see attending your Catholic women’s retreat? Is it for moms, married women, retirees, single women or all of the above? Are you hoping to attract a specific type of Catholic woman or a cross section of your parish women?

Early on we agreed we wanted all women from our parish to feel welcome to attend the retreat. We weren’t focused on one type of Catholic woman. And, we wanted all Catholic ladies to feel comfortable at the weekend, no matter where they were in the faith journey. Inclusive, not exclusive was our constant motto.

4. Planning Activities - Keeping your goals in mind, brainstorm what types of activities you would like to see and what each one should accomplish at the retreat. For ours, all of our activities had to relate to at least one of our goals, and come together to fit the overall tone of the weekend.

  • Faith – Our first goal was helping women create a deeper relationship with God. Activities with this in mind included – Talks reflecting faith, scripture and personal testimony; Adoration, Mass, Opportunity for Reconciliation, Guided Meditation, Spiritual Direction, Discussion on Saints, Rosary Walk, and Small Group Discussion. 
  • Rest and Relaxation – We wanted our women to enjoy the weekend away from home and to take a breath from their every day lives. We selected a peaceful retreat center with semi-private rooms nestled in the woods that provided (and cleaned up) all of the meals. - Long breaks between sessions gave them time to take a nap, go for a walk in the woods, take a Pilates class, or simply enjoy time by themselves or with others. 
  • Fellowship – Our third goal was to encourage community within our group of women. When creating the small groups, we sat the ladies in a way to encourage them to meet new women. The first night included fun get to know you activities that encouraged small group discussion and a reception time before lights out for another opportunity to meet. Our mealtimes were relaxed and we hosted a pajama party/game night the second night for more fellowship time. 
5. Pray Constantly – Planning a Catholic Women’s Retreat may at times feel overwhelming. Remember to pray and invite the Holy Spirit to guide your planning. Always turn to prayer in disagreements or choosing a direction for the retreat. Let the Holy Spirit guide your efforts. Finally, as things will go wrong or don’t follow the plan, give it up to God. Trust that He will be present working in both the planning and at the retreat.

When it was all said and done, our retreat had hiccups, things we planned but didn't finish and last minute changes, but I believe our retreat ended up accomplishing exactly what we hoped it would.  We helped our parish women grow in faith, rest & relax and connect with one another.  In the last few months since we arrived home, the fruits of our weekend retreat are on display at our parish.  And, we are already being asked about the next retreat!

Planning our first retreat was such hard work born out of love for God and our parish community that we wish to pay it forward to others wanting to plan a Catholic Women's Retreat.  Our retreat team is currently working to put together our Catholic Women's Retreat plan into a pdf format to share online.  If you are interested in finding out more about the retreat resources and materials as they become available, please consider joining our email list below.  We promise not to share the list or spam you.  



What tips would you like to add?  What were the goals for your Catholic Women's Retreat?





Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Do you Binge Watch?

My husband and I like to watch tv. There, I said it. We really enjoy sitting on our comfy couch in front of our flat screen tv to watch hours of mindless entertainment when we can. Sometimes we watch together, sometimes by ourselves and sometimes with the whole family. (Don’t get me wrong, we also watch a lot of football and soccer.) 



I can hear you now – “There’s NOTHING on TV!” So true. But, we’ve always been binge watchers. You know, the people who will sit and watch episodes of tv back to back for hours on end. Yep. We do that usually late into the night.

In the days before DVRs and streaming services, we would buy our favorites on DVD and watch tv shows season by season. Lost, 24, Heroes, Stargate SG-1, and Band of Brothers to name a few. I guess you could say we were binge watching before it was called binge watching! When streaming tv services went mainstream with Netflix and Amazon Prime, we found many shows that were new to us and it just fed into our tendency to binge watch.


Personally, I’d rather binge watch episodic tv than wait for each episode to air week to week on tv. When you watch episodes back to back, you really get into the story and its developments. And I don’t have to try and remember what happened last week or last month. I mean, lots of stuff happens in a week between shows and my brain can only hold so much. We’ve also been known to skip watching a show when it premieres on the network just so we can watch all of the season’s episodes back-to-back months later via streaming. And we can watch it on our own schedule without overloading our DVR, which makes life so much easier.

Some of the shows we’ve binge watched individually, as a couple or as a family:

Downton Abbey, Walking Dead, Revolution, Continuum, Sherlock, Fringe, Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, West Wing, Heroes, Merlin, Breaking Bad, Bletchley Circle, Alias, House of Cards, Endeavor, Weeds, Longmire, Enterprise, Hart of Dixie, Orange is the New Black, Lab Rats, Once Upon a Time, Reign, Stargate Atlantis, Blue Bloods and so many more.

If you are saying, “Wow, what an eclectic mix.” You would be correct. Brian and I can have very different taste in shows to say the least. And then throw our kids into the mix and our Netflix account doesn’t know what to suggest.


Netflix catered to binge tv watchers in 2013 when they released all 13 original episodes of House of Cards at one time. It was a huge hit. Netflix has continued to release the second and third seasons all at one time and actually monitors how many people binge watch the season when it is released. We were among those who watched House of Cards when it was first released, though we didn't watch it all at one time like some of the others. We are still watching House of Cards in its third season, with all of Underwood's twists, turns and shocking manipulations. Unfortunately, it has in our opinion, become a little predictable and sad which makes the sleaze factor a bit harder to bear for binge watching.

We (Brian and I, no kids) are now just starting Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix. I’m not loving all the fighting, but the story intrigues me. It’s a show I want to watch back to back.

By myself, I’m getting started on Blue Bloods at my mother’s incessant recommendations (She LOVES it!). So far, so good. Nice cop show with lots of focus on family relationships.

What are you binge watching? Any recommendations of shows that should be added to our Netflix queue or Amazon Prime watch list? 



If you haven't tried binge watching with Amazon Prime, now is a good time to try it out with this promotion - 
Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.  (It is an affiliate link, so if you try out the free trial, we will receive a small referral fee.)


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Challenged as a Catechist by Third Graders

Teaching the Faith Challenges Me to Say YES to God | Sound Mind and Spirit

With the school year winding down, I have said my final farewell to my third grade faith formation class at my parish.  I love teaching third grade CCE.  Guiding these kids in the faith has brought me joy, tears, frustration, a desire to drink wine, gratitude and immense peace.  They have taught me so much about myself and challenged me in all the best ways possible.  Thinking about this year's class and my previous 3rd grade classes inspired me to list out how they've challenged me.  All the good and bad.

They challenge me -
...to know my faith
...to have fun
...to demonstrate patience
...to get better at classroom management
...to think of new ways to teach
...to grow in holiness
...to answer really, really tough questions
...to admit I don't know the answer
...to explain my faith
...to reflect God's love to them
...to help them find peace and comfort in prayer
...to really believe what I teach them
...to live my faith out loud in my actions and words
...to step outside my comfort zone and act silly
...to become a better disciplinarian
...to learn more about why I love God
...to find ways to excite them about Church
...to let go in the midst of chaos
...to call on the Holy Spirit for guidance
...to stay hip on what third graders are interested in
...to be a role model
...to inspire a hunger for Christ in them
...to show them an example of God's unconditional love
...to continue saying YES to God by stepping foot in the classroom week after week in an attempt to guide them closer to Jesus.  
As a catechist, I want to inspire a lifelong hunger for Christ in my classroom of kids.  I want them to be curious, to want to learn more, to want to grow closer to God, to know they are called to be holy and a disciple of Christ and to develop a personal connection with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  That's a tall order for a teacher who spends one hour a week with kids, but it is what I am called to do as a catechist.  And I love it.






Monday, May 4, 2015

Rediscovering The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

Most of us are very familiar with Jesus' parable of The Lost Son in Luke 15:11-32 about the son who takes his inheritance early, runs away, spends all the money and eventually hits bottom.  When he comes back home, his father greets him with excitement and announces a celebration to honor his son's return home.

The prodigal son has never been one of my favorites.  To me, the son is ungrateful, runs away, gets into trouble, comes back and is rewarded.  I've always identified more with the older brother who was there beside his father doing the "right" thing the whole time and wasn't celebrated.  Even as a child the Gospel story left me wondering if Jesus was telling us that Life isn't Fair.  After all, that's what my father told us all the time.

But something finally clicked with me reading The Prodigal Son in preparing to teach it to my 3rd grade faith formation class. I've been looking at the story wrong all these years.  I've always seen it from the older son's perspective.  This time my viewpoint of the story shifted and I saw it from the runaway son's point of view.  When you do that, it's a story of unconditional love and forgiveness, not about fairness.   That's what Jesus was trying to tell us!  He wanted us to recognize God's unfailing and never ending love for each of us in a way we could understand.

Yes, I feel like an idiot for not truly understanding this story when suddenly it seems so apparent.  Why couldn't I see it all these years?  What blinded me?  ... The fact that I didn't see myself as a sinner.  ...  That's the rub.  Until I truly recognized my own shortcomings, my own faults, my own screwups, I saw myself as different from the son who ran away.  I was the "good" son, not the "bad" one.  But, we are all the "bad" one.  We are all sinners.  And while I would say, I'm a sinner and Christ died for me, evidently I didn't really see myself in that way.  I knew I was a sinner, but didn't identify myself as a sinner.   I could sit back and say, "well, I would never do that." It's really not about how we sin or why we sin, but that we do sin.  We are sinners and God loves us anyway. No matter what.

I can't look at the Prodigal Son story the same ever again.  It might be a new favorite.  In fact, after this realization, I couldn't wait to teach it to my religious education class and my own kids.  But kids are funny.  When I asked them what was the moral of The Prodigal Son story, they said - "It's about how God always loves you, no matter what.  Even when you mess up."  Yep.  They get it.  They understand messing up, forgiveness and unconditional love.  It might be just us adults that forget what that feels like.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Kelly Family: A Moment in Time

Lisa texted me this morning “I have an idea for a blog post. Do you mind if I use one of your family pictures from the group shoot in the fall?”

I like the idea, but Skyped her back that mine is not a photo you can just put out there without the back story. Good, bad or ugly… our 2014 family photo tells a story about our family.

The whole thing came about as part of a larger multi-family group photo, using a photographer and friend of my brother and sister in law. In the days before our scheduled shoot, I looked up his online portfolio and discovered a plethora of creative genius with vibrant, edgy, style. These were no quaintly posed group photos; they were families in action! 

Inspiration struck.

We try so hard to make photos reflect perfect people. Hair, makeup, clothes, smile. How many times have you cringed when your child brings home their school picture? The funny face, the missing button, the crooked bangs?  Why do we cringe?  A photograph is meant to capture who you are… at that exact moment in your life.  We should embrace that!

While considering how to dress for our family photo, I took a good long look at who we are as a family. Right at that moment. What do I love best about our family?  When do I find myself watching them and smiling in adoration?

It’s all there… captured in a perfect moment.

Kelly Family Photo | Photo by L. Frederick Hinojosa
Photo by L. Frederick Hinojosa
My oldest daughter, resplendent in her FFA official dress, growing into her own confidence as a young woman in a leadership position, and competing in the State FFA LDE for Radio Broadcasting.

My husband coaching our second daughter, demanding nothing less than her best.

My younger daughter, fiercely competitive, a team leader, developing her softball skills as a Catcher, but doubled over in laughter, not grown out of her childhood yet.

My little boy…the unplanned joy in my life… playing with trucks and happy to just be wherever we take him along.

Myself when I’m happiest. Loving them. Supporting them. Blogging.

What isn't captured in the photo are the arguments about clothes. The bickering of trying to be there on time. The humid threat of rain hovering constantly. Traipsing through the wet grass.  Realizing (too late) that two children were standing in the ants. That “perfect picture” wasn't even exactly what I’d planned. The photographer captured a completely spontaneous moment when my daughter broke the “serious” pose and started laughing.

This moment in time captured us. 




* Photo by L. Frederick Hinojosa Photography
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