With our nine affiliates scattered across the North American continent, we have had precious few ways of getting our younger brothers together in a regular way. We decided at the beginning of the year that we would aim to have an affiliates’ retreat and an affiliates’ mission trip (which will take place in May 2012). In addition, we decided to invite a set of young men in our various university outreaches to join the affiliates’ retreat to get a bit of a feel for our life together in The Servants of the Word and to meet some of their peers who are affiliates.
In early January 2012 we gathered for four days of retreat: sixteen young men, three brothers from our formation house, and four lifelong brothers. We were fortunate and blessed to be able to use a stately vacation rental home called the “Rock of Ages” located on the southern shores of Lake Erie.
What We Did
The retreat was dynamic, to fit the zeal and energy of our younger brothers! We began the retreat at our brotherhood center in Chelsea, Michigan and then drove to the Rock of Ages in the late afternoon of the first day. We then spent 2 full days of retreat with some engaging teaching in the morning, and afternoons open for fellowship, recreation, and personal reflection. In the evenings we had some prayer together in small groups and some more fellowship. (In early January in the US, that word often hides the more secular reality: we did watch some American college football games together!) Then on the last day, holding to our dynamic pattern, we packed up after morning prayer and drove back together to Chelsea for an afternoon of work together on the property. Felling trees, hauling and splitting logs, and burning wood were fairly excellent men’s activities.
The combination of fellowship, good prayer together, and relevant teaching made for an outstanding retreat. My observation, as one who relates a lot to younger men, is that this kind of “more active” retreat is an effective winning environment for newer affiliates and for non-affiliates.
One of the brothers in training, Joseph Mathias, writes perspicaciously: “Perhaps the greatest benefit of the retreat is that it strengthens the affiliates’ support for each other in an environment that they “own” a bit more as young men. This alone made it a worthwhile undertaking, if a little hectic for those of us doing the “Triple Crown” of the Christmas, Affiliates’, and UCO Winter retreats. I hope we can continue to serve our younger brothers in this way during the coming years.”
I am deeply grateful for the chance to be able to work alongside my brothers in The Servants of the Word to put on this retreat – how good and pleasant it is when brothers work together!
This article is from our 2012 Easter Servants of the Word Newsletter [7.5MB PDF].