July 5, 2023

A Retreat Day for Teachers

Sister Barbara-Maria Kullmann
Schönstatt, Germany

“Regaining Strength.”

This was the theme of a retreat day for the teachers of the Mt. Calvary Schools in Bad Neuanahr-Ahrweiler. Seventy-eight teachers arrived in Schoenstatt on the morning of May 26. The administrators of the school gifted them with this day in gratitude for their commitment. The Schoenstatt Pilgrimage Center had been book already two and one half years earlier. After the exhausting coronavirus and the year of flooding, this gift could finally become a reality. After their arrival they gathered in Room 3 of the Home for Pilgrims for an introduction to the day.

Regaining strength in Schoenstatt

After the welcome, Sister Barbara-Maria Kullmann invited all to sing congratulations to the two teachers whose birthday it was. A mighty applause followed the congratulations. The invitation to visit the Original Shrine, Schoenstatt’s Chapel of Grace, and to receive a surprise there–a little nourishment for body and soul–aroused curiosity. This surprise, as was later discovered, was a piece of chocolate and, with it, words from Father Joseph Kentenich. After the welcome, a meditation about the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God on Mount Horeb set the mood for an inner journey with different “weather conditions” — inner processes that promote discovery of oneself and God. A variety of activities were then offered.

The participants had the possibility prior to this day to choose an activity, but there was freedom to change or even to take a time out if that is what was needed, the organizers of conference emphasized. Hence, there was a “changing around” during the course of the day, but all of the activities offered took place—with ten more participants than planned, or in smaller groups that were all the more intensive because of the small size.

Inviting activities

Father Lothar Herter offered this: “The Soul Walks” – Hiking While Receiving Inspirations about the Theme Regaining Strength.”  There were over 30 hikers. One teacher enthusiastically shared: I know [St.] Paul very well, I read the Bible. But the passage that Father Herter interpreted at one point was not known to me at all. I have to read it again.

“O Stress, Let Up! Recharge My Battery in Time” — in this workshop with Claudia Brehm one could “listen, practice, and become active.” The participants came away from this workshop with new inspirations and insights; the design of the room had already aroused curiosity.

Alternatively, there was a station on the origin of Schoenstatt, its pedagogy and spirituality. It was titled “Challenges – Doors to a Spiritual Beginning.” Sister Barbara-Maria Kullmann’s activity concluded in the Original Shrine with an introduction to prayer

Sister M. Natalie Stewart offered a workshop with alluvial wood under the theme: “Something Shines! Turning the Seemingly Worthless into Something Precious” – regaining strength and processing one’s own questions in the alluvial wood workshop. The large room in the Sonnenau was spacious enough for everyone who wanted to participate in this workshop. A large river, simulated with cloth at the edge of which lay driftwood, visualized the inspirational words given at the beginning of this activity. Then from this design on the floor, all of the participants chose a piece of driftwood which they crafted into a small work of art.

A lively exchange of experiences from the morning were shared during the 11.45 lunch at the Home for Pilgrims. More activities were offered in the afternoon from 12.45-2.00. In some cases, carpools were formed that went to Mt. Schoenstatt.

There, Sister M. Natalie Stewart provided inspiration and gave an introduction to the practice of silence. Her workshop was titled “Source of Strength Silence – A Time of Personal Evaluation”.

Sister Gisela-Maria Mues invited us to the Father Encounter House for inspiration and exchange on the theme “Recharge Your Batteries – Using Your Day to the Utmost”. One response to this activity was: “Sister, you described my situation perfectly … The examples were perfect.”

In the afternoon, many chose the activity “Recharge your Batteries – Stay Balanced,” a movement course with inspiration and stations in the valley of Schoenstatt and in the Pilgrims Arena. These included, for example, balancing beams and a trampoline or the exercise of being guided with eyes closed and reflecting on this experience.

Praying with enthusiasm and joy

The participants of the offering “My Soul Sings – Recharge Your Batteries with Spiritual Songs” created the closing prayer in the Pilgrim Church with lovely songs accompanied by an electric piano.

During this time of prayer, the art pieces from the alluvial wood workshop–among other pieces of art-could be admired. After a meditation by Sister M. Natalie, two women spontaneously presented the art piece they crafted in the morning. On four posters from the Movement Workshop one read:

This gives me strength – this takes my strength

 I want strength for this – I give strength to others.

All of this was presented to God in prayer. Enthusiasm and joy define the atmosphere in the Pilgrim Church. The prayer time ended with words of gratitude for everyone responsible for this day.

Finally, before leaving, the participants could have coffee and cake in the House for Pilgrims. At the end of this retreat day someone said very honestly,

“I thought to myself: does this day have to be right now, especially at the beginning of the Pentecost holidays? But it was so good! I could really relax.”

 -Someone else said, “Thank you for making it so easy.” – “Really, everything was very good.”

– Regaining strength – the guiding idea and an experience of this day.

 “May the good experiences of today resonate with you for a long time.”

With this wish and the invitation “Please come again,” the carpools set off again.