April 2, 2024

A Weekend Retreat in Maria Rast –

Sister M. Dorithee Vollmari,
Maria Rast, Germany

Wonderful, Unforgettable Impressions

“Is it possible to spend a spiritual weekend in your house?” asked three students of Theology, who were responsible for childcare during the Archdiocese of Cologne’s family retreat at the Maria Rast Schoenstatt Center. The students liked the Schoenstatt Center so much that they wanted to have a Time Out there. Of course, we could not say no to such a request!

Beforehand, the students had to plan a program/schedule which they submitted to their advisor at the university.  We received the response shortly afterwards: “Our mentor has given us the okay and is also of the opinion that you have designed the program very lovingly.” We agreed upon the third weekend of Advent for the retreat. A fourth young woman wanted to join the little group when she heard about this project.

In conversation with God

The theme for the weekend was:

In conversation with the God of my life — a little school of prayer.  

On the first evening, we had a discussion about writing the five Ws of prayer life:

What is prayer?
Why pray?
Where to pray?
When to pray?
How to pray? [In German, Wie beten]

In the discussion that followed, we noticed how open the students were for the theme and that they also brought with them a certain foundation through their families and the Italian community in Cologne where they are at home.

The evening ended with a common night prayer in the shrine.

On Saturday, after the Rorate Mass and breakfast, one hour of domestic work followed—likewise after the noon meal and on Sunday morning. They took turns baking cookies and doing dishes and were eager and happy to do so.

An inspirational talk about the theme provided further impetus for reflection. The young women also had the opportunity to speak individually with the sisters which they gladly did.

In the afternoon, we had a discussion about the stumbling blocks related to God that we experience in our life.  An essential point was that we often cannot understand God’s actions. Why does he allow this or that? Why do I pray so hard for something and my prayers are not heard? Is there anyone there who is listening to me?

Creating Silence

In this open and honest conversation, however, something else crystallized: On their own the students decided to completely abstain from use of their Smartphones and began to reflect on this experience. They noticed that they often escape from silence in everyday life; that because of their Smartphone they perceive neither their surroundings nor God; that they reach for their smartphone almost constantly, at every opportunity.

By doing without their Smartphone, they became aware of their habits and how long and positively filled a day can be if you leave this medium aside.

The posada before the evening meal was like an answer to the experiences mentioned, because it was about listening and being silent. It was a tangible joy for the students, that the Blessed Mother sought shelter—posada—directly next to their rooms on the guest floor.

One of them carried the statue of the Blessed Mother; the others took part as speakers.

Round table with the sisters

A special experience of these days for them was that we sisters met with the young women for a round table discussion. The students had prepared some question for us regarding the path of our vocation, the decision to join the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, as well as current issues and issues of faith. Thus we quickly entered into an important conversation in which we learned many new things about each other. There was a joyful, open atmosphere that not only enriched the students but also us sisters. Again the evening closed with common night prayer in the shrine.


Other points on the program were Eucharistic Adoration and time for personal reflection. These days of recollection ended with the Christmas novena and a little round of shared reflection while we had coffee. The three young women clearly felt at home during this time. Many of their questions were answered and they said that what they experienced did not leave them untouched. They were particularly impressed by how we treat each other as sisters and how we interact with one another. The discussions in the evenings were very helpful to them. They had not expected so much openness and liveliness.

One participant summarized the experience in her entry into our guestbook:

“This is our second time in Maria Rast … The sisters gave us many wonderful, unforgettable impressions. We were able to deal with many things we were not aware of in everyday life. Many thanks for the wonderful time!

The students from the University of Cologne.