Sr Ann Marie fcJ, from the Sacred Heart Community in Calgary, home of an FCJ retreat and conference centre, tells us about how she has adapted her ministry of spiritual accompaniment and retreats
My ministry in spiritual direction and retreat direction is at the FCJ Christian Life Centre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Due to COVID-19, the Centre has been closed so no people can come for direction or retreats. So, how was I being called to continue in ministry? I have been using Skype for many years for spiritual direction with a few people who lived at a distance. I began to think that perhaps I could offer it to my local directees as well. I was especially concerned about the person I am directing on the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises as we wanted to be able to continue that journey. Since I was already doing a 19th Annotation (Retreat in Daily Life) with a person in Hong Kong, I knew it could go on via Skype with this local person as well. Instead of meeting here on a Saturday morning, we now meet on Skype. Most of my ongoing directees also wished to continue via Skype or Zoom. So, I began making appointments for online sessions.
What about retreats? Well, I was encouraged by Natasha, the Communications person here, to do something online via Zoom. I was a bit uneasy about this, but said I would do a Prayer & Reflection Hour to begin this new adventure! I did this in Holy Week and, thank God, it went well and was received with appreciation. Then the principal at Saint Philomena School in Portsmouth, USA, requested a mini-retreat reflection for the faculty at one of their Friday morning virtual faculty meetings. That meant an early rise for me due to time differences but I was pleased to do that for them, who have so much work now as teaching is being done online. I also gave an evening reflection time in early May to the St. Philomena School Community Connections Group – school teachers, families and friends.
The challenge of doing a weekend directed retreat was next! Pat Harasym, who also directs at the Centre, and I planned a weekend in early May. Natasha hosted the Group Prayer times and Pat and I hosted the individual direction times on Zoom. It was a great experience and we had seven directees from Calgary, Lethbridge and British Columbia journeying with us. We all were very grateful for God’s blessings shown in beautiful ways over the weekend. (See photo) Our Spiritual Direction Training Program has continued with weekly classes and monthly Mentor Meetings via Zoom.
I am also making a retreat myself with the Ignatian Group (CASEA) who offered an 18th Annotation Retreat with materials based on the First Spiritual Exercises by Australian Jesuit, Michael Hansen, SJ. This is a Zoom five-week retreat in daily life. Each afternoon I join members of our FCJ Community in our community room for a mini 30-day retreat, Ascending with Ignatius by Mark Thibodeau, SJ on YouTube.
I continue to learn that God can use many varied ways to touch into our lives! I am very grateful for the technology that enables me to continue on, even in the midst of the pandemic, with my own spiritual growth and my ministry of walking with people in their journey with God.