People can access some of Faith Connections’ retreats online. Photo by Michael Chen

Taking retreats online

  • April 17, 2015

For the busy person who can’t get away for a spiritual retreat weekend, all they may need is to turn on their computer.

Virtual retreats are a fairly new concept — a retreat conducted through online media, often based on a time and place of the individual’s choosing.

Faith Connections has been exploring the idea of the virtual retreat for a few years now. It began as a web resource for people who weren’t able to attend retreats that the organization hosts in different cities. By uploading their resources to their web site after the event, people can continue to benefit from its teachings.

“You choose your time, you choose your readings and it’s virtual because it’s available on the web for everyone,” said Sr. Mechtilde O’Mara, Faith Connections ministry director.

Faith Connections is a youth networking organization created by the Sisters of St. Joseph Toronto in 2005. As part of their ministry, the sisters host and organize a number of retreats for young adults.

O’Mara, along with fellow Sisters of St. Joseph, hosted a pilgrimage retreat last August in London, Ont. The three-day retreat was called Living Joy and it focused on finding God’s grace in daily living.

“The booklet that we prepared for people that were going to the retreat to London... we used for the people that couldn’t join us (to) use the resources on their own,” said O’Mara.

The Living Joy virtual retreat consists of five sessions. Each session was filmed and Faith Connections includes the reflection booklet with each session. After the live retreat, all these resources were pulled together for the Faith Connections web site.

For those who attended the actual retreat last summer, the virtual retreat acts as a reminder to the reflections they explored during the weekend. For those who weren’t able to attend, it is as if they didn’t miss a thing.

The Faith Connections web site currently hosts four virtual retreats with booklets and media from past retreats the organization has hosted.
The first virtual retreat was uploaded for the feast of Corpus Christi in 2013. The actual retreat was facilitated by Fr. Michael McGourty, reflecting on the celebration of the Eucharist.

The most current virtual retreats were uploaded for last year’s Advent season. Advent: Journeying with Mary and Joseph Today includes a series of reflections users can read through each week of the Advent season. It also includes video reflections by Fr. Ron MacDonell and Norman Lévesque.

Advent: The Call of Love is a virtual retreat facilitated by Sr. Sue Mosteller and Leah Watkiss on nurturing the user’s personal relationship with God.

O’Mara admits that they don’t fully understand how to develop their virtual retreats resource just yet. She does say that the staff is in the early stages of planning a pilgrimage retreat again this summer to Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont.

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