The mission of Star of the North Retreat House in St. Albert, Alta., is “to foster a culture of encounter with people and with creation.” Photo courtesy Star of the North

Five ‘points of light’ at heart of program

By 
  • September 18, 2021

If you think a retreat is just a day or two in the countryside spent praying and reading Scripture, the Star of the North Retreat House in St. Albert, Alta., wants you to think again. Beginning with an introductory session the Oct. 3 weekend, Star of the North wants to take a diverse range of people through a three-year process divided into nine modules called Aurora Living.

More than just a retreat, Aurora Living is a formation program that will root people in wisdom and contemplation, said Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie.

The Oblate missionary is a spiritual director at Star of the North and the emeritus archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas. Lavoie is part of the team of four who have developed and will deliver the Aurora Living program online and in person.

“It’s not the type of program that’s easy to sell,” conceded Lavoie. “This is rather more complicated to explain. It’s involving social justice or justice, which is not that popular.”

There’s no necessity to sign up for all nine modules. People can sign up for a single retreat within the program. But the full program will range over a wide swath of material and sources to help people arrive at a more connected and integrated sense of who they are to God, to other people and cultures, and to the natural world.

The three years revolve around five “points of light.” The Word of God, creation, communion, contemplation and justice will form the basis of conversations and experiences over the three years.

“It’s pretty unique. I don’t think there’s anything like it,” Lavoie said. “I think there’s a need for it. It’s reaching out to the people who might be a bit disillusioned or who might be looking for something a bit different. If we keep doing the same old thing, we’ll get the same old thing.”

Laudato Si’ and the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action will play important roles throughout Aurora Living’s three years as source material for prayer and contemplation. At the same time, over the three years Lavoie will lead retreatants through a thorough examination of the Bible.

For the last nine months the team at Star of the North has been committing itself to the program through a series of monthly liturgies or rituals designed by program co-ordinator Ursuline Sister Mariángel Marco. The rituals helped “to try to gestate the program with all the different themes all the way through,” Lavoie said.

Lavoie particularly hopes the program appeals to people estranged from or uncomfortable with the Church.

“We’re looking at trying to do something different, unique — to answer the needs people have to just grow personally and spiritually. We’re hoping this will catch on,” Lavoie said.

“We’re not talking doctrine here, or anything like that. We’re just trying to grow personally. … To me it’s gentle evangelization. It tries to walk people into the Gospels, into Christianity, but in a very gentle way.”

To sign up for Aurora Living go to www.starofthenorth.ca/programs/aurora-living/.

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