Young professionals participate in the 2019 Ignatian retreat that is going online this year due to the pandemic. Photo by Fr. John O’Brien, SJ

Jesuit retreat aims for Sacred Heart encounter

  • June 2, 2021

Stillness and spiritual introspection will be accentuated concepts during the Jesuits of Canada’s second silent Ignatian retreat for young professionals taking place virtually June 4-6.

Fr. John O’Brien, SJ, will facilitate this online event for men and women between the ages of 19 to 39 from the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission in Bruno, Sask.

The native of Mission, B.C., is excited to bring this gathering back after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The inaugural event was staged in-person in 2019 at the Manresa Jesuit Retreat Centre in Pickering, Ont., and it was delivered to an age group not often offered retreat opportunities.

“It seemed to me in the Church and in schools that there were a lot of retreats for youth, and then on the other end of things retreat centres offered retreats for older Catholics,” said O’Brien. “The young professional or young adults was a somewhat underserved demographic. We were happy to offer an Ignatian retreat geared towards personal meditation upon the mysteries of Christ.”

The promotional poster for the event states that “young people are already ‘leaven’ in society and uniquely placed to be agents of God’s mercy and the building of His kingdom.” With this perspective in mind, O’Brien is hoping this retreat will help young men and women discern God’s plans for their future.

O’Brien also hopes his guided sessions and each attendees’ individual prayer will engender an encounter with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which would be fitting considering June is the month of the Sacred Heart on the liturgical calendar. He points to  Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins’ recently published pastoral letter about rediscovering the “treasure” of the Sacred Heart as a good resource.

“It is such a rich, amazing letter about the perennial power of the Sacred Heart devotion,” said O’Brien. “This event was already planned before the letter came out, but its release is such a providential tie-in, and I think it is a letter all young adults should read. I found it very inspiring and it primes the pump for prayer and an encounter with Jesus.”

O’Brien, a communication, philosophy and theology graduate of the University of Ottawa, Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and Regis College in Toronto, opens the retreat with a presentation at 7 p.m. ET on June 4. He will also lead three sessions the next day, as well one on the final day.

A key topic on the agenda is recovering spiritual resiliency during the time of COVID. He says attendees are expressing a desire for reclamation.

“The message and sense that I’m getting from all quarters is there is a tremendous hunger to spring back from the various patterns, both human and spiritual, that perhaps find us in various ruts or forms of burden,” said O’Brien. “It’s time to recharge our relationship with God.”

Originally the plan was for this event to occur at Manresa, but O’Brien was inspired by his current visit to the St. Therese Institute, and has decided to extend his time in Bruno to facilitate the retreat at this Catholic-Christian centre of personal study, retreats and religious conferences. 

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