Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mid-Year Retreat


I Still need a picture of Mike. Does anyone have one left?  A bunch of pictures were put in the middle of the table where all of us were sitting.  There were pictures from the first half of the year for us to choose from to make individual collages from our time at Franciscan Outreach so far.  I felt encouraged to reflect on the past six months since my arrival in Chicago and all the experiences that are still waiting for me in the next six months.  You could already see how people changed and developed in just the first half of the year. It was obvious that we are living out the Franciscan Outreach mission statement; transformation of ourselves.

This was our first reflection session after our 45 minute drive from Chicago to the Franciscan Sister's retreat center in Frankfort, IL.  It might sound strange, but getting away a little from Chicago and taking a break from our work, is something I really enjoyed.  Frankfort's scenic nature and calmness is almost the opposite of our everyday life in Chicago and was a perfect way to refresh and focus on our community and ourselves.  The work, as much as I love it, makes it somewhat difficult to spend time with every single person in the community.  By getting the distance, geographically and mentally, you could have more intentional time with all members of the community and reflect better on the way you're living and the experiences you're having.  This enabled us to strengthen the bond of our group and made us aware of the unforgettable experience we're having this year at Franciscan Outreach.

We had surprisingly beautiful weather for the beginning of February and during our afternoon free time we were invited to take a walk outside to enjoy the fresh air and nature around us.  Free time allowed us to share our different service experiences, thoughts and ideas about community life in a very casual way while we were all on a walk together.  On our walk we visited an old Franciscan chapel and a labyrinth.  Kendall and Matt explained that finding out way to the center of the labyrinth can be a metaphor for getting closer to God but can also provide an opportunity to reflect on anything else that's important to us.  While walking the labyrinth, I could really see that everyone was deep in thoughts and appreciated this opportunity for reflection.  We also spent some of our free time throwing footballs and frisbees which gave our exhausted brains some time to rest and of course have fun.

After free time we had opportunities for individual and partner reflection focusing on the core values of the program and our goals for the rest of the year.  The final session was a great way to finish the retreat and the perfect way to lead us into the next six months.  A basin of water was put in the middle of our circle where everyone was invited to light a candle and place a stone.  Those items represented the things we want to "float" and keep up and the ones we want to "sink" or let go of.  The respectful atmosphere made me focus on my resolution for the future and what I wanted to "float" during the next half of my time at Franciscan Outreach.

The Mid-Year retreat was an opportunity to reflect on our experiences at the halfway point and also to grow closer together as a community.  The retreat really added to the value of my volunteer year by allowing me to take some time away to reflect more intensely on the year.  I'm looking forward to the End-of-Year Retreat!