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Program Awakens Retreatants to Holy Spirit’s Presence in Their Lives

Posted on February 29, 2024 in: News

Program Awakens Retreatants to Holy Spirit’s Presence in Their Lives

“God loves us more than we love ourselves…not only when we’re holy. He loves us simply because of who we are.”

With these words, Jean Soder, a member of the Awakening Team set the tone for a day of retreat for people across the Diocese who will be received into the fullness of the Church this Easter as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. 

She encouraged participants to imagine a mother looking at her baby she is holding in her arms with great love and tenderness. “Now imagine God holding you and looking at you in the same way.”

Soder, a parishioner at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Coventry, challenged participants to allow Jesus Christ into their lives and to stay connected to the Holy Spirit. “If you meet me and forget me you will not have missed anything, but if you meet Jesus Christ and forget Him, you will have lost everything,” she said. 

Soder is one of ten members of the team heading “Awakening: How is the Holy Spirit at Work in Your Life?,” a program designed to offer participants ways to deepen their faith lives through rediscovering God’s unconditional love and learning more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It also aims to help people develop a richer and more meaningful prayer life and experience the mercy of God through a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

The Awakening Program is usually offered as a four-night program but was reformatted as a one-day retreat for Catechumens, those who will receive the Sacraments of Initiation into the Church, and Candidates, who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation during Easter services at their individual parishes. Over 80 people attended the retreat, including godparents and sponsors of the retreatants as well as members of their parish RCIA teams who are accompanying them in deepening their faith. 

The Retreat included a series of talks given by team members witnessing how God has touched them, and how the Holy Spirit has worked in their lives as well as instruction on what the gifts of the Holy Spirit are and how team members see those gifts active in their lives.

Andrea Hoisl, director of the Office of Faith Events, which oversees the Awakening Program, said most people can relate to God as a parent and to Jesus as a sibling, but for some, their understanding of the Holy Spirit sent to us as Jesus’ advocate here on Earth is more complex.

“We want people to awaken to the ways that the Holy Spirit is present to them all the time and playing a vital part in their lives.” She said the team’s hope is that through their witness of concrete ways the Holy Spirit is acting in their lives, retreatants will recognize similar experiences occurring in their own lives. “This is the goal of Faith Formation to inspire others to share their gifts and talents to help build God’s kingdom here on Earth,” she added. 

Team Member Bob Beaulieu, also a parishioner of Our Lady Queen of Peace, gave a lively and moving witness about times in his life when he knew the Holy Spirit was guiding to either make better choices or peacefully resolve conflicting issues he was facing. He shared his conversion story recalling the time when he was a construction worker building a house of prayer in Maine. During a break, he was walking through a nearby field when unexpectedly this question came to him – “Do you want Jesus Christ in your life?” He answered, “Yes!” He was overcome with tears and began audibly crying. “I was certain Jesus Christ was beside me. I sensed his embrace and felt an incredible peace wash over me. I felt Jesus telling me, ‘I love you.’”

That experience changed Beaulieu’s life inspiring him to begin reading Scripture and becoming more involved in learning about and teaching others about his Catholic faith. “God orchestrates things for our benefit…to give us an important message to move away from sin to become a better person,” he said, adding, “It’s the Holy Spirit that guides you in ways that you wonder about sometimes.”

As part of an afternoon session discussing the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Team Member Glen Miller, a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Rockville and Tolland, shared his personal journey of going to confession after an 18 year absence and how it healed his relationship with the Lord. “When I left the confessional that day, all that weight that I didn’t know I was carrying around left me. I knew I was forgiven. There is no sin greater than God’s ability to forgiven None!”

He added, “Going to confession and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a means for you to be in right relationship with God.” 

Other members of the Awakening Team taking part in the retreat include Deacon Kim Thompson of Our Lady Queen of Peace; John and Susan Sedensky of Sacred Heart Parish, Groton; Joe and Anne Marie Osowski of St. Joseph Parish, Occum; and Fr. Ray Introvigne, Spiritual Renewal.  
Christian Choma a member of the RCIA team at Good Shepherd Parish in Columbia and Hebron, called the retreat an ideal opportunity for Catechumens and Candidates to build relationships and share commonalities with others outside of their parishes who are also coming into or returning to the church. “This was very impactful for our parishioners to hear the team sharings. The more in-depth stories of faith that we’ve heard today helps to solidify for our candidates what we’ve been teaching in our program.”

Lauren Cooper from St. Mary’s Parish, Portland will be confirmed at Easter. After participating in the Awakening RCIA retreat she said, “I feel more connected in my understanding of the Holy Spirit.” She said taking part in both the retreat and the RCIA program have helped her develop and deepen her relationship with God giving her a similar appreciation and awareness of her faith as her fiancé has as they prepare to receive the Sacrament of Marriage this November.

Another retreatant Lance Harbec of St. Patrick Church, East Hampton said he appreciated the chance to meet and discuss his faith with other people as well as learn more about the Holy Spirit and how it works in our lives. “What I learned here today, I will put into practice.” 

By Mary-Jo McLaughlin

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