This post is written in response to a question from one of our readers for a fun retreat for catechists. I willingly took up the opportunity to craft a retreat. I hope it is of use to you.
Since we are currently celebrating the Year of Mercy, it seems appropriate that we form our retreat around the theme of mercy.
Theme: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36
Gather: Serve refreshments appropriate to the time of the retreat; have music playing in the background; if your group is large and people do not know each other’s names, provide name tags.
Welcome: The retreat leader should welcome the group and give an overview of the day.
Opening Prayer: Have a prayer space set up with a covered table, crucifix, Bible, flowers, candle, etc. Use items which are meaningful to your group.
Song: Sweep me Away by Kari Jobe
Psalm 136: Have copies of Psalm 136 available for each participant. Separate the group into two groups and pray the Psalm with each group alternately praying two verses. (Click here for handout)
Reflection: How do I see God’s mercy enduring forever?
Prayer: Lord, you are the Father of all mercy. Throughout history you have shown your people how to love and serve you and each other. You gave us the ultimate sign of your mercy in your Son, Jesus. Help us to know your mercy and then to learn to share it with those you ask us to teach. May your mercy flow in us as we grow closer to you this day. We ask for Mary’s intercession as we pray: Hail Mary…
Ice Breakers: These are helpful and important, especially if your group is large or unfamiliar with each other.
Some possible ideas
1. Human Bingo: Make up Bingo cards with one item in each square, people find one person that has that characteristic in the square. Possible squares: married more than 10 years, is wearing boots, speaks a foreign language, loves to cook, has been anointed, has read the entire Bible, goes to daily Mass, has on a medal or crucifix, carries a rosary in their purse or pocket, is on Facebook, etc. The first one to have a signature in each box wins.
2. We’re all connected: one person stands up in front of the group and starts talking about themselves: I’m from New York, my favorite food is steak, I like to sew, etc… As the person is talking, if another person in the group hears something that is also true of them, they get up, link arms and start talking about themselves until another person hears something that is also true of them, gets up, starts talking and so on until everyone has gotten up. When you explain the game remind people to tell unique things about themselves, not your usual I’m a mom, I teach Confirmation class.
3. That’s Me: (I can’t recall if that really is the name of the game) this works with a small group, no more than 12 or so. Each person writes down something very unique about themselves that people cannot tell by being casual friends or acquaintances. I often write that I forgot how to speak English when I was little. Once everyone has written something, they fold the slip of paper and put it in a basket. Pass around the basket, making sure you don’t have your own paper. Each person reads the slip and tries to guess who wrote it.
Break for bathroom/water
Talk: Retreat Leader or other suitable person
Pick a story from the Gospels that focuses on healing and mercy. For me, I’d have to choose between the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and the Healing of the Blind Beggar (Luke 18:35-43). Read the Gospel passage chosen and give an explanation of it. After the explanation, it would be appropriate to give a personal testimony of mercy in your own life. Then, either in pairs or small groups, have each participant tell their own story of mercy.
We want to give people the opportunity to see God’s mercy in our everyday lives. When we see mercy in our own lives and reflect on it, it convicts us and hopefully leads us to share it with others.
Group Activity: Mercy is Falling
Play the song Mercy is Falling for the group. Break up into small groups and give each group a large sheet of paper and markers. Instruct the groups to either make a list of or draw what they see when they think of mercy.
When everyone is finished, have them explain to the whole group what they discovered. Post them around the room.
Break for lunch, allow time for fellowship, going outside weather permitting; come back together and open with a song.
Song: Lord I need You by Matt Maher
Lectio Divina: Luke 6:27-36
Here is an explanation of Lectio Divina from the Religion Teacher. I’ve also included an explanation in the handout. I recommend doing this in small groups, no more than five or six people.
Closing Prayer: Before praying, have each participant write their name on a small slip of paper, fold it and put it in a basket.
Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
After the prayer, have each person take a name from the basket to pray for that person.
Closing: Thank everyone for coming, if a priest or deacon is present have him offer a blessing to the group.
If possible, do the closing prayer in a chapel or in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This outline is for a retreat without a priest; if you have a priest I’d add opportunities for confession and Mass depending on time constraints.
Copyright 2015, Deanna Bartalini
This time of year often finds those of us who prepare children for First Holy Communion in our final weeks of preparation. In our program, children receive First Holy Communion on the first Sunday in May. We have a morning retreat for them a few weeks before. It’s a chance to come together and do some activities together, take an up close tour of the church, practice the songs for Mass and practice how to receive.
Here is an outline with the resources we use:
9:00 am Welcome, distribute name tags
9:05: Opening Prayer
3 stations, each 20 minutes long;
9:20 – 9:40; 9:45 – 10:05; 10:10- 10:30
Station #1 The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith by Josephine Nobisso; I use the book, but there is also a Youtube video available. We read the book and then ask questions about it. If you have not read it, do so. It is an amazing story with beautiful illustrations. At a certain point in the story, the children listening will start nodding and gasping as they understand what is happening and the meaning behind all the action.
Station #2 Chalice and Host craft; I found this on The Catholic Toolbox.
Station #3 The Last Supper; I read the Last Supper and then do a short reenactment with unleavened bread and grape juice.
10:35: The Making of Communion Bread; this is an awesome video that not only demonstrates how hosts are made but explains what the Eucharist means to us. A Passionist nun of Erlanger, Kentucky, is our guide for this brief ten-minute video.
10:50: Snack and Bathroom break
Mix the following ingredients together in a large bowl, telling what each ingredient represents. We have some for a snack and then the rest is bagged up with a tag on it for the children to take home.
11:00: Church Tour; I point out our various statues, holy water font, tabernacle, how to genuflect, Mass responses and postures. We also practice how to receive Holy Communion, with unconsecrated hosts, of course! Then our music director teaches us the songs we will use at the Mass. We close in prayer in the Church and then go back to the parish hall for parents to pick up the children at noon.