Claiming the Fire Within had a different feel this year, rescheduled from last year and taking place virtually due to ongoing safety concerns. The retreat is for persons associated with the sponsored and co-sponsored ministries, province departments and continuum of care centers of AMSSND. Thirteen leaders courageously said “yes” to go on retreat, despite not being able to participate in person. The retreat featured online times to hear presenters and engage in small and large group sharing. There were offline times as well for retreatants to pray, reflect and explore contemplative activities. Yvonne DeBruin, Director of Ministry Services, set the tone for the retreat while Donna Bilek, Associate, and Sister Rita Bueche, SSND, designed prayer services and contemplative resources.
Sister Joan Penzenstadler, SSND from the Central Pacific Province and Suzy Blackburn, Director of Associates, delved into the lives of Blessed Theresa and Mother Caroline and the rich SSND legacy over the years. Sister Arlene Flaherty, OP and Kathleen Bonnette from the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) department, explored the work of JPIC, the new province commitment framework and five focus areas and the Augustinian foundation for JPIC. Finally, Sister Charmaine Krohe, Provincial Leader, unpacked the current directional statement “Love Gives Everything” and the essence of being a contemplative in action. “All of you, by your connection with our ministries and our departments, are valued and indispensable collaborators in our mission.”
The retreat concluded with a powerful closing ritual where participants individually lit candles, reflected on excerpts from Scripture and gave one another a blessing to claim the fire within themselves. Reflecting on their virtual retreat experience, one participant remarked, “The presentations were informative and contemplative. It sparked a flame in me to do more!” Another participant expressed, “I found the shared prayers during the retreat were well done and provided the focus and calm to enter into activities in a thoughtful and prayerful state of mind.”