Contemplating 2002

Enrichment: Participants attend a retreat to feel spiritually reconnected and to begin the new year positively.

January 04, 2002|By Jean Leslie | Jean Leslie,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Some start the New Year with a resolution to lose 10 pounds or make a career change. But about 90 retreat participants at Bon Secours Spiritual Center spent New Year's Eve giving a jumpstart to the enrichment of their spiritual lives or improvement of their relationship with God.

Larry Saunders of Columbia said he was "recapping this year [2001] and thinking about the next year" 2002. His wife, Susan, agreed, saying that if she were at home, she would be rushing around rather than "doing something contemplative."

They attended the "Year End Day of Prayer: Finding God in Unexpected Places" presented by Joan Fronc, who started the day by urging participants to recollect feeling the embrace of God last year.

"Another year is coming to an end," Fronc reminded participants. During the past year, "when have you felt tattered and unappreciated, and God reached out and embraced you?" she asked.

Participants mentally placed in opened palms all things in their busy lives over the year, and opened their hands to God, singing "God, I open to you."

"God reaches out to embrace all of who we are. See his overwhelming desire to be with us in our sorrows and suffering, and recognize when God reached out and embraced us," she said.

The Sisters of Bon Secours ("good help" in French) order was founded in 1824 to heal the sick in Paris amid the destruction of the French Revolution. The sisters had great success and now direct Bon Secours Health Systems Inc., which operates hospitals, health centers and housing internationally.

The order's national headquarters are on Marriottsville Road in Howard County, next to the Spiritual Center. "The Spiritual Center is just an extension of good physical health, as its focus on holistic spirituality," Fronc says.

The center's 85 rooms and meeting and dining rooms serve as a conference center and site for private, spiritual retreats. Massage, acupuncture and Reiki, energy-related healing are part of private retreats, as well as the spiritual - the availability of spiritual counselors.

At Monday's "Year End Day of Prayer," additional events included an evening of walking the labyrinth into the New Year "so that the first steps taken into the new year will be toward reconciliation and the first words spoken [will be] words of peace," said Sherri Mazurkevich of the staff.

From 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., luminarias and candles lighted the labyrinth, and participants carried candles in the New Year's Eve walk for world peace. Staffers served hot chocolate and made rooms available for those who didn't wish to drive home.

The labyrinth creates a focal point of outdoor space that is a "tangible metaphor" for the spiritual journey to God, according to retreat participant Linda Smith. "I'm a big walker," said Smith, a spiritual director in private practice. "If you start the labyrinth at a high speed, it lends itself to slowing down. There is something that is released, something given up."

Retreat participants also took advantage of the final day of the art exhibit Mary and Women: Images from the Heart. The works by Janet McKenzie included the debated "Jesus of the People," winner of the National Catholic Reporter's Jesus 2000 competition. The richly hued, contemporary portraits explore the sanctity of the subjects - women and families, including the Holy Family.

The day ended with a reading of Isaiah's message from God "not [to] dwell on the past. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already."

"Where do you find God?" Fronc said. "Do you find God in life's problems, or in people, or in nature? We can assume that God may not come to us in the same way in 2002 that he did in 2001.

"So we have to go into the new year with our eyes open, not just our eyes in our head but the eyes of our hearts. Make a space in your life to get ready to receive what God will offer you. And have a sense that God has his arm around you, as God will come to us in a way that we can't imagine and we can't believe."

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