The Glen House Resort near Gananoque, Ont., where the annual Women’s Fall Retreat is held. This year’s event takes place Sept. 16. Photo/courtesy of Women's Fall Retreat.

A retreat where women can connect

By  Catholic Register Special
  • September 10, 2016

For eight years, Sandy Laneville faithfully joined a group of friends to attend a Baptist women’s retreat held annually in Muskoka. It was so inspiring and rejuvenating she decided to organize a retreat of her own, but enhance hers with the sacramental riches of the Catholic faith.

In 2010 her dream became reality, and on Sept. 16 about 80 women from across Eastern Ontario will gather for three days near Gananoque on the St. Lawrence River for the seventh annual Women’s Fall Retreat.

“I was really feeling called to host a similar spiritually refreshing event that was closer to home both in location and spirituality,” said Laneville of St. Mary’s parish in Chesterville, Ont. “With the encouragement and coaching of the Muskoka retreat organizers and with the added support of the Kingston archdiocese, we proceeded to organize our first retreat.”

Laneville wanted a weekend that was just as inspiring as the Muskoka retreat but closer to home. She gathered some friends and consulted with Margie Ann McKinnon, the Religious Education Co-ordinator for the Kingston archdiocese, which agreed to sponsor the retreat. It is held at the Glen House Resort in Gananoque.

“We felt it was important for the women’s overall experience to have a venue that takes care of the cooking, cleaning and has lots of natural beauty,” Laneville said.

The retreat has a new theme each year. This year it will be “Blessed are the Merciful” to align with the Church’s celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Maureen Dufour, the chaplaincy leader at St. Mark’s Catholic High School in Ottawa, will give four keynote addresses. She will bring experience from working on several social justice projects in Ontario and the Third World as she leads participants through several doors of mercy, helping them understand how to receive Christ’s mercy and how to extend it to others.

In addition to four keynote sessions, there is a faith-based breakout session, celebration of the Liturgy of the Word at morning prayers, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Mass, a spirited music ministry, special entertainment and wine and cheese on Saturday evening. There is also lots of free time to visit an on-site “Under His Grace” bookstore, enjoy the solitude of the prayer room or explore the Thousand Islands Parkway walking path.

Many women report, however, that the most valuable part of the retreat is the opportunity it provides to connect and share with other women of all ages.

These connections often leave a lasting inspiration when women return to their homes, families and parishes. Each participant pairs up with a “prayer partner” before leaving, promising to keep each other in prayer over the next year. In addition, women are invited to write out personal intentions and drop them in a prayer request box. A team of a half-dozen intercessors holds these prayers before the Lord throughout the year until the next Women’s Fall Retreat.

A core team of eight volunteers meets year-round to organize the behind-the-scenes arrangements. During the weekend, about a dozen women provide hospitality services, which include everything from meeting and greeting to chatting with new participants. Another half dozen women volunteer as prayer team members, decorating and looking after the prayer room and any special prayer requests. Several priests volunteer a half day to hear confessions or celebrate Mass.

For more information on the Women’s Fall Retreat, visit womensfallretreat.com, or e-mail beverlyillauq3@gmail.com.

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