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Retreat for People Facing Serious Illness resumes

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Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the opening Mass for the Retreat for People Facing Serious Illness held at the San Damiano Spiritual Life Center in White Post Sept. 22-24.

He began his homily by reflecting on the words of the opening song: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

“You can be assured that the Lord will speak to you the message He wants you to hear during this sacred time together,” Bishop Burbidge said. “I encourage you throughout these days to allow that time to simply be still and serene here in chapel, here in the Lord’s presence and just repeat those words: Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening. You will leave here knowing the message that God wanted you to hear.”

This year’s theme touched on what so many needed — rest. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened. And I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28).

“Together we pray for one another,” said Bishop Burbidge, “that the Lord will increase our faith in His victory on the cross and our faith that He is true to His promise when He says to us, ‘Come to me, all who are burdened and I will give you rest.’”

This year, the seriously ill were joined by caregivers or spouses, nurses, doctors, helpers, a counselor and two priests — Father Robert C. Cilinski, pastor of Church of the Nativity in Burke and program director of the retreat, and Father Jack T. O’Hara, parochial vicar of Holy Family Church in Dale City.

Taylor Oncale attended the retreat with his wife, Boo. Taylor said his kidneys were damaged during his two tours of duty during the Vietnam War.

“We asked Father Cilinski to say a prayer for us because I am over the age limit for getting on the kidney transplant list and he invited us to the retreat,” said Taylor. “I have never been on a retreat before and it seemed like a nice opportunity.”

More than 1,000 seriously ill people have sought rest and comfort at the retreat since it began in 1978 at the Dominican Retreat house in McLean. They came in wheelchairs, with walkers, and even on a stretcher.

The retreats ended in 2015 when the Dominican Retreat facility closed, but started once again this year with the help of diocesan Catholic Charities.

The relaxed retreat schedule accommodated the needs of the retreatants who can met with priests or team members during free time, and with counselors from Catholic Charities.

The retreat included talks, daily Mass, anointing of the sick, meals, sharing, Holy Hour and benediction.

The original retreat in 1978 was the first of its kind in the United States, according to Father Cilinski.

It was founded by Missionhurst Father Paul Wynants, Dorothy Garrett, Jo Magno and Steve Kulenguski and supported by the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’ Ricci, who ran Dominican Retreat. The Cursillo Movement continues to support the retreat through prayers, financial assistance and letters of support to the retreatants.

Cindy Kulenguski served as a nurse for the retreat. Her husband was one of the founders. “He died 11 years ago, but left a big part of himself on this retreat,” she said.

Kulenguski helps others, but said she gets more out of it than she gives.

“It is kind of like a renewal of God’s love,” she said. “I get fed from the people who come. I get spiritual renewal from watching them, from the priests, seeing their faith and hope and feeling lots of different emotions.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017