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Seriously ill find encouragement, support at retreat

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Sixteen retreatants, as well as their attendant nurses, doctors and support staff, came together for Mass in the chapel at the San Damiano Spiritual Life Center in White Post Oct. 5. 

The Mass served as the kickoff to the weekend-long “Retreat for People Facing Serious Illness,” and its principal organizer, Father Robert Cilinski, said that, despite its moniker, the event is surprisingly hope-filled.

Everybody leaves better than when they came — and that includes all of us who are helping, too."

“Believe it or not, the retreat is a very happy one. Many people arrive fearful that it might be depressing to be on a retreat for people suffering from serious illnesses,” said Father Cilinski, pastor of Church of the Nativity in Burke. “There are tears, but for all of us here, there’s a sense of great hope, community and the healing power of Christ’s presence.”

It is that faith in Jesus' compassionate healing that Bishop Michael F. Burbidge highlighted in his homily.   

“As you come forward today to receive the Holy Eucharist, entrust to him whatever is in your heart, whatever cares you might have or petitions you wish to make. Do so in great faith knowing that his grace is sufficient for us, that he is with us in our hour of need both now and forever,” Bishop Burbidge said. 

Throughout the Mass, the retreatants actively participated in the liturgy singing hymns, serving as lectors and bringing up the gifts.

Alison Fram, a volunteer at the retreat, said that there was great significance in the offering of the gifts by those who are sick.  

“When someone is ill, it may be easy to think that you are no longer of service to others,” said Fram, director of young adult/college ministry at Nativity. “But this emphasizes that they still have gifts to offer to our church and to each other.”

Fram was grateful, too, that Bishop Burbidge made time to be there.

“It is amazing to see that he took time out of his busy schedule to be with this small group of people,” Fram said. “But it’s a small group of people who are really in need right now, and it is wonderful that they are a high priority for our bishop.” 

Father Cilinski, who has participated in these retreats for the past 38 years, articulated a type of inner healing that he has witnessed before. 

“Everybody leaves better than when they came — and that includes all of us who are helping, too,” Father Cilinski said. “Sometimes the healing is physical and sometimes the healing is an inner one. We're all brought to a new peace, a new inner strength and renewed faith.”   

This is the third retreat sponsored by Catholic Charities and the first one offering a “care-givers support group” by Clinical Psychologist Michael Horne, director of clinical services at diocesan Catholic Charities. He also was there as a counselor.

“Sometimes people just need a person to talk to and I’m there to meet them in their suffering and help them find peace, respite and healing,” Horne said.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018