Discernment Retreats

Among the most common vocations-related programs seen today, vocations retreats take many forms and formats—groups or individuals, dioceses or religious orders, and so on. They’re also good ways to introduce people to—or advance them within—the discernment process.

Serra Participation

  • Publicizing the event
  • Obtaining an appropriate facility
  • Preparing and serving food for the retreat if needed
  • Underwriting costs of retreat for retreatants (principal cost item)

Summary

Discernment retreats are among the most common vocations-related programs seen today.  These retreats can be offered by dioceses or by religious orders—or, at times, a combination of both.

Such events often involve retreatants traveling to a retreat center for a weekend-long program of discernment-related activities.  These activities are hosted by diocesan officials, priests, and/or religious community representatives.  Such retreats are often held for groups, though they are also offered on a single-individual basis.

In the Internet / social media age, vocations-focused ‘online retreats’ are now being offered, too.  One such retreat comprises a series of vocations-related meditations that are emailed to participants once a day over eight days.

Program Outline

  • Discernment retreats
  • Among the most common vocations-related programs seen today
  • Offered by dioceses or religious orders—or, at times, by both joining together
  • Retreatants take part in discernment-related activities hosted by diocesan officials, priests, and/or religious community representatives
  • Programs include
    • Prayer
    • Mass
    • Reconciliation
    • Presentations
    • Group-sharing talks
  • A common format format involves retreatants spending a weekend at a retreat center
  • One example features a series of vocations-related meditations emailed to participants

All Year

Lead Time 4-6 Months

Low Effort

Medium Cost

Program History and Development

“A discernment retreat is a prayerful visit with a religious community, perhaps for a weekend or even a week.  Such a retreat is a good way to test your vocation.  You can get to know the community, its charism, and find whether God may be calling you to its way of life.”

-Institute on Religious Life

“Retreats are important moments to listen to God and hear the talks of priests, seminarians or religious.  Retreats foster genuine discernment.  In the midst of your busy lives, a retreat opportunity affords you time of silence and clarity that cannot be found in the world.  Please take advantage of a retreat experience to ask God what He wants for your life – a retreat gives you such an opportunity.”

-USCCB

Discernment retreats have long been one of the primary ways in which people are invited to prayerfully consider vocations to the priesthood, deaconate, and religious life.  These retreats can be offered by dioceses or by religious orders.

In perhaps the most familiar of these types of retreats, the retreatants will travel to a retreat center or similar institution for a weekend of discernment-related activities hosted by diocesan officials, priests, and/or religious community representatives.  The activities will often include prayer, Mass, reconciliation services, presentations, and group-sharing talks.  Retreatants are then encouraged to stay in touch with the host organization to keep them apprised of their vocational discernment journey and to ask any follow-up questions.  Such retreats are often held for groups, though they are also offered on a single-individual basis.  (Additionally, with some religious orders, individual retreatants or small groups of retreatants are invited to spend an extended period, such as a week, staying with a religious community in a guest house or room; this allows them more time to get a sense of the community’s day-to-day living arrangements, prayer, work, and charism.)

Such retreats are common across America—but they are, in the Internet / social media age, being complemented by ‘online retreats.’  For example, the Institute on Religious Life has begun Vocation Online Retreats.  These comprise a series of vocations-related meditations that are emailed to participants once a day over an eight-day period.

In the case of parish groups desiring to plan such retreats, the USCCB’s planning guide for its Single Adult Discernment Program (see below) is a recommended resource.

Resources

Reference Materials:

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has the following materials:

Page on the USCCB website which features a basic format for a “busy person’s retreat:”
Busy Person’s Retreat

Prayer and discernment resources page on USCCB website:
USCCB – Prayer and Discernment Resources

The Vocations Office of the Arlington Diocese in Virginia has an active vocation program with multiple events throughout the year:
https://www.arlingtondiocese.org/vocations/vocations-events/

For men the following is a good hotlink:
https://www.arlingtondiocese.org/vocations/for-men/how-to-become-a-priest/

For women use the following hotlink:
https://www.arlingtondiocese.org/vocations/for-women/

The website of the Congregation of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) has a list of vocation events at different convents.
https://cmswr.org/

Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles are very active in community service:
https://carmelitesistersocd.com/about/

This is a link to their vocations webpage:
https://carmelitesistersocd.com/vocations/

A hotlink to their discernment retreats:
https://carmelitesistersocd.com/discernment-retreat

This is a hotlink to a vocation story:
https://youtu.be/Ryg4CKuOI_Y

Serra SPARK Helpers©

Link to PDF of the planning guide for the USCCB’s Single Adult Discernment Program—includes planning and activity schedule and sample agenda:
Serra’s USA Council Single Adult Discernment Program [pdf]

““Let us face the vocations challenge with that equanimity and realism which take into account the
effectiveness of prayer,
and which are never devoid of supernatural hope.”

Pope St. John Paul II