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For Vocation Directors and Vocation Promoters

 

#09 Discernment Retreats

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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:

      • Prayer
      • Mass
      • Reconciliation
      • Presentations
      • Group-sharing talks
  • Oft-used format involves retreatants spending a weekend at a retreat center
    • One example features a series of vocations-related meditations emailed to participants

Implementation

09 discernment retreats impementation graphic

Using Serrans/Volunteers:

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

Program History, Development, and Additional Resources

“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.

Other Resources

From Vianney Vocations:

Link to PDF of the planning guide for the USCCB’s Single Adult Discernment Program—includes planning and activity schedule and sample agenda:

Link to PDF of a guide to a special retreat for discernment of vocations the priesthood (can be adapted to discernment of vocations to consecrated life, according to its author).  Comprehensive, step-by-step guide to this retreat:

Page on the USCCB website which features a basic format for a ‘busy person’s retreat’:

Archdiocese of San Antonio website page with information on men’s discernment retreats:

Prayer and discernment resources page on USCCB website:

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