After the success of a 2019 Catholic women’s retreat in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, a group of Saskatchewan women knew there was a desire for more – but then along came the global pandemic.
“It became clear to us there was a need, and our work had only just begun. As Covid-19 put plans on hold for a second retreat, we could not ignore that now, more than ever, women were longing for renewal, nourishment, support and community,” explains Sharon Leyne, one of the Catholic women who have pulled together to create the Arise Catholic Movement.
“As our team prayed and discussed what the next Arise event should be, we discovered that our entire team of women had experienced the same struggles, frustrations, anger, confusion, isolation, loneliness, fear, anxiety, numbness in one way or another, in varying degrees throughout the year of the pandemic,” says Leyne.
“If this was true for the eight of us – a diverse group of women from all different phases of life, married with children, some grandmothers, some single, others students – then it would be fair to say that this could be a reflection of the state of women in the greater Catholic and Christian community.”
Given the impact of the pandemic, the team began to reflect on what was needed, and what they could provide. Their response includes the creation of a new Arise Catholic Movement to pursue a mission of “encountering Jesus together, fostering authentic Catholic community,” and plans for another retreat experience for Catholic women – this time online via video.
“The Arise Catholic Movement hopes to bring light to all women who, like our team, need to finally take a breath after a year of holding it in with clenched fists, through this year’s retreat,” says Leyne.
She adds that the message the Arise group has for women is “You are not alone, we see you, we hear you.”
Partnering with the Diocese of Saskatoon and St. Anne Parish, the Arise team will launch the online retreat on Saturday, May 1. Entitled “Arise: Put On the Amour of Light,” the video retreat has been inspired by a Scripture passage from Romans 13:11-12: “You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.”
Speakers include Heather Khym, Debbie Herbeck, Mary Bielski, Rachel Herbeck, and Bishop Scott McCaig, bishop to the Canadian military ordinariate.
“Through the gift of technology our team is able to offer this one-day retreat, to be launched May 1 across Canada and the United States,” says Leyne. “As a pre-recorded retreat, women will have the flexibility to take part in the retreat at any time that is convenient to them.”
Although participants are able to journey through the retreat day on their own, organizers are encouraging women to gather in small groups, in accordance with COVID-19 precautions, to experience the “Arise: Put on the Armour of Light” retreat in a community context.
“Our Arise team is encouraging women to reintroduce community back into their life by experiencing this year’s retreat as a small group hosted in a home, or as a parish event, following all Covid regulations,” Leyne describes. “Through special Zoom calls our team will encourage and equip all hosts with some tools and guidance,” she adds.
“We also felt that one day – after a year of isolation – was not enough.”
Therefore the team is also offering a five-week Arise Armour Series to dive deeper into the theme of the retreat “so that you may continue your conversations, and strengthen not just your armour but your community as well.”
Leyne and the rest of the team are eager to offer the retreat to women across the province and beyond. “Our Arise Catholic Movement team cannot wait to get this retreat into the hands of every woman. Now is the time for us to cast off the darkness and put on the armour of light.”