In April, I and some friends initiated the first immigration retreat. I had been accompanying the Hispanic community at St. Anthony Shrine for several years until last year, and we had taken steps to organize the retreat before it ran out of support. But friends from the Shrine decided that we would do the retreat together in a small group format, which I think is the best way to do it. Accompaniment and sharing in the community life was the baseline for ministry. It opens the door for extending this retreat experience to other immigrants after an accompaniment period in a type of mission, as a grassroots, bottom-up retreat.
The retreat itself was supported equally financially by the participants, though I did most of the organizing, ideation, and procurement. It is a participatory retreat with a balance of listening, vulnerable sharing, teammwork, and personal arts and crafts. About 4 to 5 hours, the retreat environment allows Latino immigrants to identify, remember, unpack and recount their migration experience in the intimacy of small community of other immigrants. Afterwards, and each person can memorialize their story in a personal way by decorating a candle-holder/lantern that can be taken home and continually reused as a memorial of their migration experience and God's hand in it.
The retreat is placed in the context of the mystery of God's salvation as experienced by the Israelites' crossing the Red Sea. Retreatants are guided in relating their experience to that of the People of God, and a safe, trusting environment is established with sacred symbols, songs, interactive activities, and media.
Everyone who participated reported having a fantastic experience that had changed them to some degree and had changed our relationships. We all had a desire to continue with more meetings and workshops and activities that fed us spiritually and socially and communally. We have meetings planned to do this.