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Manresa Jesuit Retreat House Bloomfield Hills, MI
God is working right in your experience. The goal is to discern how... — Fr. Paul Macke, SJ
On Retreat with the Jesuits

By Jordan Skarr, Associate Pastoral Assistant, and Brian Harper, Communications Specialist

In a busy, noisy world, a retreat is a gift. For nearly 500 years, Jesuits have offered this gift, introducing retreatants to deep traditions and innovative expressions. 

The Midwest Jesuits have retreat ministries in seven states. All but Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Elmo, Minn., serve both women and men, and some focus on specific populations, such as the Ignatian Spirituality Project's work with the homeless. Whether serving young adults, seasoned retreatants, or people experiencing addiction, Jesuits and lay colleagues respond to a variety of needs in a variety of settings.

Each ministry shares a commitment to Ignatian spirituality, the unique faith practice established by the Jesuits’ founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatian spirituality is rooted in the Spiritual Exercises, the practical retreat guide born from Ignatius’s experiences.


Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland  Parma, OH



Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland 
Parma, OH
A vital part of every Jesuit’s formation, the Spiritual Exercises take roughly 30 days and are mainly completed in silence. Because few laypeople could spend a month away, Ignatius encouraged Jesuits to be creative in making retreats available to as many people as possible.

“Ignatius always talked about adapting the Exercises,” says Fr. Paul Macke, SJ, director of Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, Ill. “There are many different formats. We have eight-day or five-day directed retreats, and the 19th Annotation, which people do at home over the course of 30 weeks. Bill W. developed Alcoholics Anonymous in conversation with a Jesuit.”

What sets Ignatian spirituality apart is its emphasis on individual experience.

“God is not out there somewhere,” says Fr. Macke. “God is working right in your experience. The goal is to discern how, and that will lead you to conversion and a reorientation of your life, with God as your highest priority.”

Silent prayer is part of many Jesuit retreats, but retreatants also typically meet one-on-one with a spiritual director.

Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House   Lake Elmo, MN

Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House
Lake Elmo, MN

“Retreats are very much between a person and God,” says Fr. Chris Manahan, SJ, director of the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wis. “Directors are only there to the extent that the person and God find them useful."

Retreat directors also often use presentations to help retreatants focus on important spiritual themes.

“Our attempt is to make time for retreatants to interiorize those presentations with the Lord,” says Fr. Francis Daly, SJ, director of Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "Hopefully, they are not just coming for presentations but to grow in their relationship with God through personal prayer.”

Despite the brevity of a weekend, retreatants travel “through the pattern and progression of the Spiritual Exercises,” says Fr. Pat McCorkell, SJ, Demontreville's director. The Exercises, however, “aren’t the retreat. They’re just tools.”


Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington, IL

Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House
Barrington, IL
Ultimately, the Exercises are an invitation to encounter and experience a loving, merciful God, says Rick Krivanka, executive director of the Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland.

“Meeting God in the deepest part of one’s being,” Krivanka explains. “We provide a place of peace and reflection where people can ponder the most important questions in their lives — and find God’s love and guidance.”

Preparing retreatants for this encounter often requires calming them first.

“The guys come frazzled for the most part, as 99 percent of people in the United States are,” says Fr. McCorkell. “They come to a place of solitude. We tell them to shut off their phone: ‘You’re here. Nowhere else.’ We try to provide a peaceful and beautiful physical environment.”

In addition to tranquility, retreatants often find a simple but structured routine.

Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford, Milford, OH

Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford
Milford, OH

“Daily order’s the same, the menu’s the same,” says Fr. McCorkell. “They can come to a place that doesn’t demand a lot of choices, so their energy and attention is focused on the content and activity of the prayer. Over the course of time, that really does start to affect and shape the way you look at things.”

Dean Hilgers, who has made retreats at Demontreville for 20 years, can attest to this:

“I could never imagine not coming,” he says. “I’m beyond hooked. It’s part of the fabric of who I’ve become.” It is not uncommon for traditions like this to carry across generations.

“In certain families, it’s been going for three, four generations,” says Fr. McCorkell. “We pass on the faith.” 


Jesuit Retreat House on  Lake Winnebago Oshkosh, WI

Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago
Oshkosh, WI
Whether the goal is spiritual growth or a quiet weekend away, Ignatian retreats offer a rare opportunity to find solitude and, as Ignatius wrote, “allow the creator to deal directly with the created.”

After a retreat at the Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford in Ohio, Sr. Therese Gillman, OSF, the center’s executive director, heard a participant sum up the experience using words any retreat director would long to hear: “I found God again.”



For more information on making a retreat with the Midwest Jesuits, visit www.jesuitsmidwest.org/retreats2016.






Recent News

November 16, 2017 — The Jesuit Alumni and Friends of Detroit hosted Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, on Oct. 13 at the Detroit Athletic Club.

November 14, 2017 — The annual Ignatian Family Teach-In addressed timely social justice issues in the Catholic context.

November 9, 2017 — Creighton University alum Nick Stukel set out with a lofty goal: to run a marathon on all seven continents.

November 3, 2017 — Cardinal Cupich presided over Mass at the Archbishop Quigley Center on Nov. 2, honoring Red Cloud Indian School of Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

November 1, 2017 — Jesuit education leaders from around the world gathered recently in Rio de Janeiro for the first International Congress of Jesuit Education Delegates.

October 27, 2017 — In recent months, 31 Jesuits, including five from the Midwest Province, have been ordained to the diaconate in the United States and Canada.

Father Ed Sthokal, SJ, had never considered becoming a retreat director; he never even specifically trained for it. The plan for the young Jesuit was to teach English literature, perhaps go on to run a university department in the field. So how did he end up spending 58 years as a retreat director at Demontreville Retreat House in Lake Elmo, Minnesota?

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Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House
Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House is located on 80 acres of gently rolling meadows and wooded countryside just 35 miles northwest of Chicago.