By Kimberly Borin
As soon as you walked into the retreat space you could feel the energy, joy, and heartfelt care of our retreat leader, Beverly Ann Stewart. She led a day-long retreat titled “Leaning on the Everlasting Love of God, Pastoral Care and the Co-Accompaniment.” Stewart, the spiritual formation director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s pastoral ministry program at Catholic Theological Union, has the gift of storytelling and bringing to life the stories of others.
In our time together, the 50 attendees told a “Believe it or Not” fact about themselves. Participants shared beautiful moments of how they arrived to be a chaplain, and how their journey had unfolded in often very unlikely ways. As each story was told, gifts emerged that offered hope, laughter, “aha” moments, and reminders that we are held in grace and accompanied by God and the Holy Spirit at all times. The words offered by the attendees offered their own nourishment and affirmation, and they were held in the hearts and hands of all who heard them.
Afterward, participants were led in a contemplative meditation and visualization, allowing us to imagine abiding in God’s love. The time for breath, surrender, quiet, and encouragement offered another opportunity to trust in the unfolding of our lives, and to know that we are not only guided but deeply loved along the way. This reminder of leaning on the everlasting love of God allows us to remember that we are divine vessels and we can allow the love of God to move through us, granting us permission to trust and perhaps to not have to work so hard.
Beverly Ann Stewart allowed us to enter with joy and to share our sacred journey stories. She gave us time to breathe, to rest and to remember that we partner with God and one another in our ministries to offer hope and tender care to all those we serve. We were reminded that in our work we also stand in the midst of mystery in situations that are sometimes heavy with the paradox of grace and suffering on many levels. We were reminded to lean into God and with each other as we do this sacred work. We were also reminded to do the important work of self-care in whatever way fills our spirit, so that we can be grounded, centered, and ready for the work we are called to do. She reminded us of spiritual writer Hong Curley’s words of wisdom: “a true healer is the one who heals himself first so others can benefit from his own healing.”
To cement the grounding and nourishment, participants created painted rocks to express healing through the use of art. These reminded us to continue to be open to the spirit, sing out our story, trust in the journey, and lean into the partnering and abiding love of God. It was a nourishing day of stories and hope to sustain us for the journey ahead.