Lent retreat 3

‘God at Work’: Lenten Retreat Nourishes the Soul

Lent retreat 2A short play, praying the Rosary and Stations of the Cross, meditation and mass were among the activities at the fourth annual Chaldean Women Lent Retreat on March 20 at Colombiere Retreat Center in Clarkston.

Approximately 150 women attended the day-long retreat.

“This retreat is a small token for our community,” said Ikhlas Sulaka. “Lent is what you do in your heart. It’s not to show off by saying, ‘I’m not eating meat.’ Jesus’ table is not just about filling the table with fried eggplants and red rice. It’s about love, passion and forgiving each other. That’s Jesus’ real meal.”

Lent retreat 2

Years ago retreat directors Sulaka and Sue Seaman attended prayer ceremonies held at various women’s homes. One day Seaman asked Sulaka, “Why don’t we start a retreat, something that combines prayer, meditation and spiritual education?” Sulaka, whose aim is to spread Jesus’ word, was all for this idea. Since then, the two have worked as a team to create an opportunity for people to get close to God.

“It’s a bit difficult to get people to join us, but we keep going and the number of attendees keeps increasing,” said Sulaka. “We were so happy that this year the buses were filled. I knew that was God at work.”

Several women expressed the importance of women in the community, particularly mothers and grandmothers who are raising the next generation, to attend these types of retreats not once a year, but regularly.

“Instead of going to Ladies Night, come here,” said Ban Manni, vice president of Chaldean Sisters of Mercy. “There is nothing to learn from those party events. There’s no value in them, and yet they are the ones that sell out whereas we have difficulty selling tickets.”

During mass, Fr. Sameem Balius said these retreats renew peoples’ faith and help them to experience the loving presence of God and to seek the wisdom necessary for good daily living.

“Jesus came to teach us about our blindness,” said Fr. Sameem. “There are two kinds of blindness, the physical and the spiritual kind. Awakening peoples’ senses through God’s presence is what we need, because that’s what we’re forgetting to do.”

The message he chose for that day was from John 9:39-41: And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

Karam Bahnam of the ECRC (Eastern Catholic Re-evangelization Center) did a presentation on the importance of prayer, which he said is fundamental to everyday life.

“Prayer is a relationship with God,” he said. “We are born longing to have this relationship. We try to respond to this need with a fixation but we don’t end up feeling fulfilled that way because the only fulfilling relationship is the one with God.”

Bahnam described the various expressions of prayers and the conditions for proper prayers, emphasizing that regardless of the type of prayer we do – vocal, meditative, contemplative, a petition, adoration or thanksgiving – our prayers must be sincere in order for that relationship to happen.

“This is my first time here,” said one attendee from Troy. “Everyone should do the retreat. They should take time to get to know God, not just verbally, but through meditation in order for their faith to grow and stretch.”

“Once people try it, once the word of God goes into their hearts, they are in,” said Manni. “By not getting involved in spiritual matters, the women are losing out on something important, and their children are losing out too.”

“Many people are thirsty for spirituality,” said Sulaka. “We can do so much together by working as brothers and sisters. We are all one church, under one God!”

– Weam Namou