LifeSHIFT: Work & the Christian Journey
The Jesuit Center at Wernersville PA
June 16-18/19, 2015
Twenty-six sojourners looking for new direction in their work lives met for two days and two evenings for presentations, activities, group sharing, prayer and solitude at the storied Jesuit Retreat Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. The Jesuit Center is the former Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues, a school for aspiring Jesuits from 1930 into the 1960s. As applications to the priesthood declined, the vision turned the majestic building designed by a famous Boston architectural firm and resting on three acres of rolling hills to a new mission of providing spiritual programs for the laity.
This was the first LifeSHIFT Retreat NOT held on a weekend so eighteen of the group were new “retirees” who had freedom during the conventional work week. The topic of “Purposeful Aging” was added to the curriculum using the work of Joan Chittister, Wendy Lustbader and Robert Raines.
Additionally, four people stayed for an extra day to focus on Job Seeking Skills i.e. resume, networking, LinkedIn and individual consultation.
LifeSHIFT as a philosophy and program strives for a balance between workshop energy where goals can be set and action steps taken as well as a retreat environment for reflection, solitude and prayer. Presentations, discussion, experiential activities, and individual time are equally represented.
Dan Burr, President of People Express said it well in describing why many people participate in LifeSHIFT.
“It’s sensational what direction can do. The beauty of the human condition is the magic people are capable of when there’s direction.”
The experience brings resources together to help people find direction—or take beginning steps on the journey. Ignatius of Loyola refers to the Latin word “Magis” (more, better, and for God’s glory) in his Spiritual Exercises to help people discern direction in their lives. Time was divided between helping people take action and take in the love of people in the group, their lives and their God in order to feel empowered in their transition, as Henri Nouwen encourages in his “spiritual imperatives” from The Inner Voice of Love.
A new model was introduced showing the relationship among Transition, Career Planning, Vocation and Spirituality in forming the core questions, ideas and information of the LifeSHIFT experience.
For more information, you may want to review the attached syllabus/agenda, bibliography and introductory power point.
Feedback from participants
What was the most beneficial?
- The introduction to authors, poets and spiritual directors. I process slowly and look forward to taking time at home to read materials.
- All the wonderful materials and getting to know new authors.
- Being surrounded in such a loving and positive space.
- Having the exposure to materials and knowledge on transitions in career and life
- Having the opportunity and space to explore, discern, reflect and journal.
- Getting new views on important ideas.
- It was very thought provoking and I enjoyed listening to the leader’s wisdom.
How do you feel about the integration of work/career planning and spirituality?
- This is what drew me to the retreat.
- I think it is so important to look at our career and our faith together. More instruction on discernment would have been helpful.
- Excellent combination of spirituality in our practical lives and career change
Elements of the retreat which were most meaningful:
- The binder and the handouts
- The strong inventory report, candle seen at all times, prayers before and after, deep thoughts expressed, interpretation of music, flow of ideas of group, circle rather than tables
- The prayer –especially the Chalice
- Expertise on career choices, identification of priorities and values and work on FEARS.
- Values cards, poems, handouts and books.
The balance between retreat mission (reflection, rest, prayer) and the workshop mission (accomplish tasks, plan, set goals, process ideas)
- Retreat mission felt a little sacrificed to enable workshop mission.
- I think most people find their own balance. More material is available and more silence/reflection is available for those who wanted it throughout the weekend.
- At first I was skeptical we would accomplish what I thought was the goal; at the end I found the days were well balanced indeed.
- I think the layout of the weekend made the retreat easier. I feel I could take away and choose what resources as I continue on this journey. I tried to not have a specific goal for the retreat and that helped me not feel overwhelmed and able to go with the flow.
- Thank you for doing such an incredible job!