LifeSHIFT: Work & the Christian Journey
San Damiano Retreat Center
April 15-17, 2015
LifeSHIFT: Work & the Christian Journey
“Start by doing something necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
These words of St. Francis of Assisi from over 800 years ago inspired twenty (20) weekend retreatants as they sought clarity in their work/career direction while exploring their faith for guidance and strength.
The San Damiano Retreat Center was named after the dilapidated church where Francis first listened to God’s call to “build My church.” Francis gathered stones and mortar to do just that and then began his astounding ministry of living the Gospel while building a following of thousands of “frater’s minors” or poor friars.
This retreat was the second hopefully annual LifeSHIFT in California and people in a variety of work-related transitions participated. Tom Bachhuber, (President of the Board for the Center for Life Transitions) and Jim Briggs, (Executive Director at The School for Applied Theology in Oakland, CA) built community through a balance of presentations, small group work, prayer, solitude and individual, free time. Career planning, job seeking, vocational call and spiritual formation were integrated throughout the weekend.
The work of William Bridges, Parker Palmer, Richard Bolles, Edgar Schein and Herminia Ibarra were used while St. Ignatius Loyola, Theresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Alfred Delp and Henri Nouwen were four sources for spirituality. Jim presented Discernment and Ignatian Spirituality, offering participants the opportunity to work on aspects of the Spiritual Exercises using Tom’s Booklet Career Planning & Ignatian Spirituality.
Other key elements to the weekend included:
- Presentation on Transitions: Reflections on Career, Work, Vocation and Faith
- Presentation on Purposeful Aging
- Values Card Sort activity in pairs
- Individual counseling/coaching and Spiritual direction
- Chalice prayer
- Sunday morning Mass/Eucharist
- Discussion on Time—ours and God’s
Participants organized a variety of handouts, articles and exercises into a binder using Career Planning & Job Hunting, Transition, Vocation, Spirituality, and Poems & Prayers categories.
Karl Barth, perhaps this century’s greatest protestant theologian, comments on how most of us don’t have opportunities for meaningful discussion on faith, spirituality and the challenges of work transition.
“It saddens us that we are cut off from each other, that there is always such different worlds—you in your house and me in my house, you with your thoughts and me with mine. And then we experience the fact that we are mute. Our talk is always such an imperfect, wooden, dead talk. Fire will not break out in it, but can only smolder in our words.”
The LifeSHIFT 2015 participants at the San Damiano Retreat Center opened their hearts and allowed “fire” to break out in them. Hopefully, they also found new meaning and with God’s grace, direction for their lives.
Most beneficial about the retreat:
“Community, a prayerful weekend, and addressing difficult issues were very beneficial. We were always respectful of the other persons.”
“Certain elements of the retreat moved my heart on 3 occasions and especially on Saturday morning.”
“Time to slow down and become aware of where I have been, where I am now, and what possibilities still lay ahead for me.”
“Sharing life challenges openly and connecting with people with similar challenges.”
“When I was required to think about what was next in my professional life (what needs to change and what is okay) I realized that I don’t care so much about the content of my job, but that I want to work fewer hours.”
Integration of work/career planning and spirituality:
“Usually, in secular jobs, one has nothing to do with the other. I really enjoyed approaching career transitions from a spiritual perspective, especially in the context of Christianity.”
“I really benefitted from time away from the ‘everyday’ to contemplate how God is present in the ‘everyday.’ I had lost his presence but feel renewed.”
“It was an absolutely fantastic combination. We were encouraged to seek answers in the company of kindred souls.”
“Great. Each played a key part in addressing the things we are faced with at this time in our lives.”
“Very, very helpful. Reminding myself that God is present in the process, the transition and the frustration is very comforting.”
“Loved it! I got a different perspective on how to approach decision making, and loved the idea from St. Ignatius about discernment”
Elements of the retreat which were most meaningful:
“Prayers that spoke to me about life transitions and the passing of time.”
“Presentation of information and being able to incorporate the essences into discussions.”
“I will take time to see results in my life. I want to stay calm and present to what God allows to happen. I now trust that all is in God’s hands.”
“Overall I am refreshed and recharged!”