This past September saw the start of a beautiful friendship. Father Guerric and a team of dedicated facilitators welcomed a group of men and women especially deserving of a retreat-family caregivers. The retreat was carefully designed to nourish and refresh those who daily put loved ones’ needs first and pour out care on a daily basis.
The team included Father Guerric Heckel from Mepkin, who has a broad range of experience that includes hospital chaplaincy, and he is the director of the St. Francis Retreat Center and the Contemplative Aging Institute. Joining Father Guerric was Dr. Ann Marie Lemire, an Internist-Pediatrician who specializes in HIV medicine. Also on the team was Jonathan Wright, the Executive Director of Bridges for End-of-Life, a Charleston-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering families facing caregiving and grief. Rounding out the facilitator’s group was Judith Godwin, a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner and self-help instructor who specializes in meditation and mindfulness for well-being.
The retreat guests came from all walks of life, caring for loved ones of all ages and situations. Caregivers often push their own needs to the side as they care for parents, children, spouses, and siblings. Many have not been away overnight from their labor of love in years. Some were dealing with the stresses of their loved ones’ end-of-life situation, with grief, love, and fatigue all intertwined. Yet others had the long-term care of a younger family member ahead. What they had in common was a deep commitment to family and the need for rest, renewal, and encouragement.
The weekend retreat was a balm to the souls of the caregivers and facilitators alike. Dr. Ann Marie Lemire said, “As a facilitator, I was touched by the participants, and the many years they had given of themselves to caring for other(s). They shared the demands made on them and were open about their self-doubt. I sensed that the retreat offered them an opportunity to look at their role with a new vision and a renewed commitment to continue in that role, but with a resolve to care for themselves at a deeper level. They have inspired me to be a more compassionate person in my own life. They, and the ones they care for, are in my thoughts every day.” Retreat guest and caregiver Jane Deaton shared, “Meeting other caregivers and hearing their stories gave me great comfort. Shortly after the retreat, my brother had a major medical crisis which was life-threatening. Using some of the tools we discussed helped me to relieve the stress I was having. Also the realization that looking upon my care-giving as an opportunity for grace and not as an obligation will stay with me forever. The retreat was a blessing. Thanks to Father Guerric and the other facilitators. You’ve enriched my life! “ Father Guerric was touched by the stories told by these dedicated caregivers who give day in and day out. Especially moving was hearing the caregivers relate how much they are loved by their care receivers in return.
If you are a caregiver, you can experience a weekend like this, filled with refreshing and renewal, a time to take care of yourself so that you may in turn care for your loved one. Father Guerric and the team have three more Caregivers’ retreats scheduled in 2018. If you would like more information, you can visit https://bookwhen.com/mepkinabbey. The next scheduled one will be in February 2018, and a brochure is available in the Care for Caregivers retreat listing for February 9-12. You may also call the retreat center at (843) 761-8509, option 1, and we would be happy to send you a brochure or answer any questions you may have. God’s blessings to caregivers and receivers alike.