Words fall short when I try to express my gratitude to the staff of The Dwelling Place and their ministry, and to describe how significantly my retreats have enriched my personal life, spiritual growth, and ministry. I can honestly and thankfully say that most of my retreats were life changing experiences.
My first retreat at The Dwelling Place was February 2001. My most recent retreat was July 2011. Between those years, I have not missed a year, and have enjoyed a retreat at the Dwelling Place eleven consecutive years.
My name is Fr. Bob Konopa. I am a Franciscan priest. My retreats were always about one week long, private, and silent. I enjoyed a comfortable and peace-filled week living in a hermitage, and I met with a director about one hour each day. The hospitality, prayerfulness, personal touch, and the country setting created an atmosphere that was relaxed and conducive to listen and be attentive to the movement and voice of the Spirit. Even the dogs, Shadow and Prince were terrific hosts.
At the end of my first retreat (February 2001) I felt quite amazed how God is so intimate and personal. My director gave me great advice. She recommended that I write down the important events, significant moments and key insights of my retreat. She told me that instead of remembering vaguely how meaningful my retreat was, that by writing down my experiences, I would have the means to specifically remember my retreat experiences. I followed her advice, and after eleven years of retreats, I have a three-ring binder filled with my retreat history at The Dwelling Place. This history and summation of my retreats are like a treasure chest that I can open periodically and look back and recall how beautifully, powerfully and tenderly God touched my life.....
At my earlier retreats, I always came with an agenda. I wanted my retreat to be a kind of problem-solving event. But quickly I realized that God is always drawing me closer, closer and deeper into Himself. When I was available and present to the presence of God so much happened. When I am present to God, all is possible because God knows what I need better than I know what I need.
The problems I thought were so important and overwhelming seemed to fade away, or appeared different. There is a song with the words: Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in his wonderful face. And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim and the light of his glory and grace. I am not alone. God knows me better than I know myself. I can rely on this truth; I can trust again. How wonderful, how freeing it is to know that I am known so intimately and completely by God.
One truly life-changing experience occurred during a retreat in which I came to know myself as a loved sinner. While I am a sinner, I am still loved... So much changed when I came to know this as my true identity...So much of spirituality is seeing, seeing properly. Seeing myself as God sees me changes just about everything, including how I see God and my world. I am eternally grateful for that retreat and this insight, and for this new way of seeing.
As I look back over my retreat notes from each of those eleven retreats, I can only be humble and grateful, extremely grateful to God who has shown me and taught me so much, and grateful to the ministers and ministry of The Dwelling Place. I canít imagine living without an annual retreat, and living without taking that time to listen to the One who knows me better than I know myself.
Good news for those of you who ordered memorial bricks as part of our Capital Campaign, Phase II.
The order has arrived, though not by our 25th celebration as we had hoped. They are now laid in our Memorial Garden in front of Assisi Administration building. Tim Kanagy, a brick mason, laid them for us.
Pat Maloney has donated a bench in honor of her parents to complete our memorial garden. A Saint Francis statue and some beautiful shrubs decorate the area.
We continue to add bricks. If you would like to donate a brick in honor of or memory of a loved one, we can add it to those already laid.