Batavia Sister Gives, Enjoys Retreats
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
August 15, 2019
BATAVIA—Sister Myra Lambert is a member of the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary. Her background includes studying the process of giving retreats and the experience of making retreats — directed, preached and one-on-one retreats.
Her M.A.S. degree in Spiritual Direction is from the University of San Francisco, “which is a Jesuit university so we did a lot of course work on retreats both one on one and group retreats,” she says, “so that was my first foundation. “
She attends an eight-day retreat each year. The SSCM’s provide a variety of spiritual events each year, including a handful of retreats — Advent, Lent, Pentecost, silent — for women at the Nazareth Retreat House located behind the SSCM house in Batavia.
Sister Myra answers several questions about retreats.
How are your retreat themes chosen?
A retreat theme is decided upon in prayer and reflection and listening to the Holy Spirit. We have a retreat team composed of sisters and lay women. We come together and read through the Scripture that is pertinent to the retreat. We pray with the Scripture and then share what we understand the Spirit to be revealing to us. 
After sharing on all of the Scriptures we take a break and just stay with the Scriptures and the sharing and the insights for a period of time. Then we come back together and share with each other what we have understood in our hearts to be major ideas, and all of that leads to the overall theme for the weekend.
We then look at the individual themes for each of the presentations. From there the materials are prepared and the images or methods of prayer or aids to prayer are decided upon.
We also have learned to use the retreat material that we prepare in many different ways: for a weekend retreat, for a one day retreat, for a longer retreat such as every Monday during Advent, using one Sunday reading each Monday.
What unique elements have you included in retreats?
Sometimes the Scripture and the themes indicate a need to share with others, and we might use dyads (pairing-up two retreatants) as a way to do that. Other times a film seems to be a way of broadening an insight into the Scripture. On other occasions, we’ve given journals to each person as a way to encourage reflection, and we have encouraged poetry — both writing and reading. 
So much depends on how we understand the Spirit to be leading us. I’ve given a retreat where I used film as the basis of deepening a theme. One film was used to present the insight, another to deepen that understanding, and so on. It was an interesting process. 
What do you believe are essential to a retreat?
Essential of the retreats are Scripture, time for prayer, the chapel and silence in the prayer spaces — and, to some extent, music. 
What kinds of retreats have you experienced as a retreatant?
I have experienced primarily directed retreats. A 30-day Ignatian Retreat was part of my master’s program. Also, I have experienced (an Ignatian) 19th Day Annotation Retreat (and the 30-day over a length of time). I’ve gone to retreats with input or preaching, but because I’m an introvert I never feel as if I have enough time to process the material given. I end up considering those to be more like workshops, and then I (follow them with) days of quiet and prayer.
What type of retreat should a person go on? 
Really listen to the Lord and self so that you know where you are at and what you need in order to go more deeply into your relationship with God. Before choosing the kind of retreat, one must listen deeply to him/her self. Where and what kind will follow. 
Retreats are a time where persons can move deeply into their relationship with God and then return to their ministries and implement what God gave them in grace during the retreat. 
What would you recommend for a first-time retreatant?
For a first time retreatant I would recommend a preached retreat and suggest that the person let the director of the retreat know it is their first time. This is primarily because the person may find the time of prayer to be lengthy, and may need more input. The director then might suggest a spiritual book that will support the Scripture theme being used, or suggest the person go out for a walk and look at all the ways God can be revealed in nature.
What items should participants remember to bring to a retreat?
Definitely bring your favorite and regular Scripture with you. Bring your journal. Bring a spiritual reading book or a book of poetry. Bring good walking shoes and comfortable clothing. 
Bring whatever will help you open your heart to the Holy Spirit, what will lead your heart back to the Spirit if you have moved away for a time. 
If the Rosary is a devotion special to you, pray your rosary during the retreat but make it a new experience.
On a long retreat I do think music helps to center and calm and inspire one to prayer.
What have you noticed God doing during a retreat, either for yourself or others?
I find that most of the time God has my annual retreat all planned for me. 
My work is to listen to whatever that plan might be and respond in love. It might be leading me to a deeper desire to just be with the Lord. Sometimes (I am led) to quiet my mind and heart in the early days of a retreat. At times I am given the inspiration to move or to implement something. 
I have witnessed others being drawn to a new joy in being with the Lord, or a new and deeper return to the Lord. It’s almost as if the person there on retreat has accepted being loved by God in a new and deeper way. It’s creating an atmosphere between God and the retreatant that leads to deeper intimacy and love. 
Sometimes a retreat is a time of discernment, and at that type of retreat there is a greater listening for a specific quest and working to cooperate with grace as one listens and discerns.