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Venn Diagram for People to Experience Wellbeing on Catholic Retreats

There are 3 elements that combine to make an ‘Experience Wellbeing’ faith formation retreat an empowering and uplifting one. Firstly, begin with the pastoral needs of the participants. Secondly, match their pastoral needs with Catholic theological anthropology messages and Catholic spiritual practices. Thirdly, match their pastoral needs with evidence-based wellbeing strategies for individuals and groups. When these three elements are integrated thoughtfully and efficiently, participants thrive in retreats.

Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium (#128) that effective, empowering and loving sharing of the Gospel starts with listening to the cry of the heart of the other person in a spirit of humble learning and walking together. Planning a Catholic retreat starts with deep reflection on the needs of the participants.

Catholic theological anthropology affirms the dignity of each individual and shows the way towards a vibrant, thriving community. The Christian perspective of relationship with God is special and our spiritual practices are too. The theology and practices for personal and communal wellbeing are honed to the pastoral needs of retreat participants.

Evidence-based wellbeing research compliments and shows compelling rationale for Christian virtue ethics and many traditional retreat activities. Pope Francis says integrating these strategies within the context of faith is like turning water into wine. It’s not enough to just present positive psychology strategies on a retreat, but if we integrate the right ones that match the pastoral needs of the participants and complement the theology and spiritual practices chosen, these strategies fill out the retreat experience in powerful ways for the participants.