Ignatian Exercises with Peace Retreats prove spiritually fruitful for parishioners

When Therese Bogatko began her 32-week journey with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, she was unsure if she would be able to keep up with such a rigorous schedule of prayer and contemplation.

As a wildlife officer, her work schedule can often change – especially with an emergency call about a bear sighting or a need to patrol an area for wildlife. During this same time, Therese was also making moves to purchase her own house – adding more responsibilities on top of her workload.

Yet, just as she was beginning the exercises with the local ministry group Peace Retreats, she experienced a providential consolation. It happened late one night as she sat in her work truck, on duty far out in the Peace Country wilderness. It was a little nudge from God telling her that, if she just trusts in Him, He will guide her through.

“I was in the middle of nowhere; it was pitch black and I was surrounded by stars,” Therese recalled. “I just looked up and prayed – and that was a moment where I found the most peace. And then a couple day later, at a time when I was starting to get worried that I was not going to be able to keep up with the daily exercises, I read a quote from St. Ignatius where he said that sometimes to pray, he would just stop and look at the stars. That was the prayer he most needed.

“Things like that would happen to me all the time through the reflections. My spiritual director would call them ‘God winks’.”

Therese Bogatko with the three prayer journals she filled as a result of doing the Ignatian Exercises this year.

For the past 17 years, these Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius have been an instrumental way for Peace Retreats to share the very thing Therese experienced – the love and trust of God.

Since its inception in 2007, Peace Retreats have conducted spiritual retreats and exercises across the region – in Grande Prairie, Peace River, Fairview, High Prairie, High Level, Beaverlodge and even Dawson Creek and Vancouver. But their most constant and staple event has been their annual offering of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. These are usually offered through St. Joseph Church in Grande Prairie, and can include participants from all over the Peace Country and beyond.

Beginning the exercises last September and having just completed them in May, Sexsmith parishioner Cecile Gregory was one of six recent participants who found in them a deepening love of God, of the Scriptures, and a recognition of how much God desires a deeper relationship with her.

“It’s all about building a relationship with God, with Jesus,” said Cecile. “It taught me that discernment is a part of each day, and key to it is praying for God’s grace to help you. It’s made me realize how God wants us to have a deeper relationship with Him.”

With the book ‘The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life’ as a guide, participants are to set aside approximately an hour each day for prayer and contemplation. Each of the book’s daily meditations offer insights into Scripture, the Faith, the nature of God and our relationship with Him. These 32 weeks of reflections move alongside the liturgical calendar, taking participants through the Advent, Christmas, Lenten and Easter seasons before returning to Ordinary Time as they come to a close in the spring.

Those nine months of prayer were spiritually fruitful to an immense degree for Therese – as revealed in the three prayer journals she filled as a result of the Ignatian exercises.

The advertisement for Peace Retreat’s most recent offering of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.

The exercises began with the Isaiah 43 verse “I have called you by name: you are mine,” and this verse summarizes the key lesson of the whole experience for Therese. In the little ways that God spoke to her, often by things in her life matching up with things she would discover in the exercises, she’s grown ever-more confident that God is guiding her in her life choices and that His Grace is present through every challenge and decision.

“I’m more solidified now in the plan that God has for my life. I’m not worried about the future. I trust in God’s plan just in seeing how He acts through these exercises,” Therese reflected.

To register for the Exercises or to ask further questions, send an email to peaceretreatsgp@gmail.com or phone/text (780) 532-7231.

Registrations are limited to the number that Peace Retreats can accommodate. The deadline for the next registration will be September 15th, 2024, or when the registration is full.

This is only an excerpt. Read the full story in the June 2024 edition of Northern Light