A Fort Myers Beach, Florida, sunset – the location for our winter seminar and retreat

At Guest House anyone who has completed one of our treatment programs is considered an alumnus or alumna, if he or she wishes. We are proud of our extended yet close-knit community of alumni. They live all over the world, and many relish the opportunities to connect/re-connect with fellow alumni via telephone, email, personal visits and/or Guest House events. “Our alumni are the heart of Guest House. They are witnesses to our ministry and ambassadors of our mission,” remarks Jeff Henrich, Guest House President and CEO.

Guest House offers alumni retreats, reunions and seminars periodically throughout the year to support clergy and men and women religious who are in recovery from a variety of addictive disorders. These gatherings are offered to Guest House alumni and also to clergy and men and women religious who began recovery through other treatment centers or who entered recovery on their own. We encourage our alumni to invite others to attend because these events are designed to provide an opportunity for reflection and discussion in fellowship – fellowship among like-minded individuals in a safe environment, where everyone feels comfortable being their authentic selves. Our most recent alumni (men) seminar and alumnae retreat were held last month in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

The focus of the four-day events includes listening to presentations, partaking in meaningful conversations during group discussion time, praying together, attending 12-Step meetings, sharing in Mass and enjoying valuable fellowship. The role of the speaker/leader is one that seems to most importantly include the ability to engage the participants in opening up with one another. Offering a prompt for reflection and discussion is a fine example that works well. Some effective prompts used to break the ice at a recent seminar include:

  • Share your journey into AA.
  • What were the first challenges that you had to deal with in sobriety and how did you handle them?
  • How do you define recovery for yourself?

One of the recent Florida event attendees shared that once they begin talking, “It’s all good.” At the men’s seminar, one of the priests explained, “Some of us bring our own ideas to share and discuss, knowing that we will have a comfortable setting to do so, among professional peers. Everyone takes turns. It’s a natural thing.” A Sister at the women’s retreat emphasized, “It’s so important being with other Sisters who ‘get it’ and share at a deep level.” The dialogue continues and generally has to be brought to a conclusion in order to move on through the schedule. All the participants share willingly within their comfort level, and they find gratification and solace in the process.

Each day allows for personal time, and most of the attendees elect to spend time with one another. Dinner groups are planned among existing relationships and new friendships. The free time gatherings, in addition to the meeting sessions and table sharing, nurture new friendships, and support is grown from established connections and also from strangers who find a common bond. This year was special to one of the Sisters because she said, “It was so meaningful to reconnect with people I met last year. It was good to be recognized and be seen.” One priest shared, “It doesn’t matter if we know one another at the start; by the end of the days, we are friends.”

These retreats and seminars are offered several times each year, and some alumni attend multiple events because they find such value in getting together. A few alumni are fortunate to be in areas where there are area/diocesan/community support groups of priests and/or religious in recovery that meet once a month. Those with limited local opportunities, especially value the Guest House events.

Written by Guest House Staff Writer