Words from a Samson Chaplain

You may have heard priests say at times that ministry is a two-way street. What they mean is that in offering the services that priesthood is privileged to make available, the priest, in turn, is enriched and sustained by those who receive what he provides. This was clearly my experience when I was asked to serve recently as chaplain on a Samson Retreat weekend. Sacramentally, I offered the Eucharist and Reconciliation – which I have done for many years in quite a variety of circumstances. For the rest, I participated in the same way that the members of the presenting team did, and had the privilege of journeying for a few days with a group of men in search of human and spiritual growth. The sharing of life in matters great and small, serious and light, is not foreign to me as a religious and a priest, but the opportunity to walk with men desirous of exploring new possibilities for themselves in an intense weekend of prayer and dialogue, work and fellowship, was particularly revelatory and inspiring.

A good deal of the Samson Retreat’s format did not differ significantly from that of many other Catholic retreat experiences, but the impact on retreatants was extremely perceptible, and the conversations that ensued – both one on one and in groups – were often profound and enriching. In many respects the contents of the retreat are thoroughly traditional: Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the rosary, the Way of the Cross, talks, shared meals, and healthy camaraderie – all had a place on the daily calendar. The input of the presenters and the sharing of team members, however, – all Catholic laymen – drew from their own personal experiences of woundedness and healing, sin and conversion, and so helped participants to recognize and acknowledge more easily their own struggles and longings. A reverent concern for the privacy of each individual prevailed throughout, nonetheless, allowing each man to share his concerns and questions to the degree to which he felt comfortable.

An aspect of the retreat dynamic that did distinguish it notably from other retreats was the inclusion of a work project that translated theory into practice for participants in a very concrete way. This element, which invited the men to draw upon their creativity and skill, became an important thread over the course of the weekend, revealing a tangible connection to human and spiritual insights and issues.

A man desirous of examining, and gently confronting, the hurts and pains of brokenness in a spiritually supportive community setting, will find the opportunity to do so in the Samson experience. Pastors who are looking for a way to assist their parishioners in need of support, encouragement and healing from wounds of the past, will find a reliable means of assistance in the Samson Retreat Weekend.

Fr. Michael Di Gregorio, O.S.A.

Saint Augustine Monastery

Richland, New Jersey

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