Locals know how much activity goes on in Gretna, from a busy City Hall and courthouse, (after all we are the seat of Jefferson Parish business!) and local businesses, to eateries and bars. And how many schools, churches and non-profits are busy doing their thing! Most people in Gretna, including seniors, are plain busy, busy, busy!

Realizing that busy-ness needs a balance and a spiritual retreat is a good equalizer, a retreat for women was planned by Belinda Constant, a parishioner of historic St. Joseph Catholic Church and Shrine. She also serves as Mayor of the City of Gretna. This annual retreat was started in 2019, but was frozen due to the pandemic.

Retreats are where a group of persons gather, usually at a retreat center, and spend time reflecting and praying around a specific theme. There is a retreat leader who offers some thoughts and reflections, passages from Scripture, or other anecdotal material touching upon the focus of the retreat.     

Val Coles and Ginny Dufrene

Rev. Gary Copping, “Father Gary,” pastor of St. Joseph Church was the awesome Retreat Leader. The retreat focus was on “Women of the Bible.”

Upon registration, each member of the retreat received a copy of the book, “Women of the Bible” by Shannon Bream. The ladies read the interesting book before attending.  

Community is one of the most important parts of a good retreat and this one was all about sharing. Constant, a lifelong and very active member of St. Joseph Parish didn’t just open the retreat to members of St. Joseph Church, but also to any woman interested in attending. There were attendees from other locations on the Westbank and even included one lady from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. There was personal time with an hour and a half of ‘silence & individual prayer time’ allowed during each day with beautiful grounds to walk through if any outdoor setting was desired. The program ended each evening with a social hour.    

There was a pre-retreat meeting where Constant explained the schedule for the retreat. The women met, mingled with each other and enjoyed refreshments together. Constant asked that at the retreat, attendees would sit, eat and visit with new friends instead of just with the people they know. Her suggestion worked as the group gelled together in a good way. 

Constant enlisted Linda La Borde, Peggy Foley, Ginny Sue Dufrene, and Val Coles to assist her with the planning and leadership, and what a great job they did. The attendees were surprised as first, a big bag of goodies  including a book from Father Gary appeared in their rooms, and over and over candy treats, including spiritual musings, were left for them thanks to Ginny Sue! 

Val Coles, Donna Thevenet, Geri Mayville, Judy LeBlanc

St. Joseph Women’s Retreat 2022 was held from Friday, August 12 through Sunday, August 14, at Our Lady of Hope Retreat Center in Chatawa, Mississippi.

Formerly St. Mary of the Pines, the center is just about the only thing in Chatawa besides the post office. It was opened as a school in 1874, was a boarding school and then a renewal center and retirement home for the Catholic clergy. It has been a retreat center since 1989.

The accommodations, meals and grounds at Our lady of Hope are wonderful.

Fr. Mark Beard, his assistant Donna Ponson and the faithful volunteers were all so welcoming and pleased for the group to be there.  

A dozen of the retreaters stayed another night to attend a special program on Monday, August 15, a special day in the Catholic Church named the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The program called “A Day with Mary” featured inspiring talks by author Dr. Brant Pitre, amazing music by Kitty Cleveland, special prayer with Kevin McCall and an uplifting Mass with Fr. Mark Beard.  

Next year’s St. Joseph Church Women’s Retreat will again be held in August 2023 at Our Lady of Hope in Chatawa. Registration will be announced in the Spring of 2023.