Innovative Retreat for Ladies in St. Louis Area

by Sister Carol Schumer, D.C.

“If God is bigger than us and lives in us, wouldn’t God show through?” the little girl asked her mom.  This final line in an internet story captures the theme of a retreat held in Perryville, MO, for the Ladies of Charity of the four associations in the St. Louis archdiocese. Forty-two women gathered  at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal for seven hours of prayer, sharing and community. Sr. Carol Schumer, D.C., facilitated the experience, using the lives of several predecessors to accentuate “Legacy Lived Today.” The stories of St. Louise de Marillac, Madame Genevieve Goussault, and Mademoiselle Marie Pollalion, all of 17th century France, and Mrs. Catherine Harkins/Drake (1834 – 1911) of St. Louis, along with the “Practical Recommendations” given to the first Ladies of Charity at Hotel Dieu in Paris by St. Vincent de Paul, invited us to look at our lives in the 21st century. Seeing Christ in persons who live in poverty and ministering in a spirit of humility and affability were stressed. As follow up, participants reflected and shared insights on several questions:   “Given our ministry TODAY as Ladies of Charity, what recommendations would St. Vincent offer us? + what attitudes would he suggest to us?” and “Given our call TODAY, what do Mlle. Pollalion and Mrs. Harkins/Drake teach us? + to what would they invite us?”  The day concluded with Mass in St. Mary’s of the Barrens Shrine Church.  Fr. Arthur Trapp, C.M., presided and spoke of being Christ today as he commended the work of the Ladies of Charity. After Communion, everyone recited the Ladies of Charity Commitment Prayer.

A primary goal of the gathering was to get to know other Ladies of Charity. Judging from comments on the evaluation, this was a highlight for some who attended:   “I enjoyed meeting all the Ladies and talking with them;” “Listening to the input of our members;” “I really enjoyed all of the associations getting together;” “… meeting spirit-filled women.” This retreat constituted another step toward collaboration.

A special thank you goes out to the St. Vincent’s Association in Perryville, led by President Donna Semsrott, for hosting this retreat, and to Fr. James Ward, C.M., president of the Miraculous Medal Association and his staff, for their assistance in set-up  of Laboure’ Hall.


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