Retreat marks 15 years, looks to future

Father Paul Scaglione, director of Gennesaret Ministries, and retreat staff pray over Regina Hall as she holds the Eucharist during eucharistic adoration at the Gennesaret Retreat for the Seriously Ill held in October at the Abbey of Gethsemani. The retreat program recently celebrated its 15th anniversary in the Archdiocese of Louisville, and organizers said they hope to expand the program’s offerings. (Photo Special to The Record)

Father Paul Scaglione, director of Gennesaret Ministries, and retreat staff pray over Regina Hall as she holds the Eucharist during eucharistic adoration at the Gennesaret Retreat for the Seriously Ill held in October at the Abbey of Gethsemani. The retreat program recently celebrated its 15th anniversary in the Archdiocese of Louisville, and organizers said they hope to expand the program’s offerings. (Photo Special to The Record)

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Father Paul Scaglione said he hopes that each person who takes part in a Gennesaret Retreat for the Seriously Ill comes to the realization that God is always present, even through life’s most challenging ordeals.

The retreat is designed for persons who live with chronic, life-threatening illnesses. It provides rest, prayerful reflection and daily conferences, Father Scaglione, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville, said.

In the 15 years it has been offered in the archdiocese, approximately 500 people have taken part in the three-day program.

The retreat ministry marks its 15th anniversary this year and organizers are celebrating the occasion by looking to the future, Father Scaglione said in an interview last week at The Record offices.

As of this fall, the program is officially known as Gennesaret Ministries and has been incorporated as a non-profit organization. The idea behind this status change, Father Scaglione said, is to become a self-supporting entity that can expand and offer additional ministries.

One of the new ministries will focus on primary caregivers, he said. Oftentimes caregivers are close family members, such as spouses or children, who help their loved one meet daily needs, he said.

Caring for a person with a chronic condition is an act of love, but one that can be exhausting, Father Scaglione noted.

Through this new ministry, the retreat team hopes to provide some emotional and spiritual support for caregivers as well.

“This year, we’ve started to ask caregivers ‘What are your needs,’ ” he said.

Father Scaglione said that a three-day retreat is not realistic for most caregivers because they are responsible for providing day-to-day care.

“We are looking at maybe a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. day in a parish setting to support them, to support their needs,” he said.

Father Scaglione has also started a blog for caregivers at caregivercomfort.com.

Gennesaret Ministries is also beginning an effort to increase the number of volunteers who share in its work.

Father Scaglione, who will turn 70 in February, retired from parish leadership two years ago. He continues to serve as director of Gennesaret Ministries but is now thinking about “long-range support,” he said.

Currently, there are about 40 people who are involved in the ministry, but Father Scaglione, said more are needed.

“We need to get new people involved in the ministry — anyone who is interested in the service to the sick,” he said.

A third area of focus will be an ecumenical outreach. Father Scaglione said he has been approached numerous times by members of other Christian denominations asking whether they could participate.

The retreat is centered heavily on the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and the anointing of the sick. But, he said, a few individuals are working to come up with an offering “to meet needs in a non-sacramental environment.”

The retreats are held in the tranquil setting of the Abbey of Gethsemani, located south of Bardstown, Ky. Retreat staff include experienced nursing professionals and others who provide hospitality, companionship and personal assistance for each participant, he said.

There are typically 15 to 20 “guests,” as retreat staff like to call the participants, on each retreat. Retreats are typically held in the spring and fall.

“With this whole ministry, it’s a matter of understanding God is with us in all of this. He is asking us to look at life with a different perspective and to trust in him,” he said.

Father Scaglione helped to launch the original Gennesaret Retreat for the Seriously Ill in Trenton, N.J., a quarter of a century ago. Ten years later, in 2001, he brought the retreat ministry to the Louisville Archdiocese.

In recent years, the retreat ministry has expanded to the Diocese of Owensboro and the Baton Rouge Diocese in Louisiana. Recent inquiries about the ministry have been made by representatives of the Diocese of Evansville, Ind., and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, he said.

“If we bring God to the person, God will do the work. There is still a lot of work that can be done,” he said. “We can’t live the Eucharist and not take risks. I see a lot of opportunity.”

To learn more, visit gennesaretministries.org.

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