What Happens at a Virtual Discernment Retreat?

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

To help single women discerning God’s calling, last weekend, September 11-13, we hosted an online discernment retreat “Listening to God’s Voice with an Open Heart.”  Ten discerners participated. Our candidate Cathy Buchanan and many sisters were involved in the retreat as companions, supporters, and speakers.

Spread throughout the retreat were prayers, presentations, reflections, and sharing. We also showcased some videos about the Dominican Sisters of Peace. These videos ranged from a short video about the Motherhouse in Great Bend, KS with some Sisters offering messages of affirmation to the discerners; an overview highlights of the previous ‘Come and See’ event at the Motherhouse in St. Catharine, KY; virtual tours at the Motherhouses in Columbus, OH and Akron, OH.  We also watched a video on how our Sisters live out the Dominican pillars and charism.

Every night, we held an optional social, where some discerners joined our Houses of Welcome communities in Connecticut and Columbus for games, such as a scavenger hunt and Scattergories, which provided humorous exchanges and the opportunity to get to know one another better.

When it was time to pray, we lit candles to symbolize our unity, despite the geographic distances that separated us.  We experienced various forms of prayer, including preaching, guided meditation, Lectio Divina, and Dominican Praise with local communities in Wichita, KS and New Haven, CT. We provided a link for an online Mass, and participants could tune in to a Mass of their preference. The retreatants also had opportunities for personal prayer, reflecting, journaling, and integrating their retreat experience.

For the discernment session on Saturday morning, Sr. Pat Dual introduced some critical components of the discernment process and how it differs from decision making.  In the afternoon, we held a panel discussion on, “Living out our call as a Dominican Sister of Peace,” with Sr. Pat Connick, Sr. Ana Gonzalez and Sr. Ellen Coates zooming in and sharing their vocation journeys and life as Dominican Sisters of Peace. On Sunday, Sr. Bea’s presentation highlighted and integrated the weekend’s journey and ways that retreatants could continue moving forward in their discernment.

Sharing also occurred in many forms. In multiple breakout rooms, arranged by Associate Mary Ellen George OPA, the retreatants were able to share their reflections and ask challenging questions in one-on-one meetings with Sister companions and in small and large groups.

The discerners expressed their gratitude for this retreat. They experienced God’s presence and found some common ground among Sisters, their peers, and about their vocational calls. Some said they received clarification, reassurance, or comfort in their own discernment, which brought them joy and peace. Two retreatants offered these reflections:

“This virtual discernment retreat was an awesome experience and time well spent. I received great counsel regarding my discernment journey. The sisters who acted as mentors for us throughout the weekend cared deeply about helping us understand their lifestyles. This weekend was a great blessing to me.” Paula D.

“It was such a blessing to be part of the September virtual discernment retreat! In the midst of all the COVID chaos, it was a welcomed time to relax, rejuvenate, and really focus on trying to hear God’s call.  I especially loved the opportunity to meet 1-1 with my Sister companion to talk about our journeys and her experiences as a Dominican Sister of Peace!  While my vocation still isn’t crystal clear, it was a big comfort to hear that many of the Sisters and my fellow retreatants had similar stories and experiences of the discernment process.  Thank you, Dominican Sisters of Peace!”  Sarah


The discerners were not the only ones who experienced feelings of inspiration and joy. The sisters who joined us as companions and presenters also felt that they were renewed, had great hope for the future, and felt privileged to journey with these discerners.

When asked about this retreat, Sr. Rose Mary Stein, OP, said, “My experience at the online discernment retreat was most inspiring, rewarding, and very prayerful.  As a Sister Companion, I was assigned to meet with a discerner, and she was impressed to learn how I eventually came to my decision becoming a sister.  I know the Holy Spirit had put us together as we shared our stories and had a number of things in common. Many of the questions the discerners asked during the large group session could be answered by one of the Sisters because they had a story or experience that responded to the question…I was blessed to have been included in the retreat.”

God’s grace-filled days were upon each of us in many ways during this retreat. We believe that the seeds and spirit of this retreat will continue to grow and journey with each individual no matter which direction each person takes. Click here for photos from this retreat.

If you are interested in knowing more about our vocational discernment programs, contact us and we will be happy to share details about these programs.

Posted in God Calling?

4 responses to “What Happens at a Virtual Discernment Retreat?

  1. Thank you for adding to our understanding about this discernment process for the Dominicans Sisters of Peace. Those of us who are Dominican Associates are pleased to help in the promotion of vocations.

  2. Wonderful Vocation team! What a creative way to help discerners have a taste of DSOP. God Bless you and them as the seeds have been planted. Prayers continue.

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