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Linda Leib, a parishioner at Holy Spirit in Maryland Heights, talked during an information session on July 18 at Webster Groves Christian Church. Leib is executive director of the Bridges Retreat foundation, which offer St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises throughout a nine-month program in which participants learn to pray and meditate on reflections.
Linda Leib, a parishioner at Holy Spirit in Maryland Heights, talked during an information session on July 18 at Webster Groves Christian Church. Leib is executive director of the Bridges Retreat foundation, which offer St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises throughout a nine-month program in which participants learn to pray and meditate on reflections.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Imaginative prayer brings Ignatian spirituality into everyday life

Recruting ongoing for Bridges retreat beginning in September

Like many others, Mike Kubiak came away from his retreat feeling recharged for the spiritual journey and with a desire to be more intentional in his living. But as he returned to the routine of everyday life, his good intentions managed to quickly fall out of the window.

“When I got back to the real world, things flipped around and my purposeful things became unpurposed,” he said.

Kubiak, a parshioner of Sacred Heart in Florissant, sought out a spiritual director, who recommended the Bridges Retreat in Every Day Life, a nine-month program that incorporates the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola with prayer, readings and meditations within a small faith community setting.

Kubiak participated last year, and found it to be just what he needed to lift himself out of a self-described “prayer rut — which was habit and mental mostly — into more praying with my heart,” he said. “I found myself saying, ‘now I am in that place where I was during that short retreat’ — by changing everything into prayer, all day long. It’s realizing that God is there listening, wanting my everyday activities to be a prayer.”

Mike Kubiak, a parishioner at Sacred Heart in Florissant, talked during an information session on July 18 at Webster Groves Christian Church. Kubiak went on a Bridges Foundation retreat that brings Ignatian spirituality into everyday life.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
St. Ignatius recognized that people who wanted to experience the Spiritual Exercises — a series of meditations, prayers and mental exercises to help discern God’s will for their lives and grow closer to Him — were unable to get away for a 30-day retreat. So he created the 19th annotation, a version of the Spiritual Exercises that allows participants to carry on with their busy lives.

The Bridges Foundation has offered the Bridges Retreat in Every Day Life in St. Louis for nearly 30 years. The program runs from September through May at four locations in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and one in O’Fallon, Ill. Participants meet weekly, both individually with a trained prayer companion and as part of a faith-sharing community. During the nine months, participants also commit to pray daily for an hour, using Ignatian methods of contemplation.

Executive director Linda Leib, who attended her first retreat in 2001-02, said the program has helped her to mature in her prayer life, and better understand the person of Christ. Bridges participants often describe the concept through “imagination prayer” — imagining oneself in a story from Scripture story through sensory immersion.

Growing up in a rural area, Leib, a parishioner at Holy Spirit in Maryland Heights, said she saw Christ through the way things grow and the care of animals, for example. “St. Ignatius teaches in that imagination Jesus is there with you,” she said. Bridges “took me from taking care of the baby Jesus to walking with the adult Jesus and then a companion to Jesus as He is crucified.”

Joan Kletzker discovered through the exercises that an increase in prayer often equates to an increase in participation in her faith life. “Now I can see things in a different light, and how it all connects,” said Kletzker. of St. Ignatius Parish in Concord Hill. “Realizing that Jesus was a living, breathing human being was pivotal. He wasn’t just some distant figure. To know and embrace that is huge — I mean, you can find God doing the laundry.”

Carol Brescia said the retreat has helped her to live in the present — and not simply focus on the past or future. “I’ve always wanted a more personal relationship Jesus,” said the parishioner at Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves. “This has helped with that.”

>> Learn more

The Bridges program is hosting several information sessions. They include:

• Tuesday, July 31: 7 p.m. at Annunziata School, 9333 Clayton Road in Ladue

• Sunday, Aug. 5: After the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Francis Xavier “College” Church (in the Ballroom), 3628 Lindell Blvd. in Midtown St. Louis

• Sunday, Aug. 12: After the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Francis Xavier “College” Church (in the Ballroom)

• Wednesday, Aug. 22: 7 p.m. at Webster Groves Christian Church, 1320 West Lockwood Ave. in Webster Groves

Suggested cost of the program, which runs from September through May, is $880. Grants and donations help subsidize some of the cost, or a payment schedule can often be arranged. Registrations are being accepted through Aug. 25. For more information, visit www.bridgesfoundation.org. Or contact Linda Leib atlinda.leib@bridgesfoundation.org or call (314) 313-8283.

>> Brief history of Bridges program in St. Louis

The movement to prepare laity as prayer companions for the 19th Annotated Retreat in Daily Life began in Europe, moved to Canada and then eventually to the United States.

In early to mid-1980s, the Christian Life Community Center in St. Louis offered a course that incorporated the 19th Annotated Retreat format. The effort then was led by Marie Schimelfening and Father Tom Swift, SJ. When the leadership transferred and the center was closed in 1987, the Bridges Program was turned over to Joan and Jim Felling two years later in 1989. They worked with others in the community experienced in the exercises, including Bridges co-founder Sister Marian Cowan, CSJ. While rooted in Catholic tradition, the program has been expanded to other Christian churches in the area over the years.

Today, there are five area locations that offer the Bridges retreat: Webster Groves Christian Church, St. Matthew the Apostle Church in north St. Louis, St. Francis Xavier “College” Church in Midtown St. Louis, Annunziata Parish in Ladue and St. Nicholas Church in O’Fallon, Ill.

The Bridges Foundation of St. Louis is one of only two free standing, lay organizations that offers the 19th Annotated Retreat in Daily Life.

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