The Emmaus retreat program is a diocesan approved retreat weekend that takes place one or twice a year. It's open to all men and women ages 18 or older seeking to grow in their relationship with Christ regardless of their present level of faith and practice. The purpose of the weekend is to give adults the opportunity to reflect upon themselves, their relationship with God and their community. Emmaus is a Catholic retreat program that is open to people of all Christian faiths. It provides its participants the opportunity to reconnect with what matters and share their faith journeys in a loving community. Time is set aside for personal reflection on one's life, one's world and one's God.
The first team consisted of five women from the parish, Kathy Eiland, Lois Flynn, Mary Laskey, Julie Oaks and Myrna Gallagher. Sister Peggy Manning from the Dominican Retreat House assisted the team and served at the first retreat also. Linda de Georgina from St. Joan of Arc Parish additionally assisted and gave a talk for Emmaus I. She was not part of the team, nor was she able to stay the entire weekend, but ministered nonetheless as a guest speaker.
After much prayer, the team decided the retreat would be based on the Emmaus scripture reading from the Gospel of Luke 24:13-35. Emmaus was originated as a ministry for the parish and not as a movement. The team met weekly for six months. They prayed together, read and reflected on the Emmaus reading and began developing the talks and ceremonies for the weekend. The families of those who were married and had children were invited to a dinner with the team and pastor so they would understand what their wives and mothers were involved in.
Father Russell was invited to critique the proposed retreat and initially observed that the team had leapt right to the resurrection without acknowledging the passion. He also invited Brother Miguel Campos, a noted retreat master and spiritual director who was stationed in the Archdiocese Pastoral Center at that time to evaluate the retreat. His assessment was that the retreat was much too busy. There was, in his opinion, not enough time for prayer and reflection. Realizing the validity of these constructive observations, the team went back to the drawing board.
The revised retreat provided time for what the Luke scripture reading, and the word retreat suggests. It allowed time for the candidates to be still and reflect away from their family, home, social and work environments. It was the intention of the pastor, and the team, that the Emmaus experience would afford an opportunity for the candidates to meet Jesus on their personal journey to Emmaus, listen to Him as He explained the scriptures to them and pray and share the Eucharistic meal with Him. The pastor and team trusted that by being in the presence of Jesus during the weekend, the candidates upon their return home would be assured of His Father's love for them and be able to minister to others by proclaiming the wonderful truth that: Jesus Christ Is Risen !
In early 1985 several men from St. Louis Catholic Church, along with Fr. Jim Fetcher, were discussing what kind of Ministry would be good for the Men. The present Mens club was not very active and the Hard Hat Ministry was very active, but not very Spiritual in its goals. The men needed a ministry that would reach in to the heart of the Parish and pull out those men who “came to church” but were “not involved”. We felt if we could somehow allow these men to look at their relationship with Jesus Christ and let the Holy Spirit work in their lives, they would and could appreciate the Catholic Faith all the more.
We had Catholic Cursillo available, but we could only send a very few men from our Parish at any one time and they needed to already be on their walk with the Lord. The women of our Parish had a great retreat started several years earlier call Emmaus. The men looked at this retreat and decided it contained all the elements we needed, with just a few changes. Our goal was to change the goal, and rewrite the weekend to be more in tune with what men need. The basic outline was kept but some items were added and some altered.
The team was formed and the first Mens Emmaus was held at the Dominican Retreat House. The first weekend there was no rose symbol, the first symbol was a model house we assembled to represent all the elements we now see in the Rose. The first Emmaus team consisted of: Jim Loretta, Larry Barfield, Howard Werner, Bob Colasanti, Bill Fogarty, Marty Jacobs, Sal Difede, Sid Glaser, and Bill Denight. The team formed, met, prayed, and went to work attracting candidates. The results of the weekend were the same as they are and have been for every weekend since, staggering. The Holy Spirit was very strong during that first weekend, showing the team the way and letting the team know to move out of the way.
Eventually, one of the candidates from a previous weekend called to say they would like to have the same retreat at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church. A group of guys from St. Louis went to St. Brendan’s and put on the first “not at St. Louis” Mens Emmaus weekend. It was held at the youth center next to Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove. Next came St. John Neuman’s Catholic Church, and on and on.