"We've hitched our wagon to a comet," said Shelby Boblick, pastoral associate at St. Catherine-St.Lucy Parish. A longtime member of the village's most diverse parish, Boblick, who recently retired from her legal practice, has had a big year. She turned 60, earned a master's in pastoral studies, welcomed her sixth grandchild, and began a new career in ministry at her parish.
Sensing a hunger among parish women for deeper spirituality, she organized a women's group, which meets on Monday afternoons and evenings, drawing attendees from the West Side and western suburbs.
Realizing that women wanted more, she developed a retreat, Women's Spirituality: Birthing New Life and Hope, Friday evening and Saturday, Feb. 22-23, presented by Edwina Gately. Over 125 women of all ages from 19 different suburbs and each side of the city have already registered for the event, which features lectures, discussion, and time for meditation, along with evening snacks, breakfast and lunch.
St. Catherine-St. Lucy's Andrea Legatzke said many younger women wonder what a retreat is. Do they have to spend the night? Would they be asked to reveal their innermost secrets? Legatzke said the retreat does not involve an overnight stay or compulsory sharing.
Boblick's "comet" is Gately, poet and author of 14 books, a woman whose full life has enriched the lives of countless others. Born in England, Gately's varied educational achievements include a teaching degree from her home country, a master's in theology from the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago, and certification as an HIV counselor in Illinois. Inspired by Vatican II, she founded the Volunteer Missionary Movement, a group of lay volunteers working for social justice around the world in 1969.
In 1981-82, she lived for nine months in prayer and solitude in a hermitage in Illinois. In 1983, she spent over a year on the streets of Chicago with the homeless and women involved in prostitution. She founded Genisis House, a place of nurturing for women involved in the sex trade.
Brenda Myers-Powell, a Chicagoan who was abused and forced into prostitution as a child, recovered with Gately's help and went on to co-found the Dream-Catcher Foundation, which helps rescue teens and young women from violence and abuse, who will speak briefly at the retreat. What impels Gately to both action and contemplation?
"She is truly a woman in love with God," replies Mary Strudeman of Ascension Parish.
Mayor Daley, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, and Bill Clinton have publicly commended Gately's work and ministry. She has been featured on CBS' 60 Minutes and 48 Hours and is currently writing and leading retreats nationally and internationally.
Retreat steering committee member Diane Moriarity of Ascension notes that, through storytelling, whether speaking of women from the Hebrew Scriptures or women working today, Gately brings them alive.
"Their sacredness is in their humanity," she says.
The retreat can hold as many as 200 women. Ann Kraus, a St. Giles parishioner isn't worried about the size, pointing out that Gately "does not really feel like a presenter. Listeners feel they're in her living room, making a deep, real connection."
All women of every faith tradition are welcome. Participants may register on the St. Catherine-St. Lucy website.