Online Advent Mini-Retreat

For those of us struggling with infertility, the time spent preparing for and celebrating Christmas can be bittersweet. Nativity scenes, baby Jesus in the creche, Mary’s miraculous conception – and the secular emphasis on Christmas being “for children” – may touch a tender spot in our hearts.

But the Lord offers us great hope! 

We invite you to enter into Advent with us to discover ways to connect more deeply to God, and your spouse, through prayer. We will contemplate the Lord’s closeness to us in our suffering, and how He longs for us to allow Him to touch and heal those “tender spots.” Together we’ll learn ways to deepen our relationship with God, to surrender our sorrows to Him, and invite Him to guide and strengthen us and our marriages.     

Join us on Sunday, December 6 at 2 pm EST for a Facebook Live event. Our spouses will join the Springs in the Desert Team to share the challenges we face in prayer, as well as how prayer strengthens our marriages and brings comfort as we navigate the infertility walk. We’ll end our time by praying the Saint Andrew’s Christmas Novena for the intentions of retreat participants and all those carrying the burden of infertility and loss. Jesus has come to us in the cold darkness of suffering to bring us light and life!

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, [here mention your request] through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Retreat Itinerary

This “mini-retreat” consists of an Introduction and three short sessions by Andrea, our Retreat Leader. In session 4 Stacey and Phil share their experience of praying as a couple. Session 5 ends the retreat with a final reflection and blessing from Fr. Paul. You can watch the videos at your own pace, on your own or with your spouse. It is recommended that you watch the videos in numerical order to maximize the retreat experience. Find a quiet place with no distractions, put yourself in the Lord’s presence, and allow yourself to rest in Him.

Introduction to Praying with Infertility – Andrea shares how difficult this time of year can be, how to best enter into our time together this weekend, and some of the practicals of the retreat.
Session 1: Trust – How can we grow in deeper trust of God’s love, His Goodness, His promises and His voice? This session will examine how our image of God can help or hinder our ability to trust Him. The prayer assignment for this talk will be a Lectio Divina so please allow time for this after the talk.
Session 2: Vulnerability – It is difficult, but necessary, for us to be vulnerable in our prayer with God. The Lord asks us to entrust ourselves to Him despite the outcome. He calls us to be “little” like children when we spend time with Him so we might allow ourselves to be loved in our poverty. The prayer time for this session will focus on meditation and journaling.
Session 3: Faithfulness & Blocks in Prayer – Sometimes our faithfulness to God can be tested when it comes to prayer. This session examines some common blocks to prayer including temptations, dryness, and distractions, while offering insights to overcoming these obstacles. During this prayer time, Andrea will offer a vocal prayer for the healing and protection of the retreatants.

Session 4: Praying Together as a Couple – When God feels distant, prayer sometimes feels futile or impossible. In this witness, Phil and Stacey share their journey of developing a prayer life as individuals and as a couple. Developing a consistent routine of prayer requires intentionality and allows us to invite God into painful moments. This session focuses on learning to bring our whole selves to prayer, even the unseemly and ugly parts of our hearts. God is always waiting to enter into each moment with us. We just have to let Him in. 

Session 5: Meditation and Final Blessing, A Time to Embrace: Finding Inspiration in the Icon of the Nativity – Meditating on the Icon of the Nativity, you are invited to reflect upon the importance of togetherness in prayer, and in your couple relationship, as a means of support and strength during trying times. With Mary and Joseph as inspiration, Fr. Paul will share ways to turn prayer and fasting into a conversation with God and, equally as important, with one another. We will direct our meditation toward knowing that when words fail, we can simply rely on the presence of Almighty God through the bond of marriage, and by being present to one another. Our reflection will conclude with a closing prayer and final blessing for all those participating in the retreat, and everyone struggling through infertility and loss.

Meet the Retreat Team

Andrea Mahoney is our Retreat Leader.  She is a lifelong practicing Roman Catholic who dwells in central Pennsylvania with her husband of six years. Andrea holds a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry from the University of St. Thomas. She recently obtained a certification in Spiritual Direction to embrace her spiritual motherhood from the Avila Institute and is open to meet with those who are interested. Along with carrying the cross of infertility, Andrea’s husband also battles chronic illness. Find more about her on her blog:

Phil & Stacey Huneck have been married for five years. Stacey holds a Master of Arts in Theology from the University of Notre Dame and is Youth and Young Adult Ministry Coordinator at St. Charles Borromeo Church. She is also a Springs in the Desert Team Member.  Phil is an IT manager at Homeguard Industries and volunteers with youth and young adult ministry at St. Charles.

Fr. Paul Varchola West is the Parochial Administrator of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Levittown, PA. Prior to receiving a Master of Divinity (2020) from the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Fr. Paul’s career was in music, a subject in which he holds several advanced degrees. Fr. Paul is married and has two children. He considers it to be a true blessing to be involved in the Springs ministry as this is something that has great personal meaning to both him and his family.