My wife and I attended the I + YOU = WE retreat in Omaha, Nebraska from February 9-12, 2012. I can say, without reservation, that it is the marriage retreat that has actually produced the longest lasting fruits of any retreat in our life. Fr. Szymczak knows and loves God’s people, and so his extremely practical guidance for how to truly persevere with God’s grace in making changes for the better leave other retreat formats that we have experienced looking pale in comparison. After other retreats, once the “retreat high” goes away so do the good resolutions and intentions that were formed in the retreat setting.
Not only does Fr.’s retreat have an unprecedented follow up associated with it, the retreat content itself is highly unique. I am not familiar with any retreats currently being offered anywhere in the United States that enable retreatants to so readily receive the teachings and wisdom of Holy Mother Church, particularly through the patrimony of Blessed Pope John Paul the Great. The instructive portion of each section of the retreat was one of my favorite parts of the experience. Learning from Fr. how to peel back the layers of life’s grimy residue on our marital love by making distinctions and clarifications was very profound for me. Fr.’s presentations enabled me to accomplish the reasonable task of turning the light of the Gospel onto my behavior in our marriage.
I am confident that EVERYONE who is open to it can experience something similar when they receive the work of Fr.’s ministry. This is a testament to Fr. Jay and his staff, but it is also the most sterling testimony to the fact that the retreat material is built upon the solid framework of Christ’s teachings, magisterial documents and pastoral experience. All of these elements come in “under people’s radar”. During the retreat, one is never bludgeoned with any doctrine at any point; rather one is exposed to powerful distinctions and clarifications that enable one to see counterfeit goods and views for what they are – sad alternatives to a life lived in union with Christ and His Church. Fr. Jay exudes joy and peace; he is an incredibly unique priest who unambiguously is conformed to Jesus Christ crucified (Familiaris consortio #9) and therefore is the perfect retreat master/teacher.
Our group of 4 couples from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois chose to attend the I + You = Us retreat this year because we earnestly desire to partner with Fr. Jay in his ministry of making known the Good News of Jesus Christ to married couples in our Diocese. The Development of Marital Relations Program is an extremely reasonable manner in which the Church can go about ministering to couples, families and our American society. The retreat is not just simply about cultivating a “good experience” for spouses; rather it truly is about enabling spouses to seriously embark on the journey of our vocation to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48).
Carlos Tejeda Director - Office for Marriage and Family Life
Diocese of Springfield in Illinois