Spring 2015 was my first Men of St. Joseph's (MOSJ) Outback Weekend. Married just 5 months prior, a generous friend sponsored me and my husband’s Outback experience as a wedding gift. She’d been trying to get me to go for years, and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have gone had she not given it to us. Now, to use a Catholic term, I’ve been converted.
The MOSJ Outback Weekends take place bi-annually, in the Spring and in the Fall. Since our first Outback, my husband and I have participated in every Outback to date in varying roles. When I went with my husband, God met me right where I was. Our marriage was off to a good start and God used the weekend to make us better by making me better. I was stressed and hurting from some issues I didn’t know how to address, and I found healing in the talks, activities, community and the Sacraments. The Outback Weekend when I was a coach for a father/daughter team, I learned how easy it is in the daily grind to forget that family is always a priority for us and that little girls (even if no longer little) forever have their daddy’s hearts. Coaching a mother/daughter team, I learned that mom’s carry a lot on their hearts and that daughters admire their mom’s even if they don’t often express it. Working in the prayer tent, I learned that we as people are aching for community and that hearing someone praying over us for our deepest desires has power in our lives. And the time I went on the Outback Weekend as a 28 year old with her mother, I just had a good time. I thought God might bring to light some issue or another for us to address, but rather I simply got a weekend to laugh with my mom and, as the oldest of five kids, I was able to be with my mother for a weekend without distractions—it was just what we needed.
I’m not alone in being a repeat “Outbacker.” There are many repeat faces of both workers and retreatants at Outback — a good testament to the power of the weekends. What is it about Outback that makes it such a successful weekend? And how is it that Outback speaks to so many different people? The answer, I believe, is that MOSJ Outback Weekends speak to two universal priorities, which are our faith relationship with God and our relationships with those closest to us: our parents, children and our spouses.
These universal priorities—relationships—require effort and attention. In our layered, complicated, and distracted lives, we often inadvertently give our time to things that don’t matter. I am so guilty of this. At Outback, distractions are cut out and suddenly God appears. He’s in the talks, in the fellowship, in conversations, in games and, most powerfully, he’s in the Sacraments. It can be tempting to be bored at the thought of the Sacraments, but this is a mistake. I believe that the MOSJ Outback succeeds precisely because it so Sacramentally focused. Just come and see what I mean.
Outback is a unique retreat because each participant has a parent, child or spouse to go through the weekend with. Despite how they may have felt when they arrived, no retreatant leaves feeling like the time they spent with a loved one was wasted time. Just as God appears throughout the weekend, the beauty that is our loved one emerges as well. For me, I was reminded that I am beautiful to my husband and I am beautiful to my mom. Of course, I know these things any day of the week, but how wonderful it is to be reminded! How can you beat that? Outback is a mind-blowing win. I come for a weekend, and I leave forever closer to someone I love.
I didn’t write all this so that you can note the good experiences I’ve had. I’m writing to invite you to join us at MOSJ Outback Weekend this Fall. When we invite people, it’s not uncommon for us to encounter resistance. Are you resisting? Why? Think on that. What excuses come up for you? Are they good ones, or are they just excuses? Please join us, and I promise it will be time well spent.