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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Singing in the Reign
Spiritual “spa” retreat for women rejuvenates hearts, souls, and minds.

Colleen Mast
Dr. Coleen Kelly Mast gives a talk at one of the spiritual spas.

May 4, 2011. Frankfort, IL. When life in the fast lane (or the mommy lane) runs a woman ragged, the words “spiritual spa” are music to the ears. Who could say no to a Saturday in which prayer and meditation come with added benefits of relaxation and fun with likeminded women?

The spiritual spas—day-long retreats for women—were the brainchild of Dr. Coleen Kelly Mast, an author, EWTN radio show host, and Regnum Christi member who started Women at the Well, a ministry group at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Frankfort, Illinois. Since it began in 2007, Women at the Well has hosted four spiritual spas, bringing in nationally and internationally renowned speakers from a variety of backgrounds. But perhaps more importantly, the “spas” have been giving women the chance to step out of their busy lives and take time for meditation, adoration, confession, Mass, and fellowship with other women.

The most recent spiritual spa took place this past April 2 at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Entitled “Singing in the Reign,” the day-long retreat featured two main speakers: Dr. Coleen Kelly Mast, who spoke on “Four Keys to God’s Lifesong,” and Sister Helena Burns, a religious sister from the Daughters of St. Paul and a movie reviewer (dubbed “the Media Nun”) who spoke on “God and the Feminine Genius.”  As part of her talk, Dr. Mast sang her favorite parody entitled, “These Are a Few of My Favorite Sins.” The women commented afterwards that the lighthearted song actually helped them examine their consciences in a real way.

Who has a diaper in her purse?

Since spiritual spas are all about pampering and bonding, the 120 women who attended the retreat were also able to enjoy extra perks that made the experience more interesting and interactive than just sitting in a pew and listening to talks.

The spa began at 8:00 a.m. with breakfast, and the presentations were broken up into four sessions. In between  talks, there were table discussion questions for small groups and fun contest questions such as “Who can name the five luminous mysteries?” or “Who has a diaper in her purse?” for prize giveaways ranging from makeup, lotions, and kitchen  items to Catholic books, bibles, and rosaries. Chair massage machines were made available; one of the prizes was a five-minute coupon to sit in the massage chair (in some of the past spiritual spas, an actual massage therapist came in
ladies listening
Along with all the fun and interaction, the deep purpose of the retreat was to prepare women for Lent.
during lunchtime to treat the women). Lunchtime in particular was a time of fun and relaxation, with games and conversation.

At the end of the retreat, the participants gathered for a table activity that has proven to be a “huge success”: in small groups, the women created a poster, song, or an advertising project as a way of processing and sharing the information from the day’s retreat.

At “Singing in the Reign,” three priests were made available for confessions for two hours, and there was Eucharistic adoration that began with a directed meditation read to music.  Women who were new to meditation and adoration commented on how much they enjoyed that quiet time with God.  Some even signed up for a regular adoration hour after experiencing adoration at the spiritual spa.

Back by popular demand

Along with all the fun and interaction, the deep purpose of the retreat was to prepare women for Lent, giving them a time to step away from the ordinary routines of life, reflect, pray, and share. In many cases, the spa gave women a fresh take on Catholicism, and a sense that the faith really did have something to say to their lives.

After the first spiritual spa at St. Anthony three years ago, which featured three talks by Fr. Matthew Kaderabek, LC, the women raved about the retreat, with comments like “Nothing this great has been done here for women in the history of the parish” and “It was a parish phenomenon.”  

After that first spiritual spa, the women of the parish asked for it to become an annual event… and a new parish tradition was born.

Women at the Well

Started in 2007 with Dr. Coleen Kelly Mast and a core team of 18 women from St. Anthony’s parish, Women at the Well has hosted 14 events with an average of 170 women attending each event. The ministry has served 2,050 meals, given 11 inspiring ‘ladies nights out’ and now 4 spiritual spas.

As the popularity of its various events has grown, the core team, which consists of the workers and planners behind the events, has expanded to 42 women divided into various committees: decoration, food, set up, clean up, promotions, speaker search, prayer and music, volunteer server coordinator, registration, head team, and the well table committee, which oversees a table full of free books, brochures, and resources. At each core team meeting, the women have a time of prayer and spiritual formation on the upcoming event topic. Many new friendships have developed among core team members, most of whom did not even know each other’s names when the organization began.

The name of the ministry, Women at the Well, is based on the Gospel passage of the Samaritan woman at the well whose personal experience of Jesus’ mercy transformed her life and turned her into an apostle, a servant of the faith. For Dr. Mast, the group is a concrete way to serve the parish, not only by building up regular parishioners in the faith, but also by reaching out to women who do not attend Sunday Mass or who have not had the opportunity to experience their faith in a personal way.

“Each Women at the Well event has been a beautiful experience of seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of the guests as well as in the core team,” she said. “Watching this vibrant parish ministry grow ‘from scratch’ has been quite a fulfilling experience.”

For more information about Women at the Well, contact Dr. Mast through her web site,



Related links web site
Mission Network
Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and the Center for Family Development
Changing Hearts
Cancun-Chetumal Prelature
Helping Hands Medical Missions

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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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