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Registration for the 2024 Lay Ecclesial Ministry Retreat at Saint John’s University is open!

Befriending Our Belovedness

Sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

—Galway Kinnell, Saint Francis and the Sow

It’s easy to forget who we are and who we were created to be. We live in a wounded world that keeps telling us who we should be rather than imploring us to remember who we are.

We are God’s beloved.

Our vision is blurred by all the distorted images and messages coming at us, coupled with the heartbreak we hold within us. We need accompaniment—befriending—to help us regain sight of our belovedness.

During our retreat, we will explore practices for reclaiming who we are and who we are called to become for one another.

The retreat will begin on July 31 at 9:30 a.m. and end August 2 at 3:30 p.m. The cost is $75 and includes room and board.

To register, please sign up at

Our Facilitators:

Diane M. Millis, PhD, is an educator, author, and retreat facilitator. She currently serves as a spiritual director, trainer, and supervisor of spiritual directors. Diane shares her life with her husband Mark and their son Ryan. She and Mark live in Minneapolis and are members of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community. To learn more about her ministry, visit

Barbara Sutton, DMin, is the director of Bridge Builders for a Thriving Mission and former adjunct pastoral theology faculty and director of field education and ministerial formation at Saint John’s School of Theology. Barbara served as editor for the Seeing the Word project with The Saint John’s Bible. With Victor Klimoski, she co-authored the forthcoming book, Sustaining a Healthy Ministerial Workplace (Paulist Press, 2024).


The retreat is provided through the Victor Klimoski Endowment for Lifelong Learning. 

Please direct any questions to Lauren Murphy ( or Barbara Sutton (

On April 16, 2024, Jim Otremba, MDiv, MS, LICSW, visited with ministers about compassion fatigue, burnout, and hope. Otremba is offering a four-session course on compassion fatigue this summer, and this presentation allowed minsters to learn about what he will cover in each ninety-minute coaching session. If you are interested and want to know more, please watch the video below.

Bridge Builders for a Thriving Mission is making this process available to twelve people in church leadership at no cost.

In an effort to determine what times work best for people, we have created a short survey. If you are interested in participating in the series and can take a few seconds to fill out this survey, we'd greatly appreciate it:

In the video, Otremba mentions the ProQOL Measure, an assessment of your professional quality of life. If you would like to take this assessment, you can find it here:

If you have questions or want to know more about this Compassion Fatigue Awareness course, please contact Barbara Sutton at or Lauren L. Murphy at

By Sam Rahberg

This spring, Bridge Builders for a Thriving Mission has gathered aspiring lay pastoral caregivers for our first iteration of the Community of Hope International training. About halfway through the 14 modules, we are discovering two dynamics that reflect the heart and commitment of these caregivers—they are hungry for connection and they are eager to practice what they are learning. These insights may not come as a surprise to other COHI circles, especially because the curriculum is designed to serve and sustain these very purposes. However, we as trainers are paying close attention to these dynamics as signs of our times and instructions for our facilitation.


First, we detect a pervasive hunger to be more truly seen and heard. Given the slightest opening into a meaty question, our participants—nearly to a person!—become generous with their stories and transparent with their questions. That comes as testimony to the broader need for listeners and safe spaces in which people can share. It also means we as facilitators need to be focused and intentional so that this kind of connection has room to breathe.


Second, we recognize people’s desire to “translate into action these holy teachings” (to borrow a phrase from Benedict’s Rule). We observe whole-hearted participation in the sharing exercises and significant stories of impact about how this training is already making a difference in their ordinary lives. That just seems good for the world and underscores how facilitators need to preserve room for this kind of guided practice in our gatherings. The next time we meet, we’ll be debriefing their first practice visits. We’re learning that it is essential for the facilitators to cultivate a spirit of genuine connection and grounded practice—with strong attention to the rhythms of our short times together. That sounds not unlike the ways we are connecting practically in a pastoral visit, too!



This article originally appeared in the April 2024 Community of Hope International newsletter. For more information about COHI, visit their website at For more information about lay pastoral caregiver training through Bridge Builders for a Thriving Mission, please contact Sam Rahberg at

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