Across the country there is one type retreat that is especially on the rise, helping to build parish communities through weekend retreats.
They are called ACTS retreats, named for the four pillars of the retreats – Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service.
What Are ACTS Retreats?
ACTS retreats were born in 1987 out of the Cursillo movement. Three men who had been involved in Cursillo wanted to put together a similar program, but with a focus on building parish life and community. The end result was a three day, three night retreat format that was structured similar to the description of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, especially in Acts 2: 42-47.
ACTS retreats are intentionally less structured than Cursillo retreats, and are meant to take on the traditions and atmosphere of the parish sponsoring the retreat. Some events are required but many of the presentations are selected by the retreat team and director.
While ACTS retreats place an emphasis on building a community over the course of a three-day retreat, the goal is to have the retreatants return to their parish and take on more involvement in day-to-day parish life, not keep themselves apart as a separate group within the parish.
The Purpose of ACTS Retreats
The basic goal of an ACTS retreat is to bring the retreatants into a deeper relationship with God and with fellow parishioners through daily prayer, an emphasis on community in the parish, the study of Scripture, and a spirit of service to God, the parish, and each other.
The Structure of ACTS Retreats
ACTS retreats are three day, three night retreats that start on Thursday evening and run through Mass on Sunday morning. The retreat is usually sponsored by a particular parish for its parishioners, and is typically presented by a team of parishioners who have experienced the retreat in the past. Separate retreat weekends are given for men and women.
The retreat talks focus on the four pillars – adoration, community, theology, and service – and the retreat is guided by Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Since many of the presentations are selected by the parish retreat team, the weekend tends to take on the “flavor” of that particular parish.
The retreat team is led by a Director and is composed of twenty to thirty individuals who have attended ACTS retreats in the past. They organize the retreat, conduct the talks and activities, and provide for the needs of retreatants during the weekend.
How to Bring ACTS to Your Parish
Since ACTS retreats are led by parish members who have participated in the weekends before it takes a little bit of planning to get the program started at a new parish.
The most fundamental way of getting ACTS into your parish is to send parishioners to ACTS retreats with other local parishes until enough of them (twenty to thirty) have the experience to host the retreat with your home parish.
This may or may not be viable for your parish. There is also the option of working with ACTS Missions, who can either send a partial team to supplement your parish team once ten people have experienced the retreat, or send an entire team to lead a series of two men’s and two women’s retreats over the course of two years to get enough people trained to sustain the program at the parish going into the future.
Find out more about ACTS Retreats at ActsMissions.org
What Does ACTS Cost
The main cost of the retreat weekend is room and board for the three nights, which can vary significantly by region. The cost for retreat materials is only about $20. A typical weekend cost falls in the $175 to $250 range.
Where to Find ACTS
ACTS started in San Antonio and has since spread around the world. You can currently find them in at least 58 dioceses in 28 states in the US, as well as Canada, England, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and South Africa.
As of this writing, ACTS has a presence in the following United States dioceses:
ALASKA – Anchorage, 0Juneau
ARIZONA – Phoenix
CALIFORNIA – Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernadino
CONNECTICUT – Hartford, Norwich
FLORIDA – Orlando, Pensacola
GEORGIA – Savannah
HAWAII – Honolulu
ILLINOIS – Belleville, Chicago, Peoria
INDIANA – Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indianapolis
KANSAS – Dodge City
KENTUCKY – Lexington, Louisville
LOUSIANA – Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Shreveport
MAINE – Portland
MARYLAND – Baltimore
MASSACHUSETTS – Boston, Fall River
MINNESOTA – St. Paul-Minneapolis
MISSISSIPPI – Biloxi
MISSOURI – St. Louis
NEW MEXICO – Las Cruces, Santa Fe
NEW YORK – New York, Syracuse
OHIO – Toledo
OKLAHOMA – Oklahoma City, Tulsa
OREGON – Portland
TEXAS – Amarillo, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Ft. Worth, Galveston-Houston, Laredo, Lubbok, San Angelo, San Antonio, Tyler, Victoria
WISCONSIN – Milwaukee
VIRGINIA – Richmond, Virginia Military Archdiocese