LBI Parishioner Shares Value of Cornerstone Retreat

HNP Communications Features

St. Francis of Assisi on Long Beach Island N.J., and Our Lady of Holy Angels in Little Falls, N.J., were two of several parishes that held Cornerstone retreats this year.  These men’s programs offer participants a venue for discussing faith and sharing life.

The essay below is from Bill Roberts of Manahawkin, N.J., who compiled his observations about a May 4 to 5 program at the LBI church.

LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Five years ago here at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Deacon Bob Cunningham gathered a group of men together and described what Men’s Cornerstone Retreat is all about.  He told us that he had participated in the retreat in North Jersey and thought it would be something worth doing in our parish.  All of us present at that first meeting agreed.  Five Cornerstones later and there are clearly no regrets that we got it started.

There are many benefits to be derived from Cornerstone.  Participants have the opportunity to be with other men all of whom are at a variety of places along their faith journey.  The most important benefit is being able to explore where you are personally and where you would like to go with your faith and your journey with God.  It’s not the topic that typically comes up when men are talking, but it may well be the topic that men are thinking about.  Cornerstone gives you the chance to say what’s on your mind and hear how other men are dealing or have dealt with the same thoughts.  You learn that it is OK to talk about religion and faith in spite of advice you may have been given regarding those topics and avoiding them in conversation (politics is the other topic to be avoided, but we don’t deal with that).

As a Cornerstone participant, you spend about 25 hours listening to talks about faith journeys and life experiences and then sharing your own thoughts and feelings in a smaller group setting afterwards.  The camaraderie that develops will generally last, especially when the participants see each other around the parish or as is hoped, they become presenters on future Cornerstones.

The sharing that takes place either through talks given during the day or exchanges that occur in small groups after the talks, during meals or free time, is self-sustaining.  Presenters and organizers for the next year’s Cornerstone are chosen from among the participants.  When a new team is formed, the sharing and camaraderie then develops over a period of several months as the men meet once a week  to plan the next retreat.  The most important byproduct of the retreat and the team meetings is that men find a welcoming forum to explore and expand upon their faith practices and know that they are not alone on their journey toward God.

As a presenter during Cornerstone, seven or eight men share their own personal journeys.  Men initially hesitant to speak in front of a group come to a positive realization of what they can accomplish when they allow the Holy Spirit into their lives to guide them.  The caveat “No Experience Necessary” is especially true on Cornerstone.  After five years, the Holy Spirit has not let us down and we have heard some very powerful testimony that has helped both the speaker and the listeners.  While the initial “hook” may be a challenge to get participants to commit to going, it is the rare individual who does not experience a very positive impact.

Maintaining contact with fellow participants, daily Bible reading and prayer and the confirmation that “real men” can be true believers and witnesses are all benefits offered by participating in Cornerstone.  Our best endorsement comes from those whose lives have been significantly changed as a result of their experience.  Our most fervent hope is that this opportunity is taken by all the men of our parish.  Those of us who have been there will continue to work toward that goal.

Pictured are friars John Ullich, Kevin Daly, and Andrew Reitz who have been active with Cornerstone through the years.