A Spiritual Tune-up: Pausing inspires purposeful faith sharing
Growing up as one of six children in a devout Catholic family in rural Minnesota, Don Maiers was active in his faith. As a child, he was an altar server and attended CCD classes through his senior year. Four of his aunts were nuns and one uncle was a priest, adding a strong religious focus to family gatherings.
He went to Mass regularly, prayed, and when he got married to his wife, Roxanne, the duo made a vow to have an active Catholic family life.
Don always had a desire to become closer to God. But for some reason, he says he felt a strong connection seemed to be missing.
That is, until January of 1992. That’s when one of his buddies in the Knights of Columbus organization he belonged to invited him to a silent retreat weekend at Bellarmine.
“My friend was like, ‘Let’s go on a retreat,'” says Don. “But I was very reluctant when I learned it was a silent retreat.”
A lot of surprises happened that weekend.
“It was life-changing,” says Don. “The Scripture, reflection, and new methods of prayer through the spiritual exercises (Ignatian Spiritual Exercises) helped me see God at work in every part of my life. I think a lot of people have a moment when you transform from your childish spirituality to become an adult. That is what happened to me."
“I vividly remember that Saturday evening and how the Spirit was moving in me. I went out on a walk after the last talk and I was just filled with the Spirit. It was overwhelming. I never had questioned my faith or anything like that, but it opened my eyes to see that my relationship with God went far beyond just Sunday. My overall outlook changed. I never looked back,” he adds.
His commitment to an annual Bellarmine retreat continues today, almost 30 years later. He attributes his continually deepening relationship with God to a direct response to God’s self-revelation in prayer and reflection he’s learned at the Ignatian retreats.
“The Spiritual Exercises they take you through and the silence create time for you to communicate with God,” says Don. “You’re saying ‘I’m here. I’m focused and I look forward so much to what you want to say to me, God.'”
As a result of that deeper commitment, Don went on with his wife Roxanne to become a deacon at his parish, St. Marcelline in Schaumburg. He is heavily involved in the RCIA program. The couple also attend couple’s retreats at Bellarmine and other programs.
Don spends a couple weeks every summer with parish teens repairing homes through the Appalachia Service Project and is an active member of Chicago Angels, an organization dedicated to supporting foster families. He and his wife support Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters," an orphanage network in Latin America supporting abandoned and disadvantaged children. Wendy and Marivel are two girls they have spiritually adopted through NPH. For the last 10 years, they have supported many children from NPH, and one of the children stayed at Don and Roxanne’s house when his parish sponsored a fundraising dance for the orphanage in the Chicago area. Don has traveled to Peru as a missionary twice, where he helped build homes. During those visits, he was greatly moved by the children in an orphanage in Piura. The love that they shared and their joy was infectious.
As a deacon, Don also preaches at one Mass most months and ministers at baptisms, wakes, and other services.
Don makes it an annual tradition to attend the weekend Bellarmine retreat to stop and pray about where he’s been, where he is going, and what he is doing every day of his life.
Weekdays he spends his time doing IT project management at Zurich in North America in Schaumburg. But every morning, while walking on his treadmill (or outside in warm weather months), he spends about an hour in prayer, introspection, examination, and reflection. He says the rosary most days as well.
For Don, his annual retreat and daily practices are mandatory times to re-calibrate his spiritual life.
“To me, retreats are like changing the oil in your car. In order for your car to run smoothly for a long time, it is important to change the oil periodically. In order to make sure our lives are on the right track and running smoothly, an annual retreat is time to reflect on where you have been and what needs improvement, to be recharged and redirected to be the best that I can be,” he says.
During his daily reflections, Don often writes his own prayers. Here is one he wrote on behalf of children he supports through NPH, an orphanage in Peru, and through his volunteer work with foster families:
“For all the children in orphanages throughout the world, especially those of NPH, the orphanage in Piura, Peru, Wendy and Marivel, may their needs be met and that they may be filled with your Holy Spirit and love. For all those in Foster Care and the loving families that bring them in. May they find love, support and self-respect and support from the community in which they live. I pray for Chicago Angels and National Angels to be a beacon of hope and love to Foster Families.”