Retreating in Everyday Life: Refreshing Your Body, Mind and Spirit
Growing up in the Edgebrook neighborhood of Chicago as the third of six kids, Patty Ballard remembers doing something her siblings and most of the other kids scoffed at — enthusiastically attending evening Mass by herself during Lent at the nearby Queen of All Saints Basilica. She also remembers being profoundly inspired and influenced by the Benedictine sisters there, including Sister Judy Murphy, OSB, and thinking: “They were the kind of teachers I wanted to be.”
Today she is a first-grade teacher, a Benedictine Oblate of St. Scholastica Monastery in Chicago, and a spiritual director certified through the three-year program at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington Hills. Her most cherished role is mom of three grown children and a new grandma of twins.
With her faith as her compass, Patty’s journey from grade school through college and adult life is a LinkedIn testimonial to her devotion to her religious life. It has included: an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies/Social Welfare, a graduate degree in Religious Studies from Mundelein College, and a second graduate degree in Reading/Literacy from Northeastern Illinois University. She’s also studied at the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago, Loyola University of Chicago’s Institute of Pastoral Studies and through the Spiritual Direction certificate program at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House. She’s taught religion at Loyola Academy, Sacred Heart, and St. Francis Xavier, and she’s been a campus minister at the University of Notre Dame and received spiritual direction.
A while back, she longed for a path toward healing following the breakup of her marriage. At the time, she prayed that God would hold her children close as she tried to navigate the pain in all of their lives. As time went on, she yearned to make a deeper connection between her faith in God and her ordinary life in the “real world.”
That’s exactly what she says she found when she discovered a retreat at Bellarmine and at the same time the 19th Annotation Retreat in Everyday Life. It’s a year-long program of daily prayer, reflection, and spiritual direction that is conducted in the course of one’s ordinary responsibilities.
When she attended her first weekend retreat at Bellarmine, she says she was hooked.
“That retreat at Bellarmine helped me get back to a wholeness,” says Patty. “I felt like my life was a series of threads that had become unraveled. It is such a profound experience to stand before God and let God embrace your humanness. For the first time, I really got it that it is okay to be a person who isn’t perfect. It brought an affirming sense of joy to my life, a sense that I am truly loved by God.”
These days, Patty has many guiding principles for daily living. Two of her favorites include: Mother Cabrini’s motto, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13) and a prayer attributed to St. Therese of Lisieux that is in the prayer garden at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago:
May there be peace within;
May you trust God
that you are exactly where you are meant to be;
May you not forget
the infinite possibilities that are born of faith;
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you;
May you be content knowing you are a child of God:
Let this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom
to sing, dance, praise, and love.
It is there for each and every one of us. Amen.
“I always feel moved to go toward what feels life-giving,” says Patty. “Bellarmine was the path to that for me. I remember walking through that big red door and finding this enchanting place. I felt like I was crossing a threshold into a deeper part of who I am. I now know, I am loved just the way I am.”
In addition to teaching hundreds of young people, serving as a spiritual director, and becoming even more deeply grounded in her faith, Patty says her Bellarmine retreat experience and the Ignatian Exercises have made a profound impact on her daily living and relationship with God.
“My goal is that each day I can be Christ-like wherever I am, whether it is standing in line at Panera or helping other people in simple ways or affirming a sense of joy in my life. Each of us is truly precious and loved by God,” says Patty.