By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published April 28, 2011
The Monastery of the Holy Spirit will host a special healing retreat for war veterans from Monday to Thursday, June 6-9, on the monastery grounds in Conyers. Led by monks, counselors, chaplains and Andy Farris, a Vietnam veteran, retreat organizers hope to help veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Farris is the founder of HealingVeterans.com, a nonprofit organization based in Georgia that is dedicated to helping veterans and their families heal spiritually from the trauma of war. Farris, who has suffered from PTSD himself, has found solace in making retreats at the monastery over the last six years.
During his time spent at the monastery, Farris has grown closer to several of the monks there. He learned that Trappist Father Gerard Gross also served in the armed forces during the Vietnam War. Last year as they were walking on the grounds of the monastery, they came up with the idea of holding a retreat specifically for veterans who are struggling and need healing.
That initial idea has come to fruition as Farris and the monastery have now arranged the “Spiritual Healing Retreat for Veterans,” scheduled to be held at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in June. Featuring workshops, experienced speakers and counselors, and various liturgies to help with grieving and healing, the four-day retreat will focus specifically on veterans and their spouses.
“This retreat is a result of my own experiences of making retreats at the monastery,” said Farris, who has participated in about two retreats per year for the last six years.
He also encourages spouses of veterans to attend as well since PTSD has an effect on them and their family as a whole. It is important for these veterans to know there is a way to peace and forgiveness so they will not struggle with feelings of guilt, anger or regret, Farris said.
“For a lot of them, these feelings have been suppressed for a long time,” said Farris. “A lot of them are looking for forgiveness, for what they did or what they didn’t do.”
Farris also hopes to make a video recording of certain parts of the retreat, like the workshops and talks, in order to make them available to other churches or organizations that are working with veterans. He believes the videos will encourage other parishes across the country to hold one-day retreats for veterans in their areas, giving them an avenue for healing and forgiveness.
“If we can reach the new generation with this message of healing now, they won’t have to carry it around as long as my generation has,” said Farris.
The Spiritual Healing Retreat for Veterans is an ecumenical retreat, and all veterans and their spouses are welcome to attend.
The monastery is located at 2625 Highway 212, SW, Conyers.
For more information on Andy Farris and his story, visit www.healingveterans.org.