By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 24, 2017
ATLANTA—Some 65 people marked the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola on July 31 by gathering for prayer and reflection at the Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center.
St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, one of the largest communities of religious men in the Catholic Church.
“If Ignatius was to invite us to anything, it is to a deep friendship with Jesus. That is all. Everything else will follow,” said Jesuit Father Peter Fink in his homily at Mass. He directed the day of reflection.
In recent years, the Jesuit presence has grown in the Atlanta Archdiocese. The order sponsors Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, staffs St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, and offers spiritual direction and retreats at Ignatius House.
The 20-acre retreat center began in 1961 along the banks of the Chattahoochee River. Suzanne Spalding Schroder, whose son was a Jesuit, gave it to the Society of Jesus.
Some 4,000 people a year attend spiritual programs there, said executive director Maria Cressler. Retreats are offered 42 weeks a year. The most popular is usually the first weekend retreat after the start of a new year, followed by Lenten programs and other church holy days, she said. The facility also offers spiritual retreats for women and men who live on the streets.
“We’re about friendship. It’s about coming to spend time with your beloved friend, Jesus,” said Cressler, who has worked at the center for eight years.
Today’s technology makes quiet retreats important, she said. In the past, people could come for the silence, but mobile technology allows people to be quiet but still shop online, read, answer emails, she said. Now, the challenge is turn off the smartphones to rest, think and pray, she said.
“We know everyone needs this, but not everyone knows they need it. People need to be replenished,” Cressler said.