History of Women's Emmaus
by Myrna Gallagher
The first Emmaus Retreat was held in the Archdiocese of Miami at the Dominican Retreat House in 1978. It was developed and conducted by a team of laywomen from St. Louis Church in Kendall. Father David G. Russell, who was pastor at that time, saw the need for and envisioned a parish based retreat that enabled lay women to minister to lay women. He approached the secretariat of the Cursillo movement and asked if they would allow a parish based Cursillo to be held at St. Louis. This request was denied. Since there was no other retreat of this type available at that time, Father Russell asked the Directress of Religious Education, Myrna Gallagher, to form a team and develop one.
The first team consisted of five women from the parish, Kathy Eiland, Lois Flynn, Mary Laskey, Julie Oaks and Myrna Gallagher. Sister Peggy Manning from the Dominican Retreat House assisted the team and served at the first retreat also. Linda de Georgina from St. Joan of Arc Parish additionally assisted and gave a talk for Emmaus I. She was not part of the team, nor was she able to stay the entire weekend, but ministered nonetheless as a guest speaker.
After much prayer, the team decided the retreat would be based on the Emmaus scripture reading from the Gospel of Luke 24:13-35. Emmaus was originated as a ministry for the parish and not as a movement.
The team met weekly for six months. They prayed together, read and reflected on the Emmaus reading and began developing the talks and ceremonies for the weekend. The families of those who were married and had children were invited to a dinner with the team and pastor so they would understand what their wives and mothers were involved in.
Father Russell was invited to critique the proposed retreat and initially observed that the team had leapt right to the resurrection without acknowledging the passion. He also invited Brother Miguel Campos, a noted retreat master and spiritual director who was stationed in the Archdiocese Pastoral Center at that time to evaluate the retreat. His assessment was that the retreat was much too busy. There was, in his opinion, not enough time for prayer and reflection. Realizing the validity of these constructive observations, the team went back to the drawing board.
The revised retreat provided time for what the Luke scripture reading, and the word retreat suggests. It allowed time for the candidates to be still and reflect away from their family, home, social and work environments. It was the intention of the pastor, and the team, that the Emmaus experience would afford an opportunity for the candidates to meet Jesus on their personal journey to Emmaus, listen to Him as He explained the scriptures to them and pray and share the Eucharistic meal with Him. The pastor and team trusted that by being in the presence of Jesus during the weekend, the candidates upon their return home would be assured of His Father's love for them and be able to minister to others by proclaiming the wonderful truth that:
Jesus Christ Is Risen !
Men's Walk #74
Women's Walk #75
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