For Christine Jurisich, changing her life’s direction started some 30 years ago with listening – to herself and to what God had in store for her.
She had been a TV reporter for more than 10 years and was working in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1990s – fulfilling a dream she’d had since fifth grade, growing up in a loving family and with the parish community at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Morgan Hill, California.
But now that she had achieved her lifelong goal, her career had become all encompassing. She placed “all of my self-worth and my identity into my job and loved it. My husband Peter and I both had demanding careers. I was happy, yet I was living my life with a persistently restless spirit, always wanting to do more and be more. I felt called to be on a different journey than I had imagined.”
Until she had her first child, Christine thought she could plan, control and manage her life all on her own. She didn’t think motherhood would change that. She became a weekend morning anchor and special reports reporter so she could “balance it all.”
She was juggling the roles of wife, mother and anchor, but in reality, “I wasn’t present for any of it and I was living in a constant state of tension. I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, but this isn’t a story about choosing between work and staying at home. This is about listening to that nagging feeling you have inside over whether your life is working for you. I’ve grown to learn that tension inside of me was because God had a different plan for me – a much better and peaceful plan than the one I dreamt up on my own.”
Christine and Peter, who have been married for 25 years, and their two children moved to Roseville 20 years ago. The first Sunday they went to Mass at St. Rose Church, she discovered a faith-sharing program called Ministry of Mothers Sharing (MOMS), a national women’s prayer group sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Paul’s Monastery in St. Paul, Minnesota. Soon she attended her first meeting and started an eight-week journaling session, even though she felt uncomfortable, intimidated to share about her faith, and quite vulnerable.
“That spiritual growth journey helped me connect my faith with my daily life,” she recalls. “I was being listened to in my sadness, with my questions and my dreams in a loving and non-judgmental way. It was the first time I had been in such a sacred space that was inviting me to connect with such a gentle, accepting and loving God.” She continued her journey with these same women and “experienced a season of profound growth.” She also started working with MOMS on its national leadership team for the next several years.
Christine still sensed she had more to offer. After two years discerning what that was, she felt God calling her to write a book to share the welcoming and loving spiritual growth concepts that had changed her life through MOMS, yet with her own unique experience. She “put on her reporter’s hat” and interviewed priests, nuns, psychologists, family therapists, spiritual directors and retreat directors, and researched centuries-old schools of thought.
What evolved “was not just a book, but a personal and spiritual growth process of retreat, reflect, renew, for busy people who are lost.” Her book, “Retreat, Reflect, Renew: A Sacred Journal for a More Peaceful You,” was published in 2013. The personal and spiritual growth journal “walks you through a welcoming process of slowing down and reflecting on how to live a more Christ-centered, balanced life that values relationships and community.”
Christine, who is a Mercy Associate and recently completed a graduate certificate in Mercy spirituality, started leading retreats based on her book at area parishes and at Mercy Center in Auburn. Later she formed a nonprofit ministry with a board of directors as a Christian retreat ministry “dedicated to creating sacred community for women and men to find support, encouragement and inspiration to live a more faith-filled life.”
Many people are seeking more balanced and meaningful lives, trying to make sense of the suffering and uncertainty in the world, and yearn for spirituality in convenient ways, she says. Yet, many “do not have the time nor a safe place in which to share. We want to help satisfy this yearning in accessible ways. There are people who are intimidated to go to a retreat, physically cannot go, or don’t have anything that speaks to them personally.”
Working with a team, the ministry has always been “trying to help people think of the word ‘retreat’ differently.” As early as 2015, Christine offered online retreats before they were popular because “online opportunities can provide a meaningful connection. They have turned out to be wonderful experiences. They are non-threatening in the comfort of your home, financially and spiritually accessible, with welcoming language and grounding in the daily life.”
“Retreat, Reflect, Renew” currently offers four-week online retreats on topics such as “grace and gratitude,” three-hour Zoom retreats during Advent and Lent, and one-hour free “beginner’s retreat” on Zoom to help people feel comfortable trying out a retreat. She also offers in-person retreats at Mercy Center. There’s also a presence with meditations on social media and a video series called “prayers and practices” on YouTube.
The “heart of our ministry,” Christine says, is sacred circles (small-group faith sharing) on Zoom and in person twice each month with eight volunteer facilitators from around the United States and outside the country. Sacred circles “are open to anyone around the world to participate in contemplative listening. People take turns sharing, with a minute of silence between each sharing. It’s all about listening and having their thoughts honored without any advice or judgment. It opens up a space to grow, a space to welcome God, as God is in that listening. When there’s lots of quiet and silence, God is revealed in so many beautiful ways.”
Most people who participate in retreats and sacred circles are Catholic, “because I’m Catholic and those are my connections,” she notes, “but these are open to anyone during this deeply-divided, stressful time in our world. All of my materials are from Catholic spiritual writers and Catholic social teaching because they are the most holistic and comprehensive.” Many participate regularly in sacred circles and cultivate long-term relationships, she adds. “They are Spirit-driven and it’s definitely humbling to me. I’ve just been a small part in the Spirit and the Spirit leads it.”
At times, some participants consider returning to the practice of their Catholic faith if they have been away from the church. “I’ve seen people say they want to go to church after our retreats,” Christine says. “It’s because when their story is honored, they are experiencing a merciful God. They feel safe and ready to invest more time and heart into their faith.”
She suggests when parishes “listen to the disaffiliated, it needs to be with an open, long and welcoming heart that shows the face of a merciful God. A lot of people have intimidating images of God. They need to feel accepted wherever they are on their journey and know that a journey of faith is a lifelong experience that takes many twists and turns.”
About this ministry at https://retreatreflectrenew.org.
After the death of their son, family felt God’s grace
Christine and her husband, Peter, and their daughter, Taylor, experienced a tragedy that tested their faith when her son, Peter, died in July 2018 after completing his freshman year at Jesuit High School in Carmichael. After being in the hospital for 25 days, he died from complications following a brain aneurysm. Both Peter and Taylor graduated from St. Rose School in Roseville and Taylor is an alumna of St. Francis Catholic High School in Sacramento.
“We couldn’t have gone through this tragedy without the support of St. Rose Parish and our Catholic school communities,” Christine says. “I can’t imagine my family without that Catholic school identity – it connected our social life, our prayer life and our service life. The support was – and still is – so overwhelming, we always feel we are being held in God’s grace.” As a result of that experience, Taylor is in nursing school and hopes to be an Intensive Care Unit nurse.
“Receiving God’s grace and being open to that was huge, and you survive by finding meaning,” adds Christine. “I’m grateful I already had such a meaningful life and retreat work, and I was already connected to my calling.
“I have an even deeper calling now and find meaning in my retreat work and as a Mercy Associate. I received mercy and I want to extend that mercy outward. People want to know how I survived and they want to think that I’m strong, but I’m not. It’s just a matter of having God’s grace around you – giving, listening, serving, finding compassion and extending that to others. Our Christian faith provides a space to do that gracefully.”