Chicago — Wayne Richard had never been on a retreat before. The Chicago native had been raised Catholic by his grandmother, who sent him to parochial grammar and high schools before she died. That's when Richard, at 15, ended up living on the streets.
After years of homelessness and addiction, Richard got help through the Cathedral Shelter, run by the Episcopal diocese of Chicago. It was there, in 1999, that he met Jesuit Fr. Bill Creed, who was offering retreats for homeless men and women through what he called the Ignatian Spirituality Project.
Now in its 19th year, the program is based on the belief that St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises are not just for Jesuits, for priests or even for middle-class seekers with time and money to get away for a weekend retreat. In fact, those who could benefit most from such intensive soul-searching are men and women affected by homelessness and addiction.
"We all face moments of darkness in our lives, but for some, those moments can turn into a life," writes Creed in a collection of success stories from the program called Stories of Hope.
The Ignatian Spirituality Project retreats bring hope to that darkness, Creed said. "Hope awakens a new sense of self ... a self who can re-imagine a vibrant life. Hope opens a life of meaning."