Grief to Grace retreat director Anne Sherston is changing the lives of abuse survivors, writes Emilie Ng in The Catholic Leader.
At a Grief to Grace retreat held in Hobart earlier this year, a Catholic priest guided 17 abuse survivors through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For several days the survivors unpatched hidden wounds caused by traumatic abuse experiences in their childhood or adult life.
There were a number of people who were sexually abused by clergy, others who were the victims of horrific violence, and still more were violated by their own families. They all longed for one thing – to be healed.
Ms Sherston, a survivor of abuse, was observing the faces of these survivors, many of whom kept their abuse a secret for decades.
She saw their faces begin to change; that spark in their spirit was coming back to life.
It’s what she calls the “magnificent” transformation that occurs in people who go on a Grief to Grace retreat.
Grief to Grace is a Catholic ministry founded in the US counselling psychologist Dr Theresa Burke to provide psychological and spiritual healing for survivors of abuse.
The retreat is offered to people who were abused in any way, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, or sexual, including institutional and clergy child sexual abuse, rape, incest or neglect.
Open to men and women of all religions, and Catholic clergy or religious, Grief to Grace retreats last for five to seven days and take participants on a spiritual pilgrimage towards healing.
There are no spectators on the retreat; every single person making the retreat has, in some way or another, experienced abuse.
Ms Sherston brought the retreat to Australia and ran her first successful retreat this year.
“They turn up with really long faces and by the end of the retreat, they are totally on the way to being healed,” she said.
“Nothing is an immediate fix but it shows them and it gives them hope.”