Ignatian Spirituality Project:
Spiritual Retreats Ending Homelessness

The Ignatian Spirituality Project offers retreats based on Ignatian spirituality to men and women living on the margins of society. We offer our retreatants an experience of hope and healing, and at the heart of this work is an invitation to share one's own story with others.

Scroll down to interactively experience one of these stories.

On any given night in the US, more than 600,000 people are without a home.

Housing and Urban Development, 2013

ISP responds to this injustice one person at a time. This is Amanda’s story. Her story of hope.

I showed up at St. Martin De Porres on the Southside of Chicago lifeless, penniless and hopeless. I continued to stay there because I had nowhere else to go. I had severed every family tie. I had almost lost the will to live.

I went to sleep at 15 and woke up at the age of 38, addicted to heroin for 23 years. The funny part is, I ran away from home because I was scared and I stayed in the streets because I was too terrified to go back home.

While I was at St. Martin’s, I didn’t talk to anyone and I didn’t want anyone to talk to me. ‘Can’t you see I’m in pain? Can’t you see I don’t like it here? Can’t you see I don’t like you? Can’t you see I don’t like myself?’ I was stoic and rude.

Amanda was like one of the 1,500 women and men who will participate in ISP programs this year.

In 2006, I was aggravated. I didn’t appreciate being picked to be on a spiritual retreat. It came at a time when I was my most broken, fractured self. I was just beginning to realize that I was the one who got me here. I was pissed.

My counselor at the shelter said it was time for a spiritual retreat and I resisted. She asked me to go because she saw how broken I was. All she did was show me love. The more love she showed me the more I didn’t want it. I forgot how to feel. I forgot social graces.

The ISP retreat was the start of a journey back home.

As we travelled to the retreat, I remember being in the car and being really quiet and I remember the scenery, it brought me to some semblance of calm.


My mind was going a thousand miles a minute and the uncertainty about where I was going made me scared. But as we were driving the beauty of the scenery calmed me and when we arrived the grounds were beautiful. It was amazing.

Across the country, ISP provides men and women who are homeless and in recovery from addiction the possibility of hope.

The retreat icebreaker for me was the partner introduction. One of the retreat coordinators shared authentically about herself and I found that charismatic. To her, it wasn’t about race, social background, or anything like that. It was about sharing our hopes, dreams, aspirations, and emotional vulnerabilities.

I felt like I was important. She also shared her own questions and vulnerabilities. I never thought we could have things in common. I thought, ‘maybe there is something to this.’

And that was the icebreaker for me, because she came from such an authentic place. It was not because it resembled what I had gone through. It wasn’t gritty or grimy but it was real and it resonated with me.

Hope is the difference.

I began to feel safe. It was an overwhelming feeling of peace. I didn’t know anybody there so I wasn’t afraid of anybody. The welcoming spirit of the retreat house and the genuine concern and care of the team members made me feel safe. You could feel their warm energy.

Not to mention the food was incredible. It was like food for the spirit, food for the mind, and food for the body. You were fed all the way around and you felt it. You felt food.

It was like, ‘wait a minute – they care about us? They know we stole, we were raped, we were molested and they still cared?! Where is the camera? Is this real? God is in ALL of this?

Drawing on the wisdom of Ignatian spirituality, ISP retreats facilitate interior changes that lead to exterior transformation.

The ISP retreat changed Amanda’s life. She felt free again. She felt welcomed back to a community.

Then the next activity that really pulled at my heartstrings was fear versus trust. There is healthy fear?! I had never shared my story before. I shared things I thought I was going to go to the grave with. I wasn’t going to share my deep dark secrets. Before the retreat I didn’t trust nothing or nobody. Because I was just hurt every time I did.

Before this retreat, I did NOT like feeling vulnerable. But on the retreat I got in touch with places in my consciousness that had been uninhabited for a LONG time. I felt human on this retreat. Before I started making the ISP retreat, I had no idea how intricate my spirituality was. I was ashamed about everything and I had no idea how to be anything besides ashamed.

Amanda’s life was changed and in turn is changing others. The ISP impact multiplies.

Everything I have learned on the retreat and with the retreat team is like a huge chest of spiritual tools that I take back to the shelter and to my life and to the women and to their children and the staff. Everyone wins if just one person comes back different and they are exposed to that one person.

After the retreat I started taking ownership and started addressing my feelings. I understood that I had to feel the feelings; I didn’t have to react to them. It happened over a five-month period and after that St. Martin’s offered me a job. I also took care of my 88-year-old grandmother, after 14 months clean. I would NEVER have done that without the support of the community I found on that first retreat.

From there I began to get involved with the ISP Women’s retreat team. At first I was just sharing my witness on the retreats. I was honored and shocked. I was never shunned or judged. They wanted me to share.

 

Amanda continues to be a story of hope. She has been “clean and serene” since 2006. She continues to help other women share their stories on ISP retreats.

Amanda also works as a Preschool Coordinator and Recovery group Facilitator at St. Martin De Porres House of Hope, as well as a Program Assistant for Harmony, Hope and Healing.

She is recently married and is raising her beautiful 16-year-old “in her spare time.”

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ISP invites you to champion, engage, and invest in our mission and vision to bring experiences of hope and healing to hundreds of people just like Amanda each year. We can only succeed in transforming lives because of the generosity and efforts of over one thousand partners, volunteers, and donors.

If you would like to get involved, please fill out the form below and we’ll contact you right away.

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To learn more about ISP, experience some of our other Stories of Hope below.

St. Ignatius and Ignatian Spirituality
The Spiritual Exercises
Addiction, Homelessness, and Recovery
Hope makes a difference
Ministry of ISP
Investing in ISP