My unexpected inner-healing journey

Thea Kurniawan 20 October 2021

Despite misgivings, a religious retreat proved to be the ideal self-care choice.

When I think of self-care I envision getting better sleep, going tech-free, exercising, being in nature, spending time with family and friends, meditation, and the like. I never thought going on a religious retreat would be on that list, but that is exactly what happened one weekend in July . . . and what I got out of it afterwards was really unexpected.

After Mass one Sunday, my mum read a notice in our parish bulletin about a free three-day inner-healing retreat run by the Vincentian Congregation and she urged me to register our family. The Vincentian Congregation is influenced by the works of St Vincent de Paul, who ran many retreats in his time with the goal of reforming the Christian life. Globally, there are 51 Vincentian retreat centres, with Vincentian Fathers based in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney conducting retreats for Australians. A signature program is their inner-healing retreat, welcoming participants to be healed by the power and love of our Lord and live out their Christian calling.

To be honest, I initially felt it would be a waste of time. I thought it would just be older people participating and we would spend most of the days diving deep into Bible scriptures. I thought it was not going to connect with youth like me. Despite my (very poor) assumptions and attitude at the start, I still felt an inkling to go. ‘Just think of it like a staycation with God’, I said to myself.

A staycation with God

What a staycation it was. Going through the program, getting to know the priests, organisers, and fellow participants, and spending the days with them was a healing and enlightening experience. My frame of mind completely changed. My family visited the retreat centre in Perth, which is located on a hobby farm property (with 13 sheep, two alpacas and many doves) and we were forced to disconnect from the hustle and bustle, and also from technology. We had to observe silence throughout the entire retreat ­– that was the biggest challenge for me, but after the first welcome Mass that kicked-off the program, I suddenly felt this conviction that I needed this; to purposely find my external and internal peace, to have time to reconnect with God and his words.

The healing session was the highlight for me. It was a powerful night where we were encouraged to open up and face our deepest sorrows, worries, and the people who have wronged us or whom we have wronged, and declare forgiveness. It was an intense but rejuvenating session, with lots of tears and hugs, shouts of sadness but also gratitude. Sometimes the best way to heal is to let it all out and let go.

Sense of calm

At the retreat’s end, after giving a goodbye pat to all the lovely animals, I reflected about it all on the drive home. I felt a significant sense of calm, something I have not felt in a long time.

It was a much-needed respite for me. It helped me connect to my faith, my person, and to reflect on my relationships with others and God. It helped me heal deep emotional wounds I have been hiding under the rug and I found more meaning in why I am a Catholic.

It also made me realise that I have not properly acknowledged the importance of taking breaks in my daily life. I learned I need to take time to ‘zone-out’ from the everyday to ‘zone-in’ more with myself, God and my faith journey in order to have better mental, emotional and physical clarity.

Going on a religious retreat was not the first choice I would think of when it comes to taking care of my wellbeing, but it was the best choice. I encourage all young people to go on a retreat at least once in their lives. 

Vincentian Retreat Centres

For more information about the Vincentian Retreat Centres in Australia:, see: