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A Writing Retreat: for Aspiring Writers, Musicians, and those Looking to Expand Their Creativity

An Ignatian, Semi-Silent Weekend Retreat for Adults

September 29 - October 1, 2023

Groups Attending: Individuals

This retreat is currently at capacity or registration is closed. Please call the office at 847.381.1261 with questions.


You don't have to think of yourself as a great writer or musician to benefit from this retreat. The weekend is open to people of all levels of writing—from complete novice to published author. The true focus of the weekend is to grow closer to God through self-expression. All retreat activities are optional. Prayer activities include daily Mass, and a healing service to free blocks to creativity and to help heal wounds our reflections may reveal. 

The retreat is broken up into six writing experiences. Each experience will begin in a large group with some prayerful inspiration from Mary Oliver's work and a suggestion from St. Ignatius. This leads to a prayer and writing prompt. After some quiet, personal time, we are invited to take part in small groups. Sharing work is optional but strongly encouraged.

We will have a relaxed schedule with time to read, pray, and write as the Spirit prompts. Expect an extended lunch and extra time to wander in nature on Saturday. This retreat has a lot of variety in it. Each of the four retreat leaders will share a bit about their own writing process. But you won't be sitting and simply listening to them talk about prayer and writing. You will be invited to be fully involved. Writers are allowed to bring laptops, journals, etc. to use to write on their retreat. 

We will put our Ignatian imagination to prayerful use!


Come be inspired by the wisdom and beauty of the award-winning poetry of Mary Oliver and the perennial power of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. A self-proclaimed praise poet, we will use the water of the Pulitzer Prize winner's words and the fire of St. Ignatius’ Exercises to spark our creativity and wash over our own lives. We will respond on paper through poetry, prose, song or story.

St. Ignatius’ Exercises provide a path to encounter what truly matters in our lives. Oliver’s poetry is marked by spiritual depth, accessible language, astute observations, and intriguing, challenging question. Yes. What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

St. Ignatius constantly reflected and journaled about his life experience. Before her death in 2019, Oliver’s practice was to get up early in the morning and wander through nature with a notebook in her pocket. Many of her poems contain her observations about nature. We will follow the lead of Mary Oliver and St. Ignatius as we gather at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat house situated on 90 acres of flowery meadows and woodland walks. We will venture into the fall colors to wander, reflect, pray, and write. Of course, we’ll also have the option to open our notebook, pull up a chair, sip our coffee or tea, and look out the window.

A semi-silent retreat includes several presentations, daily Mass, communal prayer, small group sharing, six delicious meals, a one-on-one conversation with a spiritual director, and many other opportunities to explore the retreat house and grounds. Come to the quiet to read, sleep, pray and reflect. All activities are optional.  

Retreat Experience Gallery

Retreat Leaders

Fr. Roc O'Connor, SJ

Since 2018, and with his provincial’s direction, Roc O’Connor, SJ has been composing and writing nearly full-time. In June of 2020 OCP published his collection of eight new songs, All Shall Be Well: The Hand of God. During the lockdown from COVID he submitted a three year writing project on liturgical spirituality for publication. It twins with his article to be published in Worship magazine, July 2021. 

Listen to a talk by Fr. Roc

Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJ

Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ is a retreat director and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington.  He holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama and a Doctor of Ministry from St Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, IL. He is the founder of Charis, a national Jesuit retreat ministry for young adults in their 20s and 30s, and has trained spiritual directors at Loyola University-Chicago.  

A prolific writer and speaker, Fr. Michael has published books, CDs, and DVDs on prayer, discernment, and the sacraments with Franciscan Media, Paulist Press, Liturgical Training Publications, Loyola Press, and Heart to Heart. He is seen regularly on Shalom World Catholic Television and is heard regularly on Sacred Heart radio in Cincinnati and WSFI Catholic Radio in greater Chicagoland. 

His latest co-authored book is What’s Your Decision?  An Ignatian Approach to Decision Making and is published by Loyola Press.  

Fr. Michael’s weekly video homilies can be seen online at www.HtoH.US.

Listen to a talk by Fr. Michael.

Tom and Geralyn Sparough

Tom and Geralyn Sparough have been facilitating retreats for 30 years. They have co-written two books: The Secret Diary of Mother Mary and The Embodied Rosary. They both enjoy writing poetry and journaling as forms of prayer. Tom is a performance artist, spiritual director, and the originator of this retreat. He has a master's degree in psychology and a bachelor's degree in journalism. Geralyn is a fiber artist and curriculum curator for The Hive—a center for action, contemplation and art. She has a master's degree in counseling and a bachelor's degree in English. They live in Cincinnati, OH.