Retreat invites men to catch FIRE

Pausing during the torchlit Stations of the Cross at last year’s FIRE retreat are (from left) Dan Spencer III from Ascension Parish in Overland Park; Joe Fowler from Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe; Charles Gurera from Prince of Peace; and Father Nick Blaha, chaplain/director of the Didde Catholic Campus Center at Emporia State University. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JOE BOLLIG

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

WILLIAMSBURG — It’s a bold claim, but the men running a unique outdoor retreat here in February can back it up:

Spend a weekend on FIRE with us and you’ll encounter Jesus in a way you never have before.

The third annual FIRE outdoors retreat for men will take place Feb. 18-19 on the nearly 300 acres of archdiocesan-owned Prairie Star Ranch in Williamsburg. FIRE stands for “Fellowship, Inspire, Renew and Engage.”

What began as an idea for a spiritual campout by a handful of Christ Renews His Parish veterans has expanded into a weekend retreat that draws men from across Kansas and nearby states. Last year the retreat drew 140 men, and organizers expect even more for this third FIRE.

With a name like FIRE you’d expect there to be, well, fire. Stuff burning. And in past retreats, there has been real fire — torchlit processions, fireworks and the perennial big ol’ bonfire.

But the fire is also metaphysical, as in “filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit.”

“It’s not a ‘sit and git’ retreat,” said Tony Collins, a member of Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe and a founding member of FIRE.

“FIRE is an interactive, outdoors men’s retreat,” he said. “It gets guys physical in the outdoors in the dead of winter when they normally may not be.”

There is a method to the madness: God+brotherhood+outdoors+ cutting-edge Catholic content+ stuff guys like = life-changing experiences.

“A FIRE retreat is a life-sized object lesson,” said Paul Karr, a member of Prince of Peace Parish and FIRE co-founder. “We pick a theme for the year based on a Bible story or biblical truth, and we come up with outdoor activities that illustrate that story or truth.”

Nearly all the activities are outdoors, but campers eat in the retreat center’s dining room and sleep in the bunkhouses (equipped with bathrooms and showers).

It’s a reasonable sort of outdoorsiness.

Past experiences have included rosary hikes, chopping down trees with axes, and leaping from a 40-foot-high telephone pole to catch a trapeze-like bar.

And since this is a sacramentally fueled Catholic spirituality, there is also the sacrament of reconciliation, Mass and eucharistic adoration.

In fact, one of Collins’ favorite FIRE experiences was a moonlight confession in a deer stand, in a tree.

“I’ve heard guys say after FIRE that now they realize it’s OK to be a man in the way God wants us to be — wild, masculine and disruptive,” said Collins. “This lets them have another option instead of growing into complacency.”

The cost to attend FIRE is $115 per person. For information about the retreat and to register, go online to: www.fire-retreats.org. For general inquiries, send an email to: fire.retreats@gmail.com.

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