The ACTS community is a flourishing one in the Diocese of Tyler. The movement began when parishioners from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Selma, TX worked with the Archdiocese of San Antonio in an effort to expand and build upon the popular Cursillo Retreats. The first ACTS retreats were held in 1987 in Boerne, TX. ACTS stands for Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service.
According to the ACTS website, “An ACTS Retreat is a parish-based event which offers parishioners an opportunity to experience the love of Jesus Christ. This in turn fosters a desire for intentional discipleship. While utilizing prayer, service, and teaching, the ACTS Retreat meets people where they are in their spiritual journey and invites them to experience God in a manner that is both personal and communal.” Each aspect of the retreat is focused on different ways the faithful can develop a more profound relationship with God.
Two parishes in the diocese with growing ACTS retreats are Sacred Heart Church in Texarkana, and St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Longview.
Sacred Heart Church in Texarkana has been hosting retreats since 2005. A group of women, led by Cathy Voelkel, brought ACTS to the area. St. Mark’s in Denton, TX served as the host church for the ladies of Sacred Heart to attend, and with the help of several South Texas parishes, the women’s retreats were up and running.
For several years the women’s retreats were held every fall and spring. Retreats for men began in the fall of 2006. Msgr. Gerald Priest at Sacred Heart was instrumental in encouraging parishioner involvement. Laurie Perticone, who serves as the Core Facilitator for ACTS, has also been instrumental in encouraging parishioners to get involved.
“The retreat has made a profound impact on many of those who have attended. Conversion of hearts, forgiveness, spiritual healing and strengthening are some of the gifts received,” Perticone said.
Surrounding churches are involved with Sacred Heart in preparing retreats each year. These include St. Catherine’s in Atlanta, St. Mary’s in New Boston, and Our Lady of Fatima in Daingerfield. In addition, fundraisers have been held to raise money for scholarships. A popular fundraiser was a wine tasting dinner Sacred Heart hosted for several years.
The Longview ACTS community is based out of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. Msgr. Xavier Pappu has been involved with ACTS for many years. St. Matthew’s serves as the host parish for several area churches, including St. Anthony’s and St. Mary’s in Longview, St. Theresa’s in Gladewater, and Christ the King in Kilgore. The history of their retreats goes back to 2000, after Msgr. John Flynn from San Antonio brought ACTS to Longview.
Logan Lobue and Lee Davis from St. Matthew’s hosted the first men’s retreat in 2001. The women retreats followed soon after. Craig Reiland is the current Core Facilitator and has been involved with ACTS for six years. Reiland is honored to be a part of such a rich, active community. “The retreats changed my life. I’m closer to God and closer to my fellow man with a better outlook on life,” he said.
The Longview ACTS community have been instrumental in hosting retreats for teens, which are held during the summer. This retreat has been offered since 2006, under the leadership of Cindy Starr.
Reiland reports that their group is active with various service projects including helping with Habitat for Humanity, serving meals at Martha’s Kitchen, and hosting retreats for men in prisons. The St. Matthew’s Core Team helped start an ACTS group at St. Mary Magdalene’s in Flint in 2009. Logan Lobue served as the director at their first men’s retreat in the spring of 2009 and Kay Eckel as the director for the women’s retreat that fall.
The Texarkana and Longview groups have worked together through the years to assist with retreats, especially since both groups are close in proximity. The number of those attending retreats for the first time averages from 15-20. ACTS missions have strict guidelines for how retreats are to be conducted and this includes being open to non-Catholics and offering scholarships to those who cannot afford to attend.
Rev. Justin Braun, pastor at Sacred Heart and native of Longview, explains, “ACTS serves our parish and our diocese as a great way for people to encounter the mercy and abundant love of Christ in a faith-filled and enriching weekend retreat with inspiring fellowship and the Sacraments.”
Learn more about the growing mission of ACTS and get involved by inquiring at your parish, visiting the ACTS website at www.actsmissions.org or phoning St. Matthew’s at (903) 295-3890 and Sacred Heart at (903) 794-4444.