Wayne learned after his parents died and his grandfather kicked him out “that people would hurt me for amusement, that people could and would be cruel, and that it was a normal part of life in the world.”
He began to use, ”but not enough to recognize a problem.
I depended on the drugs more and more to relieve the pain of living, the boredom of dead end jobs, and the lack of nurturing relationships in my life.”
He was lost, high, homeless, and desperate. “I was ready to end my life. I sat under a traffic bridge with a gun in my mouth, tears in my eyes. Now my descent was complete. My final thought as I was about to squeeze the trigger was, ‘God why wouldn’t you love me?’ And then it happened.”
“In that instant it was as if time stood still and I heard a voice as clear as my own, ‘Get up, leave here; there is something else for you to do’.”
“I knew I had to find freedom from the bondage of anger, bitterness, pity and ignorance of self. I desperately needed to live without the fear and loneliness that had guided my actions. And to do it I had to give God the lead.”
During his stay at a transitional center, Wayne attended an ISP retreat.
“During the retreat I began to examine the continuous presence of God in my life,” Wayne says.
That was in 1999. Since then he’s stayed clean, gotten a job at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and helped lead more than 60 retreats.
“I continue to go on retreat,” Wayne says, “because I see God move men on the retreats to faith and hope.”
Amanda Longé Brown featured in Catholic Digest
To read Amanda’s article in Catholic Digest, click on the link below.
2012 Catholic Digest
Cathy Reid, Former Jesuit Volunteer at ISP
In April, I was a facilitator on the Ignatian Spirituality Project’s overnight retreat for homeless women in Chicago. I was glad that I got to have this final experience of the overnight retreat before the end of my JV year; the overnight retreat is the real center of ISP ’s work.
The retreats are always incredibly powerful, intense experiences: 12 to 14 women from different Chicago homeless shelters gather together to share their stories and find hope and strength through building a sense of community with one another. It sounds so simple when I describe it, and yet it’s genuinely life changing.
The retreats are a deeply cathartic experience for the women. Many of them had never before talked about their experiences. Several of them named as the grace of the retreat the fact that they had found a language with which to speak about their experiences; that meant they could heal. They shared with and drew strength from each other.
One woman said that she had always thought, before, that her body just existed for men’s pleasure. “But now I know,” she said, “that my body belongs to me, not to anyone else. I can say ‘no.’” Her sense of empowerment was contagious.
There is always at least one story that stays with me from any retreat.
After this retreat, I know that I’m carrying all of these women with me now.
Shelly, Boston retreatant
Women To Women | a poem about my retreat experience.
We gather together to share our stories and strength and even our pain in a place where we don’t feel any shame.
Welcome to bond and complete ourselves where maybe something has been left out with other women.
Who share similar stories, and only then we can allow God and our new bonds with these women to take their rightful place in our lives while we are together in peace of mind body and soul.
So as women to women we can take a healing journey together and we all can be like beautiful butterflies and spread our wings and grow from these experiences.
Catholic Community of Faith Radio Interview
ISP Executive Director Tom Drexler and Consultant for Leadership Development Wayne Richard were interviewed on “Catholic Community of Faith”, which airs on Chicago’s Relevant Radio (950 AM). Hear about the impact ISP is making in this 35 minute interview.
Hear ISP Interview with Tom Drexler and Wayne Richard
It was late Saturday night when I went into chapel and said to the Lord in prayer:
“What is going on? I have been leading retreats for decades, retreats to teens, married couples, priests and nuns, all sorts of leaders.”
“I’ve led privately directed retreats, group retreats, preached retreats. But I have never experienced being so moved so quickly and so deeply. I feel as if down deep in my center I have been opened up to You, God.”
I walked out of chapel and explained my experience to another homeless retreatant. I asked him what he thought was going on.
He said these men have been homeless and addicted to alcohol and drugs. They have lost their jobs, their families and their self-respect. Now they are trying to turn their lives around, have come on retreat and are being ruthlessly honest about themselves and their true needs. They are attempting to put aside a lifestyle of isolation, withdrawal, individualism and addiction and entrust themselves to God.
In that first retreat with those who have been homeless, it became clear that these men were evangelizing me.
Adapted from an essay by the author in National Jesuit News.