What is an ACTS Retreat?
An ACTS weekend is a three-day, three-night retreat presented by Catholic laymen with the support of clergy and a spiritual director. The goals of the weekend retreat is to strengthen your faith, to renew yourself spiritually, to build purpose in your prayer life and to build lasting friendships with your church community.
Why attend an ACTS Retreat?
An ACTS weekend is a powerful and enduring personal conversion experience. Talks, which draw from the personal experiences of team members, focus on Adoration, the need for prayer and meditation on the word of God, Community, the importance of community built on faith and love, Theology, the need to read and understand scripture and our Catholic Faith and Service, the need to answer Christ’s call to servanthood.
Activities conducted during the weekend give retreatants a better understanding of the significance and importance of prayer, liturgy, the sacraments, scripture, community and service. Retreatants are also given guidance to help them in their faith journey, and the weekend is a powerful community-building experience.
The ACTS weekend brings retreatants to a better understanding of God’s love for them and develops their need to share that love with others through their involvement in a faith-centered parish community. The retreat emphasizes our call to service, service to the parish community and to our world community. This results in a new or renewed dedication to the life of the parish community and increased awareness of the needs of those around us along with the desire, as followers of Christ, to help meet those needs.
The Message of ACTS
ACTS is an acronym for Adoration, Community, Theology and Service and it is these four themes that are the focus of the activities of the weekend.
ACTS is inspired by the ACTS of the Apostles 2:42-47:
“They devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to prayers. Awe came upon everyone and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common: they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals in exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And, every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
What else should I know?
The weekend allows an opportunity for men and women to focus on their faith and its application in their daily lives, to build purpose in their prayer life, to increase their presence at the liturgy, and to cultivate friendship among members of the community. Spiritual direction will be provided during the weekend.
Please note that all denominations are welcome.
The retreat will begin Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m., with check-in at St. Francis of Assisi. You are welcome and encouraged to bring family members or friends to see you off. Transportation to and from the Retreat Center will be provided.
The weekend will conclude on Sunday at the 12:30 p.m. Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. Immediately following the Mass, retreatants will share refreshments and fellowship in the parish with their families and other members of the parish community.
History of ACTS
ACTS retreats have enriched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people; men and women, teens and retires, rich and poor, Catholic and non-Catholic, in the United States as well as other countries. It has reinvigorated the spiritual lives of individuals, of families, of entire parishes. Yet, 25 years ago, it did not even exist. The way this wonderful program came to be is a beautiful blend of the Holy Spirit and those who listen to His words.
No history of ACTS would be complete without the help of, and some familiarity with, the Cursillo retreat. Cursillo began in Spain in the years between WWI and WWII, in response to what many in the church saw as the increasing secularization of many Catholics in Spain at the time. It was intended to be a short course (the Spanish for short course is "cursillo") on the Catholic faith, and soon became widely popular for its profound effect on people's spirituality. By the mid 1980's, it had spread to many places in the world, including Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Selma, Texas, a suburb of San Antonio. It was here that three men who were heavily involved in Cursillo planned the first ACTS retreat.
Ed Courtney, Joe Hayes, and Marty Sablik were instructors and coordinators with Cursillo, with years of Cursillo experience and a mutual friendship. They thought that several aspects of Cursillo could be improved in order to make the retreat more relevant to the needs of the parish, especially after the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. From the beginning, they all felt that it was important for the retreat to be open to everyone, not just to Catholics, and not just to those who were sponsored by someone. Ed, acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, met Joe and Marty at a coffee shop to build a new retreat called ACTS. This seemed logical to Ed since the Acts of the Apostles described what the apostles did, and are we not the apostles of today? Since the three main points in Cursillo were Piety, Study, and Action, Ed felt it absolutely necessary to bring them into ACTS. Once again under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Ed used a dictionary to help him correlate the letters A, C, T, and S into the themes of Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service. Joe Hayes, with the help of the Holy Spirit, was instrumental in securing the approval of both their pastor, Fr. Patrick Cronin, and that of Archbishop Flores. Another friend and parishioner, Wallace Vaughn, was inspired by the Holy Spirit to read Acts 2:42-47, the passage that became the biblical inspiration for the weekend.
After that first retreat in 1987, ACTS spread parish to parish in the San Antonio Archdiocese, and by 1997 there were perhaps 15 parishes with an ACTS program in place. In that year, ACTS Missions was formed as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization for the purpose of spreading and maintaining the ACTS retreat wherever the Holy Spirit prompted it. ACTS Missions was started by Larry Lopez and Tony Deosdade, two men who had such a profound experience on their retreat that they were inspired to make sure everyone in the world should have the opportunity to receive it as well. From its headquarters at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, this small organization now leverages thousands of volunteers every year to bring the retreat to even more thousands of people, allowing them to experience the love of God through their fellow Christians.
Today, ACTS is in at least 22 states in the U.S., 8 states in Mexico, as well as Canada, Honduras, South Africa and England. Interest is growing literally around the world.
People have credited ACTS with saving their lives, saving their marriages, convincing them to be ordained as priests or deacons, or leading them to the religious life, simply by opening their eyes and their hearts to God's word. Pastors have praised its positive effects on their parishes, leading to highly invigorated parish life. Bishops and other church leaders have called it the most important movement in the Catholic Church today; all this from a handful of faith-filled people with the courage and perseverance to be led by the Holy Spirit.