Catholic retreat facilitator: what animal do you identify as?

Catholic retreat facilitator: what animal do you identify as?

Students at St. Mary’s College of California question degree of Catholicism at Lasallian weekend

NOVEMBER 15, 2017 BY CAL-CATHOLIC DAILY

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Michaela Daystar was the facilitator for the retreat for St. Mary’s Lasallian community members.

On the weekend of Oct. 6, Lasallian community members went on a retreat at Saint Joseph’s Camp, owned by Christian Brothers and located near the Russian River. Students voiced concern over practices that Michaela Daystar incorporated into the retreat. Daystar, who has an MA in Leadership for Social Justice, facilitated the retreat and is an accredited SoulCollage facilitator, a Reiki Master Practitioner and Teacher, and a Regional Master Teacher in the Embodied Wisdom Teacher Training Program certified through Shakti Feminine University.

Welcome to students of all faith traditions, the Lasallian community focuses on the charism of a Catholic priest and the founder of the Christian Brothers, Saint John Baptiste de La Salle. The Lasallian community too is sponsored by the Mission and Ministry Center (MMC). During Daystar’s facilitation, she encouraged students to identify on a spiritual level as an animal. The intent of this activity, according to Daystar in an email, was “exploring and naming their diverse personalities and ways of being in the world (with creation metaphors using animals) to build deeper group understanding and cohesion.” She led students through a centering meditation where they chose an animal and spoke about the personality traits of the animal and how it related to their interactions as a group.

Some students, who preferred to remain anonymous due to their connections with the MMC, expressed concern over Daystar’s exercises. One spoke of the activity: “What I could gather is that she wanted us to connect to an animal. In the midst of this, I and many others fell asleep. And when I woke up, all I know was that she was crouched (on the ground) like a mountain lion, pretending to pounce. So I proceeded to [identify as a] hawk. I honestly don’t know how Catholicism fits into this.”

Some things, another said, “freaked [them] out. [The retreat] was very illuminati. The content was really unexpected.” For the discussion, students met in the chapel of the retreat center. Daystar had arranged oracle cards on the left hand side of the church, surrounded by small statues from various faith traditions, owers, essential oils, and other objects. There were two decks present, Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards and Messages from Your Animal Spirit Guides. Oracle cards, according to the back of the Goddess Guidance deck, “Bring Divine magic into your life.” One student explained that he knew that the use of such cards and other means of fortune-telling is condemned in the Bible due to his recent Seminar readings. “I thought the oracle cards should not have been in the chapel. I did not know if I should have talked to [the Lasallian community director] about them. After reading the Old Testament in Seminar, you hear about how God is greater than all other gods.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraphs 2116 and 2117 that all magic is “gravely contrary to the virtue of religion” and “all forms of divination are to be rejected” because “they contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.”

The author of one of the oracle decks present, Doreen Virtue, who authored the Goddess Guidance deck, was baptized Christian last Spring after an “encounter” with Jesus. She has since denounced all her previous materials, including the deck displayed at the retreat, and asked her followers to turn away from “darkness” and burn the decks. Virtue asked her publisher to take materials out of print, “in case people used them to worship idols and deities other than God.” When contacted about the place of the cards in the retreat, Daystar declined to comment.

The Collegian corresponded via email with Daystar after the retreat. She stated that her overall intent was to help the community “better understand their unique gifts, to deepen their connection with each other, and to better understand how to discern their calling throughout their lives.”

According to Carrie Davis, Lasallian Community director and MMC employee, the purpose of the retreat was to bring the students together to experience community and faith. She emphasized the importance of community through structured sessions and free time spent bonding together. Faith was addressed through beginning each meal and the four retreat sessions with a prayer or meditation. Davis stated that the mission of the MMC is to “allow students in various ways to think about their faith, explore their faith, and live out their faith.” During the weekend, students were engaged in facilitated discussions and activities that centered around “self-care and vocation,” led by Daystar. In an email correspondence, Daystar declined to comment on the relationship between her facilitation and the Catholic faith.

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