Retreat is celebration of faith for guests, volunteers

Retreat participants and volunteers sing joyfully to the song “How Great is Our God” during the Adults with Disabilities Renewal Day Feb. 26 at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport. The event is sponsored by the parish’s Christian Service Committee.

By Barb Arland-Fye

DAVENPORT — Many of the same, enthusiastic volunteers show up every year for the Adults with Disabilities Renewal Day at Our Lady of Victory Parish. These volunteers bring new helpers with them, too. Word of mouth has spread that this retreat is an experience not to be missed.

Just ask Chris Olds, the event’s lead musician who’s been playing this gig for five years. Accompanying him for the Feb. 26 retreat were Paul Krzmarzickz, performing for his third year, and Mark McGraw, participating for the first time.

“Song will always touch an individual,” says Olds, who looks for songs that are powerful and will move the whole group to sing.  The musicians accomplished their goal this year with a number of songs, most notably, “How Great is Our God.”  Retreat participants — led by Jason Gesling — stood up during the song, stretched their arms toward the heavens and sang and swayed to the music.

“I like the singing and I like being with Jesus,” Gesling said. “We are the ‘suns’ of God,” he exclaimed, referring to the name his group chose to call itself for the retreat.


All together, 45 adults with special needs and 50 volunteers participated in the retreat — the greatest turnout to date. Parishioner Karen Kilburg has been organizing the Adult Renewal Day at Our Lady of Victory since 2005, after receiving permission from the parish’s Christian Service Committee to undertake the project. That year, about 40 volunteers and 25 participants made the retreat in the parish center. Participation has grown, thanks to Kilburg and the committee’s commitment to the annual event.

She’d volunteered at renewal days for adults with disabilities in Dubuque and in Solon and wanted to offer one in Davenport. She organized the first renewal day in just a few months. Now it takes a whole year to plan for talks, crafts, music and other activities.

“I enjoy it so much. I feel it’s my calling. I feel God is telling me this is what I should be doing,” she said after this year’s renewal.

For Olds, the event has become a family tradition. His wife, Lynn, and their daughter, Laura, are regular volunteers. Their other daughter, Sara, has helped out in previous years.

“I get more out of it than what I give to it,” Chris Olds said. “It’s a lot of fun to see our parish community work together and support Karen in her ministry.”

 “I love it; it’s great!” fellow musician Krzmarzick said. “We can let it all out, and I love to sing.”

Parishioner John Wagner, a deacon candidate for the Davenport Diocese, made his first renewal day this year, providing his services as a nurse. “I think it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s just really impressive how God speaks to everyone and that everybody — no matter what their background or abilities — was inspired by the weekend.”

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