Persons, places and things: a prairie retreat


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Our Lady of the Prairie near Wheatland has become a favorite get-away for The Catholic Messenger staff’s annual business retreat. The prairie’s rolling hills punctuated with flowers, wooded areas and a house with a panoramic view put us in a relaxed mood.


At our daylong retreat last week we shared ideas and built on them, seated around a table in the Great Room of the prairie house. We didn’t check off every item on our agenda. Sometimes our conversations veered slightly off course, but the creativity that emerged was worth sacrificing an agenda item or two.

Our discussions focused on how to enhance The Catholic Messenger so that it continues to inform, educate and inspire the Catholic faithful in our diocese through the presentation of local, national and world news and commentary.


We talked about coverage leading up to and beyond the World Meeting of Families and World Synod of Bishops on the Family, a series on the upcoming Year of Mercy, and how we might enhance coverage of Catholic Schools Week. We talked about creating short, informational videos on our website and what new materials we can post on our Facebook page. We dreamed up some marketing ideas that, with the blessings of Bishop Martin Amos, could be fun for all of us in the diocese.

Besides brainstorming, we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared with fresh produce from The Prairie’s garden and served by Sister Marcia Eckerman, CHM. You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted the heirloom tomatoes and the raspberry dressing. The Prairie is faithful to its mission:

“We who carry on ministry at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat provide hospitality and service in a sacred space of peace and beauty that promotes respect for all creation in the tradition of the Sisters of Humility….”

After lunch we had the opportunity to wander through the winding paths of the prairie fire lanes or take a cat nap in a rocking chair on the porch or visit the small gift shop in the house.

I opted for the walk, which allowed me to savor God’s creation and the peacefulness of the rural setting. The sun’s hot rays didn’t bother me because a breeze rippled through the tall prairie grass and woods. I will never tire of hearing wind whispering to the leaves.

Two pheasants darted out of the grass and into the woods. One stopped for a second and looked toward me, as if to say, “OK, now you’ve seen me and I’ve seen you. What happens in the prairie — stays in the prairie.” Oops, I’ve broken my end of the bargain.

I returned to the house, thanking God for inspiration, relaxation and enough sense of direction to not get lost in the prairie grass.

Our staff returned to the agenda and discussed ideas pertaining to advertising, circulation, our E-edition and website. We didn’t have time, as we usually do, to review other diocesan newspapers from around the country, where we pick up ideas for stories, design and layout. That’s for another day.

The six of us — Anne Marie Amacher, Tony Forlini, Nancy Hamerlinck, Phil Hart, Lindsay Steele and me — headed back to Davenport in Anne Marie’s vehicle refreshed and inspired to carry out our commitment to you, our readers.

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