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Finding God in the Smoky Mountains

Jan. 6, 2017 - On Dec. 17, the Hispanic Ministry of the Office of Ignatian Spirituality (OIS) held the fifth and final session of the School of Ignatian Spirituality (the "Escuela") in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Over the past nine months, 26 Hispanic women and men have immersed themselves in Ignatian forms of prayer, the Ignatian way of proceeding, the Spiritual Exercises, and the Ignatian understanding of mission.

While the five-part course is designed to introduce participants to the fundamentals of Ignatian spirituality, living as women and men for others was nothing new for this particular group. All of these participants traveled from across western North Carolina to grow in faith and the Ignatian way. Their goal was to better equip themselves to lead a series of "Evangelization Retreats" in their Spanish-speaking Catholic communities. These retreats aim to bring those who feel distanced from God, are living far from their country of origin, or are struggle with life in Appalachia, closer to Christ.

Inspired by the grace of God and the wisdom of St. Ignatius Loyola, those who completed the Escuela will take what they have learned and share it with their Evangelization Retreat participants. After all, isn’t that the vision Ignatius had of the Christian life: faithful women and men bringing the love of Christ to those separated from Him, regardless of country, culture, or distance? Even Sylva, North Carolina, deep in the mountains, is not too remote.