Monday Mini Retreats

March 14

Ms. Marie North

Title:  “Why Laudato Si and Why Should We Care”

Summary:  An integral ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and unifying principle of social ethics.  The common good is ‘the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.’ Pope Francis, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, #156

Bio:  Marie North has been involved with sustainability for many years and became a certified Sustainable Building Advisor in 2011. She provides consulting services and offers presentations on achieving sustainability in everyday life through her website

In early 2018, she became a Laudato Si` Animator to help faith communities initiate sustainable practices in their places of worship, schools, and other facilities. Her life experiences and Catholic faith are instrumental in her work to be a voice for a healthy planet

Marie is a member of various sustainability organizations in and around the Lehigh Valley. Always a student of this ever-evolving topic, she is constantly expanding her knowledge in key areas of sustainability. Her other interests include landscaping with native plants, birds, hiking, and travel.

April 25

Christina Bigatel Durback,

Title:  “Deal or No Deal…with God It’s Covenant or No Covenant”

Summary:  Within a format based on the popular game show, “Deal or No Deal,” participants in this presentation will rediscover and delight in what God offers each of us in His covenant of love (so much greater than any other deal ever offered!).   In a unique, engaging (and hopefully enjoyable!) way, participants will have the opportunity to recognize, reflect and celebrate God’s incredible gifts that flow from the Paschal Mystery and prepare for a glorious celebration of Pentecost. 

Bio:  Christina B. Durback has been involved in faith formation programs for adults, youth and children as a presenter, teacher, and writer for over 4 decades.  Beginning her “formal” service to God and the Church as a catechist during her high school years, she has offered presentations for RCIA programs, parish adult formation events, catechetical conferences, and retreats in Eastern PA and New Jersey.  Other ministries in which she has served include Catholic intermediate/middle school teacher, youth retreat coordinator, diocesan adult formation course presenter.  A Master Catechist in the Diocese of Allentown, Christina has a B.A. in Theology and English (Immaculata University) and a Masters’ Degree in Religious Education (Boston College).  She currently serves as Director of Religious Education at Assumption BVM Parish and St. Michael the Archangel School, Bethlehem.  Married to Larry Durback, Christina is the youngest of 6 children of the late John and June Bigatel and treasures being “Aunt Chrissy” to many beloved nieces and nephews.  Her favorite pastimes include crafting, reading, and swimming.

May 23

Fr. Eugene Ritz

Title:  “Abandonment to Divine Providence in the Life of Father Walter Ciszek, SJ”

Summary: In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul challenges us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God-what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2).

Bio:  Father Eugene Ritz is a native of Tresckow, (Carbon County) Pennsylvania, and is the son Clare Ritz and the late John Ritz. He is a graduate of Marian High School and was formed for the Priesthood at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Ordained in 2009 he has served as an Assistant Pastor and High School Chaplain. Completing studies at the Catholic University of America in Canon Law in 2018 Father Ritz serves as Director of Formation for the Permanent Diaconate, Chancellor, and Judge on the Diocesan Tribunal. 

September 19

Pam Russo and Rob Nicolella

Title:  “God’s Timing – a Journey of Faith, Love and Service”

Summary:  We will each share our journey, including challenges and times we questioned our faith, how we gained the strength and “wisdom” to trust in God’s timing and accept the grace and peace God was giving to us throughout our challenges as leaders.

Bio:  Pamela Russo is the Secretary for Catholic Health, Human Services and Youth Protection for the Diocese of Allentown. A licensed social worker, she earned her Master’s in Social Work from Temple University and a Master’s in Science in Administration of Human Services from Chestnut Hill College.

Prior to returning to Pennsylvania to take on her role in the newly formed Secretariat for Catholic Health, Human Services and Youth Protection, Pam served as the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Tennessee, based in Nashville. She is also the former Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown. Her nonprofit service includes various roles at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown, Catholic Social Services, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the American Red Cross, Berks County Chapter.

Pam serves on the board of directors of St. Luke’s – Sacred Heart Hospital and Holy Family Senior Living.

Raised in Reading, PA, Pam is a product of the Diocese of Allentown schools and is a parishioner at Immaculate Conception, Allentown, PA.

Bio:  Rob Nicolella graduated from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio with a Bachelor in Science of Education.  He received his Master’s in Social work from Temple University.

Rob worked with many faith-based groups during his formative years.  During high school and college he worked at both a Jewish Community Center summer camp, and for a YMCA school’s child care program.  Upon graduating, Rob’s first professional job as a Social Worker was for the Salvation Army located in Norristown, PA. 

Rob was hired in 2000 as the County Administrator for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown (formerly known as the Catholic Social Agency).  Rob managed all social service programs throughout Lehigh and Northampton counties. He successfully applied for a multi-year federal grant to support veterans and prevent homelessness.

Rob was named Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown in June of 2019. The agency provides services to tens of thousands of people throughout the five counties of the Diocese of Allentown. He serves as a key community leader on issues of homelessness, affordable housing, and mental health.

October 17

Fr. Patrick Lamb

Title:  “Why the Saints?”

Description: Father Lamb will attempt to show us why the saints are important. We can go “straight to Jesus” so why bother with the saints? What do they have to offer us? How can we tap into their wisdom?            Do you have a favorite saint? Who and why? Let us allow these heroic figures to stir up our own faith.

Biography: Father Lamb is the pastor of Queenship of Mary Parish in Northampton since 2015. Previously he was in high school work for 16 years, serving as Director of Spiritual Activities and as administrator. He was ordained a priest in 1983, is one of nine children and is originally from Coatesville, PA.

November 14

Biography: Fr. Henry Beck, OFM

Fr. Henry made his First Vows in the Order of Friars Minor in May 1976, and he made his Solemn Vows in July 1979.  Fr. Henry was ordained in June 1980 at St. Leonard College in Centerville, Ohio, for the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province, Cincinnati, Ohio. 

He completed his Masters of Divinity at St. Leonard College in June 1980, and he received his Masters of Theological Studies from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, in December 1980. 

Fr. Henry studied for a year at St. Bonaventure University, Olean, NY, and received a Graduate Certificate in Franciscan Spirituality from St. Bonaventure in June 2003.  In 2015 Fr. Henry received a certificate in Spiritual Direction from the Claret Center in Chicago, Illinois. 

Fr. Henry has done parish ministry, campus ministry, Justice and Peace work for his Franciscan province, served in the province’s mission in Negril, Jamaica, worked with friars in studies at Catholic Theological Union, and is presently serving on the staff at St. Francis Retreat House, Easton, PA.  He has faculties presently with the Diocese of Allentown, PA. 

Topic: “The Key Themes of Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti” with Fr. Henry Beck, OFM

Fr. Henry will open up this important encyclical letter from Pope Francis for the people gathered, and he will give them time to prayerfully reflect upon its key themes together. 

December 12th

Topic: “A Franciscan Christmas” with Fr. Henry Beck, OFM

This is our annual celebration of Christmas as a community gathered around SFRH.  It is for SFRH community members and friends of the retreat house.  We take time to pray with the Christmas Scriptures, sing carols together, reflect on the meaning of the Incarnation together, and celebrate with a meal before the retreat and a social time following the retreat experience. 

Biography for Fr. Henry Beck, OFM: please see above at November 14th