ACTS history at St. Bernard's
Inspiration for ACTS originated in the Archdiocese of San Antonio in 1987, modeled after the popular Cursillo movement. Three lay men began discussing how a retreat program should place more emphasis on parish life, and be open to non-Catholics. They knew that many people were seeking a greater connection to Christ and his Church. So they created the ACTS retreat, which aims to provide a journey of faith awakening and renewal, presented by teams of volunteers.
Those first meetings 30 years ago in San Antonio produced the structure of the retreat weekend as we know it now. The pattern follows the biblical description of the early disciples: breaking bread and worshipping together, sharing, receiving instruction, and reaching out in loving service. The pillars of ACTS are spelled out in its acronym -- Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service – all to bring participants closer to God.
ACTS began spreading from parish to parish in the San Antonio Archdiocese after the first retreat in 1987. Enthusiasm for the retreats spread throughout Texas and beyond by word-of-mouth testimonials and the power of the Holy Spirit. It was inevitable that ACTS would eventually make its way into Oklahoma.
At St. Bernard’s Parish in Tulsa, the proposal for ACTS was brought to Msgr. Patrick Gaalaas in 2010 by a parishioner named Liza McGinn, who had attended ACTS in Texas. Msgr. Gaalaas put Liza in touch with Kathy Sands and Ana Andujar, who had been telling him about a retreat program called Christ Renews His Parish. Maybe because they were newcomers to St. Bernard’s, these three women recognized the need for an effective and speedy way to enter into community at church. Monsignor gave his approval.
Teams of Texas volunteers then arrived from Muenster, Lindsay and Gainesville in early 2011 to present the initial mission, making St. Bernard’s the first Oklahoma parish where ACTS retreats were held. In the past 10 years, our men have held 13 retreats and the women are planning their 13th in July 2021. About 540 adults have attended an ACTS retreat sponsored by St. Bernard’s at various locations: Camp Loughridge, the University of Tulsa, Oral Roberts University and Camp Christian. Not to be left out, the youth of our parish have had seven Teen ACTS retreats of their own. A 12-member committee called Core serves as the ACTS governing group at the parish level, encouraging further spiritual growth, servant hearts and strong community among the people of St. Bernard’s.
ACTS continues to grow nationally and even outside the United States, reaching parishes in at least 25 U.S. states and in Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Honduras and England. Thousands of people attend the retreats each year. Parishes where ACTS is established often receive the invitation and the privilege to bring retreats to new territory. ACTS Mission headquarters in San Antonio asked St. Bernard’s to help advance the spread of ACTS through missions to Christ the King parish in Tulsa in 2014; to Great Bend, Kan., in 2015-2016; and to St. Benedict’s parish in Broken Arrow in 2016-2017. With humble and grateful hearts, we are passing on what we received.