For many women, a moment of rest is all but unobtainable. It doesn’t matter the age — right out of college, new mom, senior citizen, working parent. Taking a breather away from the worries of the day and letting someone else “take care of them” seems unimaginable.But a group of parishioners from Holy Name of Mary Church in San Dimas is attempting to change that via CARA Ministries, a six-year-old project that offers affordable, one-day retreats where women of all ages can “Come Apart and Rest Awhile” as they explore their spiritual journey with fellow women.To date, CARA has welcomed 450 women for days of contemplation, sharing, prayer and celebration. What began as small numbers of retreatants (about 25) gathering in a private home has now grown to as many as 60 participants meeting mainly at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Pomona and St. John’s Episcopal Church in La Verne.The ministry has been supported both by local Catholic parishes (as well as San Gabriel Region Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala) and nearby Episcopal churches that have welcomed the groups into their meeting halls and prayer spaces. “We try to host three to four retreats a year,” says Phyllis Phelps, one of the four organizers, who is serious about taking care of the women who sign up for these ecumenical retreats. “We want them to come and leave everything behind for a bit, let us nurture you, come apart from the world in a safe environment filled with trust,” she says. “At the end of the day, we want the women to know that God has spoken to them, whether it’s listening to someone’s story, sharing with one another or hearing a piece of music. We women often run ourselves down with competition and overwork; here is a place that will help us get back to our true selves.”On paper, the CARA retreats sound like any typical retreat — liturgy, prayers, group sharing, singing, time for personal reflection. But participants — many who have gone on previous retreats — claim they have never experienced anything like a CARA retreat. It’s the reason so many keep coming back.“It’s life changing, incredibly warm, loving and spiritual,” says Jamie Walters, parishioner at St. John’s who has attended many of the CARA retreats over the years. Any “cattiness” that women can have with each other in the workplace and in social circles “goes out the door. You can be who you are here and wherever you are spiritually, it’s fine.”So enamored of her retreat experience, Walters has enticed her 42-year-old daughter and 30-year-old daughter-in-law to attend; both have embraced the experience. “It’s so nice to have someone take care of you for pretty much the day,” she says. “Being in that environment is very fulfilling.”“What a great way to spend the day with other women, from young ones, middle-aged and elderly,” says Giselle Smith, parishioner at Holy Name of Mary. “There, I see how much we can share our wisdom with others. I really like that our presenters [the four retreat coordinators] are so different and are each on a different place in their faith journey; each of us can relate to one of them.”As a mom with four children, Smith likes the short but powerful retreat experience. “Getting away for me can be difficult, but a day is doable. Going on a CARA retreat is like ‘a shot in the arm.’ We really needed something like this in our area. I’m really glad it’s here.”Retreats often have themes, general topics of discussion that envelop the day. In the past, participants have discussed friendship, “how to allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts,” what it means to be a disciple and other themes. “I have been going to retreats all my life and this one really comes from the soul of a woman,” asserts Anita Chavez, Holy Name of Mary parishioner. “This is a uniquely refreshing experience that focuses on who we are as women — women as caring, nurturing, friendly and full of laughter.”“I think the greatest gift of CARA is that you come away with the idea, ‘Hey, I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who feels like this or is experiencing a spiritual dryness or having trouble with my husband or whatever.’ Women can share at such a deep level with each other and that makes the experience richer and beautiful. At rest, I can be who I am, and that resting becomes a celebration.”The next CARA ministry retreat (with an Advent theme) is scheduled Nov. 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at St. St. John’s Episcopal Church, 4745 Wheeler Ave., La Verne. Cost is $45; for more information, call (909) 973-6012 or email [email protected]. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/1014/sgcara/{/gallery}