April 29, 2013

You would love to take a trip somewhere nice but you don't have the time, right? However, it's best to make time because regular holidays are a vital necessity.

"You need time to unwind; your body needs a break from the stresses of work," says Sister Gloria Keylor, superior of the Sisters of Providence in Alberta.

"I think everybody needs to renew their energy. We often undervalue the importance of relaxation but without it our minds and our bodies don't have time to recuperate," Keylor says. Plus, if you take time to relax, "it's better for everybody else you work with too."

The Sisters of Providence take relaxation so seriously their constitution requires that a sister take at least six to eight days each year for a retreat.

"We strongly encourage that," Keylor said. "As far as I know, everybody takes that time."

Sisters go away especially when they take their annual retreat. While some go south of the border, others spend time at the Sisters of Providence's summer house at Pigeon Lake. Others go to the congregation's house in Calgary just to change environments. Older sisters tend to take part in recreational activities in their house.

"Our brain needs to rest from our regular routine because most of the time in our regular routine we are activated and we need to give ourselves time for it come back to a state of rest or equilibrium," says Edmonton psychologist Dorothy Steffler, a professor at Concordia College.

"Our brain needs it, our emotional state needs it, our relationships need it, and our spirit needs it."

Steffler said we need to give ourselves the opportunity to return to a balanced state so we can be in harmony with body, mind and spirit. Not doing anything, she said, will affect everything in our lives, from our mental and physical health to our spiritual health and the health of our relationships.

"We all need some time apart from what we are doing on a routine basis to be able to renew our inner spirit," said Sister Jeannette Filthaut, a spiritual director based in Edmonton.

"Sometimes we get so caught in the grind of day-to-day work, we forget there is an inner place within us that needs some quiet and some time apart. That needs to be renewed and holidays help us to do that."


Filthaut, who just returned from Seattle through the mountains following a conference, said a holiday is a holy time apart. "It's a time to renew the body, mind and spirit. A holiday can give you time to do that."

Last September, Filthaut, a member of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul (Kingston), took a three-month mini-sabbatical to renew her contemplative spirit. She went to a couple of houses of prayer and had some quiet time. She also went to her niece's home in Arizona and visited family.

"It was a break away from everything to renew my spirit before I began back to work," she said. "You can't be a spiritual director if you don't give yourself time to renew your body, mind and spirit. I had some play time and some pray time."

Steffler and Filthaut both said those who have little money for a holiday can visit the city's parks, go for daily walks or bike rides, or go camping. "Fresh air and nature are so important," Steffler said. "Nature helps us bring ourselves back into harmony."


Filthaut says people can go to the river valley and watch the river flow. Or, they can go to Fort Edmonton or to the Muttart Conservatory - places like that aren't too expensive.

"I think the piece that's important for holidays is to get back closer to nature," the sister said. "That's a piece that so many people living in the city have lost - that connection with nature and that whole harmony piece that nature gives us."

Father Patrick Baska, pastor of St. Angela's and St. Edmund's parishes, said God intended that we take time to relax body, mind and spirit. "We can't continue operating like machines, non-stop. We need to take a break to recharge."

Jesus gave us that example when he would take time away to be with his disciples. he said. "Sometimes he went off to a place of solitude to pray."

For Baska himself, holidays are hit and miss, although he never goes long without a break. Sometimes he goes away to visit family or stay at a friend's cabin for a day or two. Sometimes he stays close to Edmonton playing softball or golf.

"I take a bit of a holiday if it is possible. I say this humbly too because not everyone can do that. I'm in a position where I'm privileged to have that opportunity but there are some people who work constantly and don't have time off. A lot of families, a lot of single parents never get holidays, you know?"


People, however, have to live within their means and can do simple things to unwind, Baska said, suggesting things like visiting the museum, the Muttart Conservatory and the parks.

"Getting away is good for the soul and good for the body," said Father Mike McCaffery, who travels often to California, mainly Palm Springs, to relax and play golf with two or three other priests.

"Some people think I go away too often," the retired priest laughed. "I go away in the wintertime to play a little golf. I take a couple of weeks here and there." Often in the summer, McCaffery can be found on Edmonton's golf courses.

"You've got to get away from the busyness of your life," he said. "It's nice to go with friends someplace and just relax, take it easy and smell the roses."