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A Women’s Retreat, 35 Years and Going Strong

A Women’s Retreat, 35 Years and Going Strong
Rev. G. Donald Pantle, S.J., is shown here with participants at the University’s 35th Annual Women’s Retreat held recently at the Retreat Center at Chapman Lake.

Rev. G. Donald Pantle, S.J., 87, is retired from his position teaching German and Spanish in the World Languages and Cultures Department at the University, but that doesn’t stop him from making his way from his home in Baltimore, Maryland, to the Retreat Center at Chapman Lake for the faculty and staff women’s retreat every year. This year, he celebrated 35 years of leading the women’s retreat. 

“When I arrived at Scranton, my main job was to open the Retreat Center and teach some languages on the side,” said Fr. Pantle. “There was not a retreat for women, and I thought I could offer them one to show I cared about their needs.” 

That first year, 1980, about 35 women attended the retreat. Fr. Pantle led them in conversation, readings, liturgy, Eucharist, prayer, reflection and rest. “They walked together, talked together, prayed together,” he said. “It was so good that it lasted for 35 years.” 

Betty Rozelle, assistant director and career development specialist at the University, has been attending the women’s retreat for 19 years. Now, she serves with others on a committee that helps Fr. Pantle organize the retreat each year. 

It’s important to have a place to convene with other women of the University, she said. “The ‘retreat’ means that we are stepping away from the hectic pace of our daily lives,” she said. “Oftentimes, women are the major caregivers serving others … We need the retreat to replenish our resources in order to effectively serve others as God asks of us.” 

Fr. Pantle’s commitment to leading the retreat every year meant deepening relationships with the participants, especially those who attended for more than one year. 

“Fr. Pantle has accompanied us in a supportive role as many of us have experienced the births of our children and grandchildren, the joys and struggles of parenthood, serious illnesses and even the loss of loved ones,” said Rozelle. “Throughout our years together, he has taught us so much about Ignatian spirituality and helped us to deepen our faith.” 

Fr. Pantle said he thinks of himself as a “spiritual guide” to many of the women who attend the retreat, but, more important, he is glad that so many learned a “community spirituality” that they brought back to the University. The women, he said, developed relationships and relied on one another in both personal and professional situations. 

As for the 2016 retreat? “I intend to be there,” said Fr. Pantle. 

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