New speaker forum debuts at Jesuit Retreat House

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | March 14, 2023

OSHKOSH — A new program offered at the Jesuit Retreat House (JRH) on Lake Winnebago is designed to provide spiritual enrichment and introduce the scenic campus to non-retreatants.

The inaugural session of the three-part Lakeside Speaker Series was held on Feb. 8. Jesuit Fr. Joe Laramie, national director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, gave a presentation about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer network, based in Milwaukee, promotes devotion to the Sacred Heart and to Pope Francis’ monthly prayer intention (

Tom Schmit of Appleton, left, shows Jesuit Fr. Joe Laramie his icon that combines devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Divine Mercy. Fr. Laramie was the presenter at the inaugural session of the Lakeside Speakers Series on Feb. 8 at the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh. (Jesuit Retreat House Photo | For The Compass)

Fr. Laramie opened with a prayer exercise to connect the hearts of the guests to the heart of Jesus Christ. He spoke about the popularity of the heart image in culture, including emojis, “I ? New York” and the heart hands gesture.

“He connected that to people’s own experience of a much older, much more meaningful image of the heart, the Sacred Heart, biblical images of the heart and then the foundational image of the Sacred Heart in the New Testament,” said Jesuit Fr. Mark Carr, JRH executive director.

“In terms of inviting Fr. Joe, he and I are friends. I’m on the board for the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. It was an easy ask and a great topic,” added Fr. Carr. “I like the phrase he used. He encouraged people to ‘put devotion into motion,’ to really live out that way of the (Sacred) heart in your own heart. The three speakers in spring move from devotion into motion.”

Two Jesuit novices, men in their first two years of formation, will share their vocation stories, discernment and experience of novitiate in the second session on March 8. Rev. Chris Corbin, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Oshkosh, will discuss the food justice movement in the final session of the spring series on May 10. A fall Lakeside Speaker Series will also be offered.

“Pastor Chris is very involved with the Oshkosh Food Co-op,” said Fr. Carr. “He’s interested in the issues of food justice, a great topic and a very local topic. His topic is a good integration with our faith and the corporal work of mercy of feeding the hungry.”

“I was looking for diversity. Our first speaker is very devotional,” he added. “Our second speakers, the two novices, are more vocational focused. The last speaker is very ecumenical and more social justice oriented.”

Fr. Carr was pleased with the age range, 20s to late 70s, of those who attended the first session. OYA (Oshkosh Young Adult Catholic community) members joined Fr. Laramie for dinner prior to his presentation. Most of the inaugural guests came from the Oshkosh, Appleton and Fond du Lac areas, said Fr. Carr. He would like to see people from other communities attend upcoming sessions.

“The series provides an opportunity for people to visit the retreat house in a non-retreat setting. That happened,” he said. “Another purpose is to build relationships with current friends of the retreat house and also foster new relationships.”

For those seeking a retreat, JRH is in the midst of its winter/spring season, said Fr. Carr. Retreats run from Thursday through Sunday. A couple’s retreat is scheduled for the second weekend of March. Fr. Carr pointed to a longstanding retreat at the end of March. Milwaukee-based Casa Romero Renewal Center has hosted an annual Spanish language retreat for more than 10 years.

“A men’s Holy Week retreat will be held Wednesday through Saturday,” said Fr. Carr. “Our spring season ends with two 12-step retreats in early May. We also look forward to hosting a variety of groups midweek. We catch our breath and then move into our summer program of five- and eight-day individually directed retreats. Those are open to laity, religious, clergy, Catholics and people of other faith traditions.”

Fr. Carr offered an additional highlight to those who attend the speaker series – the location on the JRH campus.

“The Loyola Lounge has a great view of the lake,” he said.

For more information about the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago, visit

There is no cost to attend the Lakeside Speaker Series. Freewill offerings are accepted. Sessions run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Presentations are 20 to 30 minutes in length, followed by a question and answer period. Refreshments and snacks are served. Registration is not required but appreciated. To register, call the JRH office at (920) 231-9060 or email [email protected].

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