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2022 Associates Retreat – “Exploring Our Relationship to God through Creation”

On October 1, 2022,  May Barisone, Olga Barrera, Nannette Miller, Yolanda Santillan, Sr. Anita Torres, Cathy Pickerel, Kathey Valenzuela, Rosalie Cabrera, Earlene Dutton, Sandra Jhung, Loretta Nekota, Tina Panelli, Lupita Vital, and Kay Sweeney gathered at Mercy Center in Burlingame to explore our relationships to God through creation.

Facilitator Christy Brink provided an environment that made it easy to get in touch with how each of them experienced that relationship.  The view from the window of our retreat space of a hillside of trees, especially oak, led to many rich reflections.

Rosalie Cabrera shared with the group her special relationship with hummingbirds; Loretta Nekota her connection to the ocean; Kathey Valenzuela her treasured fall leaves; and Olga Barerra the Indigenous practice of planting the three sisters together.  Read about their presentations below.

As true Presentation People we had a lively celebration on Saturday evening.  The center of the evening was honoring the Associates who had reached anniversary years:  Christa Hanson for 30 years, and Lupita Vital and Mary Anne Maloney for 20 years.  Tina Panelli recognized Lupita for all she has done. We were honored to have Lupita there in person.  May Barisone read Christa’s story and Rosalie Cabrera told us about Mary Anne.  Each received a box of notes written by the retreat participants and a charm to wear with their Associate medal designating their years as an Associate.  May Barisone hosted our celebration with food, drink, and fun.  Lots of good conversation was shared!


Our annual associate retreat was a wonderful bonding experience filled with beautiful reflection and sharing. I left with so much more appreciation for nature and a lot to ponder. We honored our Associate anniversaries and enjoyed dessert and great stories. ~ May Barisone


Communication with God through His creation – Rosalie Cabrera

In a time of isolation and uncertainty (the pandemic), I was visited by one of God’s most radiant and communicative creatures, the hummingbird! These faithful visitors were messengers of joy, peace and consolation from the Creator, and remain so on a daily basis.

In the beginning, it was a morning gathering, as I sat in my garden enjoying my cup of coffee. The birds, four to six of them, would buzz around me, insistent that I be attentive to their presence. One morning, an extremely feisty bird whom I called “boss” positioned himself directly in front of my face, fiercely rotating his wings, demanding my undivided attention. We looked at each other eye to eye, and I immediately knew he and his companions were the Lord’s deliverers of peace, joy and comfort.

The day I flew to San Francisco airport for retreat, I was in the process of parking my car at Burbank airport. I got out of my car to get my ticket, looked up, and who was there? My messenger, the hummingbird! There is no such thing as coincidence.

The Three Sisters – Olga Barrera

The retreat was wonderful as it centered around eco spirituality; and in that vein, I related a story from Robin Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass.  In this book is the story of “the three sisters” which all of us in the Associate book club enjoyed.  You see, the three sisters are corn, beans and pumpkins, which the native Americans planted together, all three seeds, in one hole.  Each of the seeds or sisters needed the other to thrive and ALL provided support to the other.  While the resulting crop did not look like western European crops, it was a jumble, it was more efficient.  The corn was first, tall and sturdy, and provided support for the beans; the beans provided nutrients from the nitrogen in the air; and the pumpkin kept moisture in the soil.  The gift of each of these sisters is more fully realized when they are planted and nurtured together, rather then alone.  And this is so true of each of us and our unique gifts; this is how communities work together, our families and our Associates. 

I then gave each retreat member a package of the three sisters. 

The Leaf Project – Kathey Valenzuela

On October 1, I attended the annual Associate retreat at the Mercy Center with 15 Associates. I intended to cultivate self-awareness, forge lifelong connections with the Associates, and revisit my reasons for becoming an Associate.

One of the exercises I shared with the group was a falling leaf project I created in 4th grade. This project profoundly impacted me; being in nature (with the trees) would clear my mind and help me feel more grounded and peaceful. I’ve always enjoyed hiking in nature and looking out a window at the natural scene. Sr. Juana Marie, my teacher, would laugh if she knew I still cherish my science project of all the falling leaves that have been a part of my life.

Our visit and time together enjoying meals, meditation practices, and sharing stories help rejuvenate our contributions to the spiritual journey of being an Associate.

My Pacific Ocean – Loretta Nekota

Loretta’s connection to the ocean is strong – from her Hawaiian childhood to the view of the Farallons from her Daly City home. In her reflection she shared some of the things that are meaningful to her about the ocean – family, food, beauty. Her reflection booklet, including beautiful photos, can be read here.


The Sequoia Room where we started placed me right with God’s creation!

As we continued the day it was for me one of growing in: listening, looking, learning and being!!

Thank you God for the blessings you showered on us.  

~ Sister Anita


The tree had long ago fallen over.
Who knows how, wind, rain, earthquake.
But the caretakers of land felts it pain
And supported its limbs.

We are all supported by community,
In unseen and seen ways.

Be grateful!

~ Nanette Miller

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