Setting Captives Free: Racism and God’s Liberating Grace


Weeks of February 11, February 18, February 25,
March 3, March 10, and March 17, 2024
Register by February 9, 2024

In the summer of 2020 when the Black Lives Matter Movement emerged in many communities around the country, ministers of Ignatian Spirituality from Jesuit apostolates in the Washington, DC area sought to explore their personal complicity with systemic racism. They knew from experience that Ignatian Spirituality could tackle difficult topics. They wondered if the spirituality that they loved and practiced could help them and others uncover their complicity with unjust social structures, help them grow in interior freedom and with God’s grace open them to transformation.

Hovering in the background were the Society of Jesus’ invitations to conversion that are encapsulated in the Universal Apostolic Preferences. [1] (UAPs). The UAPs encourage Jesuits and their colleagues “to experience secular society as a sign of the times” [2] and to walk with “those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice” [3]. The Setting Captives Free retreat incorporates these UAPs while drawing from a 450-year-old tradition of pointing a way to God through discernment and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. [4]

Retreatants are asked to commit 30 minutes of prayer each day for five weeks of the six-week retreat.  A communal Opening Session will take place on zoom on Sunday, February 11, 1:00pm to 2:30pm.  Small groups (4-6 individuals) will meet weekly for 90 minutes on zoom with two experienced co-facilitators.  Each group will be composed of individuals from a specific racial group, e.g., those who identify as BIPOC will be in one group, those who identify as white will be in another group.  We will not have mixed racial groups.

Drawn from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, the retreat is designed to invite the retreatant to ask for the graces of God’s unconditional love, God’s revelation of the retreatant’s complicity with systemic racism, humility and contrition for the retreatant’s participation in harmful social structures that support racism, and God’s ongoing transformation and liberation of the retreatant as an enabler of racism.

“We resolve to gain a deeper experience of the Spiritual Exercises so that they lead us to a personal and communal encounter with Christ that transforms us.”

— Universal Apostolic Preferences, 2019/06. p.2

The retreat will invite participants to ‘center’ on their complicity with racist structures and be open to being ‘de-centered’ on oneself by God’s transforming and reconciling grace. The retreat may evoke difficult and uncomfortable feelings and experiences. Participants are encouraged to share what they feel safe sharing in their small group and/or privately with a confidant/spiritual director.

Reflections from retreatants in the Fall 2022 cohort:

“I feel invited into a journey that will continue.  I feel more able to look without defensiveness  at how racism and White supremacy live in me and the structures I live in and perpetuate.”                       Retreatant, Fall 2022

“These [supplementary materials] were the best surprise, connecting with Black writers and poets on racism and living in an anti-Black world that I help create and sustain. I take these above all.”       Retreatant, Fall 2022

“I have [participated in other activities to help me recognize racist attitudes], and this retreat’s focus on scripture and Ignatian spiritual principles was a new and fruitful structure for my going deeper into my complicity with White supremacy & racism.”                                                                                                     Retreatant, Fall 2022

Questions?  Contact Martina O’Shea at

Register Here

Registration deadline is February 9, 2024.


1 Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAP) – orientations to guide the Jesuits and their companions in a journey of conversion to share the Gospel of Jesus more authentically

2 UAP [1]

3 UAP [2]

4 UAP [1]