Relate a little about your professional, religious and spiritual background:
Hello. My name is Mike Welling. I have been blessed to have been associated with the Bridges Foundation since 2005. My wife, Stephanie, and I have been married since 1971, and we have two sons, Chris and Joe. Professionally, I spent eleven years as an educator in Catholic schools: three years at Our Lady of Sorrows School, teaching 8th graders English, reading, and religion; a year at Bishop DuBourg High School teaching sophomores and juniors writing and literature; and seven years as principal at St. Mathias School in South St. Louis County. I left Catholic education in 1980 and spent the next eighteen years at McDonnell Aircraft and Boeing in business administration and planning departments in support of engineering functions. In 1998, I returned to Catholic education as the principal of Incarnate Word Parish School in Chesterfield where I labored with love until my retirement in July 2018.
During the course of receiving the Bridges Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, what surprised you?
As alluded to above, in 2005 I looked into Bridges and made the 19th annotation retreat from September 2005 to May 2006. I was familiar with Ignatian spirituality (and the 30-day retreat) because I attended a Jesuit boarding high school, Campion, for four years, and because I spent seven years after high school as a seminarian studying to be a Jesuit priest. In spite of my familiarity with Ignatian spirituality, once I engaged in the Bridges experience a few things surprised, and even delighted, me.
Why would you recommend the Bridges Retreat? Why do you remain active in the Bridges community?
As rich and meaningful as the 30-day retreat was for me as an 18-year old, it was even more so for me as a 60-year old husband, dad, and working man. I was drawn into the retreat to give more life and strength to my personal relationship with Christ, but I unexpectedly came to value and appreciate the group/communal aspect of the Bridges experience.
After the retreat, I found myself longing to keep the benefits of that special experience present and growing in my life. Bridges Two (now called “Magis”) has made it possible and natural for me to continue deepening my understanding of Ignatian Spirituality and invigorating my spiritual life. I appreciate how the subject matter of the retreat is in sync with the Church’s liturgical seasons, especially during Advent, Lent, and Easter season.