Discover the Difference: Retreat offers respite, strengthens relationships

September 28, 2021

Sister Jude Fitzpatrick leads a retreat


At the Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools, faith is incorporated into the daily curriculum to continue to form disciples. But faith formation isn't just for our students. Recently, administrators from across the diocese gathered at the St. Thomas More Center near Lake Panorama in Panora for respite, team-building and quiet reflection. 

Sister Jude Fitzpatrick, a former school teacher, administrator and superintendent ofnull schools, led the retreat. The theme of the day, "Blessed," centered on the Beatitudes and how they connect to the leadership role our administrators hold. Throughout the retreat, administrators engaged in individual, small group, and large group reflection while enjoying the beautiful weather as they shared their faith.

"The best part of the retreat was seeing the administrators have time to slow down and shut off, even for a day," shared Denise Mulcahy, director of Teaching and Learning. "Their job doesn't stop or slow down, so giving them the gift of this retreat to strengthen their relationship with God, themselves, and each other was the goal."

Relationship building is crucial to a thriving school culture and high-performing teams. According to Education World, "Retreats not only can improve teaching techniques, but build staff morale and cohesiveness as well." Moreover, retreats can help reduce and prevent staff burnout by enhancing school culture -- a leading indicator of staff satisfaction. A 2020 study found that 75% of education professionals surveyed said that faculty culture and school atmosphere were among the most important factors when choosing a place of employment. That same study found that only 35 percent of individuals surveyed cited salary and benefits as an important factor (ISM, 2020). 

"The COVID-19 pandemic was especially hard on faculty, staff and administrators," said Donna Bishop, superintendent of Schools. "Hosting this retreat allowed our administrators to connect in a meaningful way, ultimately enhancing our school communities. We wanted to honor our administrators for their tireless efforts put in to foster a safe and positive learning environment during this past year and help them recharge for the year ahead."

The Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools includes 16 schools in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa. Catholic schools in the Des Moines Diocese build Christ-centered, collaborative, inclusive partnerships with parents, students, and parishes to provide innovative academic excellence and inspirational faith formation. To learn about more Catholic schools in the Diocese of Des Moines, visit or email


Education World. (2015). Retreat, Review, Recharge! Retrieved September 27, 2021 from

Independent School Management (ISM). (September 20, 2020). A Positive Faculty Culture Can Help Prevent Teacher Burnout. Retrieved September 27, 2021 from