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The Road to Setting Captives Free

By Martina O’Shea


Five years ago, Father Gap LoBiondo, S.J. then superior of the Jesuit Community at Gonzaga College High School, initiated conversations with ministers of Ignatian Spirituality in the Washington area. He sought to explore how the resources found in the ten Jesuit or Jesuit-affiliated institutions in the Washington area could be more accessible to meeting individuals’ requests for retreats, spiritual direction, and formation programs in Ignatian Spirituality.

Representatives gathered in March 2017 from the DC area’s institutions: the Washington Jesuit Academy, St. Ignatius Parish in Chapel Point, McKenna Center, Loyola Retreat House, Gonzaga College High School, Jesuit Community at St Aloysius, Georgetown Preparatory High School, Georgetown University, Jesuit Community at Georgetown University, Office of the Assistant to the Provincial for Spirituality Ministries, and Holy Trinity Church. We began what would become a five-year journey of reading and reflecting on significant Jesuit documents while engaging in discernment and spiritual conversation.

We had no idea where we were being led! We sought, however, to create a discerning community that would follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we collaborated across institutional boundaries. In this way we would embody the mission of the Society of Jesus in the Washington area in its spirituality ministry.

And so, the Washington Area Ministers of Ignatian Spirituality (WAMIS) was born. The initiative had the support of the Provincial, Father Bob Hussey, S.J. Fathers Joe Lingan, S.J. George Witt, S.J. and Kevin Gillespie, S.J.

Each time WAMIS met, we engaged in spiritual conversation and communal discernment. We applied to our meetings the best practices of the presupposition, contemplative listening, and speaking from the heart. Through this process we moved from being a community of “I” to a community of “We.”

It was in this spiritual milieu during the summer of 2020 when George Floyd was murdered and the Black Lives Matter movement spoke to us and to so many of our sisters and brothers, that we gathered to explore our personal complicity with systemic racism. We knew from experience that Ignatian Spirituality could tackle difficult topics. We wondered if the spirituality that we loved and practiced could help us and others uncover our complicity with unjust social structures, help us grow in interior freedom, and with God’s grace open us to transformation.

Drawing from the best of Ignatian spirituality while consulting with people of color, we created the Setting Captives Free: Racism, I and You, and God’s Liberating Grace retreat. Angela Grady, Nina Santiago, Devarda Jones, Stephen Szolosi, Father Gap LoBiondo, S.J. Father Brian McDermott, S.J. Analise Brower, Kim Cox, John Krambuhl, Father George Witt, S.J. and Martina O’Shea made this project a reality!

During Lent 2021, those who created the retreat made the retreat. Last fall, Holy Trinity’s twelve-membered Ignatian Retreat Team made the retreat. During Lent 2022, we are offering the retreat to the faculty, staff, and parishioners of Jesuit institutions in the Washington metro area. Questions? Information can be found at


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