sun setting over mountains and landscape
  • GilChrist Retreat Center
  • Retreat
  • Religion and Spirituality
  • Southwest Michigan
  • Spiritual Formation

When we think of "resilient” people, we generally think of individuals who adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, stress, and/or tragedy. Resilience is a capacity that each of us can build within ourselves through our thoughts, behaviors, habits, and actions. Stoicism is a rich philosophical tradition that emphasizes the importance of cultivating four virtues – wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice – to build our resilience, to live well and to live authentically in the face of life’s challenges. The virtue of Justice specifically acknowledges humanity’s interconnectedness and the importance of action to advance the common good.

This retreat will examine Stoic philosophy and practice to explore the relationship between the four Stoic virtues, personal resilience, and transformative action for social justice. We will reflect on Stoic thought to craft our own strategies to promote resilience while engaging social contexts where discrimination, anger, inequity, and exclusion manifest themselves. Given the primacy of mind and reason in Stoic thought, we will place Stoics in dialogue with thinkers from Eastern traditions who acknowledge the importance of giving our minds a rest. In particular, we will explore the potential of mindfulness practice to influence the world beyond the “self” (Korean Buddhist Nun and feminist, Kim Iryŏp), insights from poets who explore the connection between heart, mind and emotions, and thinkers who have reflected on Stoicism and its implications for self-cultivation and self-knowledge (Michel Foucault). Our deep dives will explore the connection between mind, heart, and soul through journaling, mindfulness work, and philosophical reflection on what it means to attain inner peace, act justly, and to live authentically, in accordance with our nature.

GilChrist Retreat Center, located on 67 acres of rolling hills, meadows, and forest, is intentionally designed to foster meditation and contemplative practice. We will fully engage our surroundings to help us craft strategies for creative engagement and personal resilience to embolden leadership, strategic patience, and sustainable advocacy. No background in philosophy or Stoicism is necessary.

About the Facilitator

Kathy Purnell, Esq., Ph.D., has over two decades of professional experience as a lawyer, professor, and nonprofit administrator. She is a graduate of Harvard University (A.B.), Cornell University (Ph.D.) and the DePaul University College of Law (J.D.). She is trained in philosophical counseling techniques from the American Philosophical Practitioners Association and as a life coach. Dr. Purnell is a licensed attorney in the State of Michigan and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, where she served as the Diversity Chair of AILA’s Michigan chapter. Her current practice is focused on civil and human legal practice as well as mindfulness and resilience for transformative justice. She has also used her advanced training in political philosophy, law, and ethics to teach students at seven different universities including Kalamazoo College, Western Michigan University, and DePaul University, has led “Resilience Retreats” at the GilChrist Center of the Fetzer Institute, and is a member of both the Kalamazoo Truth Racial Healing and Transformation’s (TRHT) Law Design Team and its Racial Healing Circle Practitioner Cohort. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society and is a regular leader of their Ethics Book Clubs for challenging public dialogues on topics such as immigration, racial equity in education, hate speech in democratic community, and housing as a human right.

Retreat Schedule

Friday, August 12, 2022, 6 p.m. – Sunday, August 14, 2022, 12:00 p.m.

Registration and Lodging Details

Please complete this application form to register. The cost for the retreat program is $150. Space is limited. Please inquire about options for financial accessibility.

Once you have registered and paid for the program with the facilitator, contact GilChrist to reserve your cabin using the online registration form or by calling the main office at (269) 244-1130. Lodging is $50/night per person in addition to the program fee. Participants will check into their cabins between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. on Friday, August 12 at a time you communicate via your cabin reservation. Cabin check-out is at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 14.

A light continental breakfast will be provided Saturday and Sunday and a communal dinner will take place on Saturday evening, so please let Kathy know if you have any dietary restrictions. Other than Saturday evening, individuals are responsible for their own meals. Each guest space at GilChrist is equipped with a complete kitchen. See the complete GilChrist FAQ for more information about the facility.

Note: all group participants are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.


GilChrist retreat center logo with white pine sprig

GilChrist is the public retreat center of the Fetzer Institute. We support the Institute’s mission of helping build the spiritual foundation for a loving world by preserving a contemplative environment for healing self, society, and the natural world. We warmly welcome both groups and individuals and people of all faiths and affiliations.


GilChrist Retreat Center

Three Rivers , MI 56265 Day Rd