Richmond Chrysalis is a three day nondenominational religious retreat that provides the opportunity to gain a better relationship with Jesus Christ. This weekend retreat was named after the transformation through which a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, which is called a “chrysalis.” The Chrysalis experience in Richmond takes place in a Catholic church, Mary Mother of the Church Abbey, on River Road. The retreat participants’ experience is analogous to the journey the caterpillar goes through to become a beautiful butterfly. Chrysalis claims that the retreat process symbolizes how Jesus can transform and is very critical for the spiritual development of adolescents, just as the cocoon is essential for the caterpillar to become a butterfly.
The national Chrysalis movement started in 1984 and has been active in Richmond for over ten years. The adult version of Chrysalis is named the Walk to Emmaus. The adult Walk to Emmaus played a large role in establishing the Chrysalis. There is also a young adult version of Chrysalis, which is called Journey.
There are two broad kinds of people involved in the experience of a Chrysalis: the team members, all of whom have all been through the Chrysalis experience, and the caterpillars, those who turn into spiritual butterflies over the three days. The three-day experience is appropriately called a “flight,” which consists of youth members of the same gender. There are adults there to supervise and do a great deal to help, but most of it is run by the youth who relate to each other as Christian teens. There are two flights for boys and two for girls annually.
To keep this retreat a surprise for the butterflies, many of the retreat activities are not discussed in advance. A majority of the weekend is all about agape (Christian love), and the upcoming butterflies are taught that God’s love is unconditional. The unique part of this adventure is learning about how to love with surprises around every corner. Caterpillars are not allowed to have anything with them on this retreat that will prevent them from being close to God and the other caterpillars. No cell phones, watches, computers or anything that may distract a person from having an intimate encounter with God are allowed. Organizers state that the objective of the Chrysalis process is to allow the butterfly to feel free to fly away and share with other caterpillars how much they love being transformed. However, participants are cautioned to keep most of their adventures of their flight private in their own heart, to remember their unique journey, and to preserve the surprises for future flights to come.
Butterflies are not the only people that can be involved in the Chrysalis community. Chrysalis has more inclusive social events called HOOTs, and anyone can attend these to socialize with local Christian teens. These events offer time to catch up with old Chrysalis friends or meet people in the Chrysalis community before attending a flight, but none of the special secrets of Chrysalis are revealed. There are also other gatherings just for people in the Chrysalis population. Sometimes Chrysalis, Emmaus and Journey people all get together as well to join as a community.
Richmond Chrysalis’ website
Youth Community Lay Director for Richmond Chrysalis
Profile prepared by Heather Riekers