What Happens on an HEC?

The retreats are one day in length, spaced throughout the year. They are held at local retreat facilities.

Each person with a physical disability is partnered with an able-bodied person who cares for him or her throughout the weekend. The retreat combines talks, group discussions, prayer celebrations, Mass, skits, social fun & plenty of time for one-on-one conversations. The retreat begins at 7:00pm on Friday and ends at 1:00pm on Sunday.

HEC retreats are intended to level the playing field for people who often are left out of ordinary church or civic affairs. The HEC community invites people from all faiths and/or walks of life to the retreat experience.

Here are the 3 most important things about the retreat:

  1. Able-bodied HECers are not just "volunteers," but full participants on the retreat. Just like the people with physical limitations, they are on the retreat to have fun, deepen their spirituality and share in the community.
  2. Teamwork is crucial to the success of the weekend. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Also, try to offer help if you are in a position to do so.
  3. We all have abilities and disabilities; some just show more than others. The retreat is intended to provide an atmosphere where our abilities can shine and where we don't have to feel self-conscious about our disabilities.

Your HEC Partner

Each HECer is assigned a partner for the retreat - this is an integral part of the retreat experience! Able-bodied partners help their disabled partner with whatever they need throughout the weekend. Some people need a lot of assistance with everyday tasks such as eating, dressing, brushing their teeth, getting in and out of bed, going to the bathroom, etc. Others mainly need a listening ear or guidance to stay focused on the weekend's activities. Many able-bodied partners are surprised at how much their disabled partners can do for themselves. New able-bodied participants are assigned partners who don't need much help or they work with a more experienced HECer to assist a partner who does need a lot of help.

One unusual aspect about the retreat is that everyday tasks take a little longer than we ordinarily expect. We call this phenomenon "HEC Time." It may be a lot different from everyday life, but once HECers get used to going with the flow, they may actually enjoy the slower pace!

Please contact us if you would like to be added to the mailing list to receive notices about upcoming retreats or to find out more about HEC retreats.

History of HEC

Thirty five years ago John Keck, a man of vision, commitment and determination, had a dream about offering a Christian retreat program to people with physical disabilities. He shared his decision with a group of friends who enthusiastically helped him turn his dream into reality. The first Handicapped Encounter Christ retreat was successfully launched in April, 1974 in New York, and John became known as the "Father of HEC."

Even though no programmed growth has been planned for HEC, active communities have taken root throughout North America, Australia and the Philippines. Philadelphia's inaugural HEC retreat was in February, 1977, sponsored by Villanova University's Office of Campus Ministry. The flame still burns brightly in the community offering physical, spiritual, and fellowship support to thousands of participants.