AIM is a Catholic retreat ministry that serves the spiritual needs of adults with physical disabilities. Parishioners of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton created the ministry in 1979. Since then, participants and volunteers have come from churches throughout South Florida, in both the Diocese of Palm Beach and the Archdiocese of Miami.
AIM offers individuals whose disabilities have kept them from participating in regular parish retreats a means to deepen their faith— either through annual weekend-long overnight retreats, or through regular online mini retreats. Participants are paired at the in-person retreats with "buddies" who provide them with one-on-one assistance.
In-person retreats take place in a loving, sensitive and accommodative environment that removes many of the obstacles posed by physical disabilities. The family and caregivers of participants are also served, as the weekend retreats provide them respite from their daily caregiving tasks. Retreats include inspiring talks, lively discussions, joyful singing and other meaningful activities. Each participant is treated with the dignity and respect that any son or daughter of God deserves. Volunteers become supportive partners whose assistance makes it easier for their buddies to fully absorb the retreat’s spiritual experience. Participants leave transformed, energized and desiring to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others.
AIM, an outreach ministry of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton, maintains faithfulness to Catholic beliefs and practices. It is open to individuals of any faith and welcomes new participants and volunteers.
In 1979, Harriet and Bernie Molinski were looking for a spiritual retreat for their daughter, Kathy, who was experiencing the debilitating effects of Huntington's disease and could not participate in extended parish retreats. They joined with their friend Eileen Kenney to create a spiritual retreat ministry focused on providing overnight weekend retreats to individuals with physical disabilities.
For inspiration and structure, Harriet and Eileen volunteered in New York at a Handicapped Encounter Christ (HEC) weekend retreat, learned from their experience, and modeled their retreats after it. They called their new ministry Achieve Inspire Motivate—in short, AIM. Through the years, the retreats have been modified slightly by the “Cursillo” style of retreat. That style aligns them strongly with the retreat traditions of the Catholic Church, celebrating the love God has for each of us, and highlighting the uniqueness, originality and creativity of each person.
Since its founding, AIM's weekend retreats have been held every year with the exception of 2020 and 2021, when the COVID 19 pandemic prevented personal contact. Ever adaptive, the ministry began regular virtual mini retreats through Zoom to continue uplifting participants with spiritual talks, discussions, prayer, song and interaction with a loving community.
Participants and volunteers are very grateful to Kathy, Harriet, Bernie and Eileen for planting the seeds, watering them, and nourishing them through the years. Kathy’s daughter Ally also was an enthusiastic participant for several years, having also inherited the progressively debilitating effects of Huntington’s disease. While Eileen and Bernie (RIP) have passed away, Harriet continues to participate in the new online retreats.
AIM founders Eileen Kenney and Harriet and Bernie Molinski.
Want to know a little more about AIM? This video was prepared for AIM's last in-person weekend retreat, which was held before the pandemic in 2019. AIM anticipates holding its next weekend retreat in 2022, at a date to be determined.
The AIM Strategic Plan
The Strategic Plan explains the mission and goals of AIM, an outreach ministry of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton, Florida. You can read it here or download it.