In the provincial chapter of the Mary Martha Province of the Vincentian congregation in India, held in 1990, the activities of the Potta Ashram and Divine Retreat Centre were discussed at length. This was the time the Holy Father Pope John Paul II had given the urgent call for new evangelisation in the Church. "I see the dawning of a New Missionary Age. The urgency of the new evangelisation demands that the religious today…stay in the very vanguard of preaching." Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the chapter decided that the Potta-Divine Retreat ministry would be the response of the Vincentian congregation to this call of the Pope.
The divine retreats begin with the joyous proclamation of the forgiveness and salvation of the Heavenly Father, who "so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). Salvation in Jesus is experienced through a radical turning away from sin and turning to God in repentance. This offer of salvation was the first message preached by Jesus Christ as well. "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Matt 4:17).
In the Sacrament of Confession, the retreatants are convicted of their sin by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:8), their sins forgiven by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:8), in the power of the same Holy Spirit through the ministry of the Church (Jn 20:22-23), and given a share in the victory of Jesus over sin (Jn 16:11).
From the resulting radical conversion, people are led to total self-surrender, that results in an intimate union with Jesus in the Holy Spirit, as experienced in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (Jn 6:56). In this intimacy, the love of God is "poured into their hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5). The heart melting under this overwhelming outpouring of love, opens up in turn to love and forgive everyone.
This intense experience of love heals all wounds and soothes all the strains in family relationships. The bond of marriage is renewed as sacrament of grace is incorporated into the spousal relationship between Christ and His Church.
The charism of healing is exercised in the context of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Healing is understood not in the narrow sense of bodily well-being, but as the love of God flowing into the brokenness of man to make him whole. The leadership given by the priests in preaching and the exercise of the sacraments manifests the importance of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. All the charisms of the lay leaders such as counselling, preaching, service and so on, are harmoniously blended and channelised through the sacramental authority of the priests.
The retreat ends with the renewal of the sacramental vows of baptism and a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit as experienced in the Sacrament of Confirmation. This all-transforming experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth"(Acts 1:8). This empowering of the Holy Spirit is accepted as a special grace, to withstand the temptations of the evil one and to defend and spread the faith by word and action confessing Jesus Christ as the only saviour of mankind.
The grace of these seven sacraments instituted by Christ as signs of salvation and entrusted to the Church, is experienced afresh by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the renewal of Christian commitment.