Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Wonersh Retreat

Frs Paul and James with the assembled retreatants

Since coming back to the parish I've been rather swept away with catching up on things so I've not yet posted on the excellent retreat we had at Wonersh last weekend. This was the third joint Vocations Retreat between Southwark and Arundel and Brighton dioceses that we have held at the seminary.

There were twelve participants, as it happpens six from each diocese. In fact I was only expecting five from Southwark but we had an extra one turn up in time for dinner on the first night. We had a great welcome from both the staff and the students. After dinner some of the students laid on drinks and nibbles in the Upper Common Room and the Rector came in to welcome us. He then stayed to mingle and get to meet everyone present.

The serious part of the retreat started later when we joined the students for their nightly Holy Hour. I was invited to preach a meditation before the Blessed Sacrament and at the end to preside at Compline and Benediction. We ended, in accordance with the college's custom, by singing the Ave Regina Caelorum at the Lady Chapel. After that most people retired for an early night.

On Saturday the Rector, Mgr Jeremy Garratt, presided at the morning Mass and preached a very appropriate Lenten homily, even managing to quote Bruce Springsteen although admitting that his acquaintance with that particular artist's ouvre is somewhat limited.

Fr Paul Turner, my opposite number in Arundel and Brighton, gave a couple of talks over the weekend. The first was about the nature of diocesan priesthood and the second was on discernment. They were both first rate, inspiring talks that gave us all a lot to think about. Fr James Clark, from the Southwark Vocations Team, spoke on Confession both from the point of view of the penitent and of the confessor. Again, a great talk. I gave the meditations which took place each morning and afternoon. There was also a get-together on Saturday led expertly by Kurt, one of the first year students.

A lot of the time was spent simply talking to those who had come on the retreat. Visiting the seminary, having an opportunity to meet the seminarians, and having the space to pray, are all great opportunities in the process of vocations discernment. Judging from the emails I've received, the weekend had a big effect on those who attended.

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