Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gearing up for the Retreat


I've been busy this week preparing for the Vocations Retreat that starts at St John's Seminary tomorrow night. I popped in to St John's last Thursday to meet with some of the students who will be helping out and also to make sure everything was okay as regards accommodation. The bursdar told me he was having difficulty fitting all twenty-one lads in so I understood the look on his face when I told him there were now twenty-three! Additionally, of course, there will be myself and Fr Paul Turner from Arundel and Brighton diocese - so the college had to find room for twenty-five extra guests!
I called back there today, partly because I wanted some quiet time to go through the material for my meditations and partly because, having turned down two further applicants this week, I wanted to see how things were looking on the room front: it's a bit cold to camp out in the grounds or to sleep in a car in the carpark! It seems the domestic staff, who always do so much at the seminary, have had their work cut out bringing back into use a number of rooms that had lain dormant for some years. Even so, some of the lads will have to share, but we can cope with that.
I've now worked out the themes for muy meditation and have got them more or less planned. I never finalise them until I see how the group gels together. Fr Paul will give a talk one evening on priesthood and Fr Gerard Bradley, the Spiritual Director, will talk on discernment. Additionally a recently ordained priest will come down for lunch on Saturday to speak about his experience of priesthood.
We will join the student body for Office, Holy Mass and the college Holy Hour. We will also be with the seminarians for meal times and the students know they can join us for any of our activities. This is really important. When I first suggested having a vocations event at the seminary the concern was raised that it might put people off. I guess the priest in question couldn't have had a happy experience - who knows? Anyway, I've found the opposite to be true. The witness of young and committed seminarians is an invaluable support to the work we do.

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