We have seen some interesting developments in Neighbourhood Retreat in 2014. On October 4th, at the invitation of Sr Anna O’Connor SSP, Vicar for Religious in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Sr Lucy O’Sullivan and Sr Eilís Coe gave a training day in The Mercy Centre, Handsworth, Birminhham.
Normally, our annual training would have ten or twelve participants and there would be six to eight trainers. This was a training with a difference. There were over thirty participants and two trainers. Given that all of those who came for the training were experienced in spiritual direction and pastoral leadership, we concentrated on the practicalities of giving a retreat rather than on the theoretical side of things. The group were most receptive and appreciative. It is the intention that these new leaders will have as their first retreatants groups who have just completed the RCIA programme. Sr Ella, a Salesian Sister who travelled from Oxford for the training, has contacted us to say she will shortly begin her retreat in Oxford, which is in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
It was interesting to hear that in UK, there are a number of lay people involved in ministry and that there is now a shortage of religious, whereas here in Ireland, it is difficult to find lay people who will accompany the religious in giving the retreat. We do, however, have several excellent lay people giving the retreats. There are three very active laypeople on the Neighbourhood Retreat committee and these are involved in giving retreats and trainings.
The Archdiocese of Birmingham had chosen Neighbourhood Retreat from among a number of possible options as their means of responding to the Holy Father’s appeal in Evangelii Gaudium, to share the joy of the Gospel. The Vicar General of the Archdiocese, Monsignor Timothy Menezes, was with us for part of the day and expressed his gratitude and appreciation for our visit to Birmingham.
We were blessed in having Sr Pat Kenny in Birmingham. Pat met us at the airport on our arrival, gave us accommodation and took us to and from the venue and back to the airport when we were leaving. Pat was also a participant in the training.
Sr Nora Mary Ryan UJ contacted us from Wales and requested books for her upcoming retreat.
Visit to Manresa On the 28th of October, Sr Sheila Geaney, Sr Lucy O’Sullivan and Sr Eilís Coe met in Manresa with Frs Piaras Jackson, Finbarr Lynch and Mike Drennan SJ. Our intention was to seek help and support for the Neighbourhood Retreat leaders. The Manresa team assured us that they would be very willing to offer a place on their regular courses and programmes to our personnel. They had read our handbooks and trainer’s manual and were very impressed by them. We were also invited to place our leaflets in Manresa, so that those who visit there might be aware of this particular way of presenting the Spiritual Exercises. They encouraged us to continue as we were, offering the retreats to people who would not otherwise have an opportunity to make a retreat and who have scant knowledge of the Gospel. In Fr Drennan’s words, the laity are “living on snippets”. As a follow-up, we will make sure to advertise our training by sending the notices to Manresa.
Retreats continue in Ireland, mostly during Lent. Some of our newer leaders have adapted the retreat, giving four weeks in Advent and four in Lent, rather than all eight weeks in Lent. Sisters who have returned from the Missions said that the retreat gives them a means of becoming involved in their parishes.
Sr Eilis Coe