Every seminary year ends with a period of retreat and reflection. First the deacons go away to prepare for their ordination, then the priests to prepare for their ordination by the Cardinal.
All other seminarians go away with most of the staff as a group. This year we travelled by coach to St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre near St Asaph in North Wales. This is a spacious and comfortable 19th century stone building, originally designed for Jesuits as they completed their formation to become full members of the society. The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins worked there and discovered his poetic gifts when responding to a newspaper account of the wreck of the ship Deutschland. The centre is set in the countryside, so walks were easily available, including to the village of Tremeirchion whose parish church is the only Anglican church dedicated to Corpus Christi. In our week not even the sporadic rain deterred us from taking exercise every afternoon.
This was part of our daily discipline as the team of directors led by Roger Dawson SJ guided us in the paths of Ignatian Spirituality. Dermot O’Connor SJ opened each day with a conference on different approaches to prayer. Then, guided in a daily meeting with our individual director, we were allowed the freedom and the physical space to explore and accept what graces and gifts and consolations God wanted to offer us. This was supported by life in silence and the Mass each evening.
All of us returned to the Allen Hall, to pack up for the end of the residential year, enriched and encouraged. Now it is on to the Year of Mercy Jubilee Mass with the Cardinal and the ordination of priests. Then we spread out into parish placements for a month, World Youth Day in Poland and a variety of global experiences including Israel and Kenya.