So what elements make up the Retreat?
Usually a member of our team will have visited a group in their own school environment prior to their Retreat Day. In this way we can welcome the young people to this place even before they have arrived. We aim to make them feel at ease, explaining the format of the day and the programme they will be following. We always ask them to bring two things with them, a packed lunch and an open mind! They usually remember both!
On the Retreat Day itself we greet our visitors at the door and welcome them into our Centre, making them feel at home. Then we begin our Retreat
Welcome Session (Large Group)
Games and ice-breaking activities are important to help everyone to feel relaxed so that is how we start each day. During this session we also ask the group to suggest attitudes and behaviours which they feel are important to have, to make sure everyone has a good day. This becomes our group agreement and allows everyone to share in the responsibility for the success of the day. We say a morning prayer together and then the large group will split into three smaller groups and go off with one of the facilitators to another room, for their first session.
- Session One (Small Group)
The facilitator will spend some time getting to know the members of their group by name, before initiating discussion and activities based on the theme of the Retreat Day.
- Session Two – Meditation (Small Group)
This session is particularly popular with all the people who come here on Retreat. It is a Scripture-based guided meditation session in the Ignation style. The passage chosen will connect with the theme of the Retreat. The objective is to help the Retreatants to discern what God is saying to them in their own lives at this moment in time, through the words in the passage that they hear. After the meditation the Retreatants are invited to journal on their prayer experience, (this may take the form of artwork or writing) to help them further reflect on their experience of meditation, as well as helping them to remember what they experienced in their prayer, long after the Retreat Day has ended.
We are always amazed at just how well young people respond to this type of prayer. The question we are most often asked after the meditation is, “Can we do that again?”
In a very busy, noisy, information-saturated world, young people definitely welcome the rare opportunity to connect with themselves, their thoughts and feelings and the Spirit of God who dwells within them.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
This session usually involves discussion and a craft-based activity relevant to the theme of the Retreat. The retreatants will usually make something that they can take away with them to remember the experience of the Retreat.
- Liturgy Preparation (Small Focus Groups)
Each Retreat Day ends with a closing liturgy organised by the Retreatants themselves. They choose the Scripture and the music, they decorate the chapel enhancing the Sacred Space, they write the prayers and reflections for it. It belongs to them.