Retreat helps participants find peace in simplicity of the Gospel

The Francis Retreat in Bonny Hills was the perfect venue for the ‘Returning to the Simplicity of the Gospel’ retreat held on Sunday 30 October. Attended by 78 enthusiastic participants, the retreat was organised and facilitated by Leanne and Shane Hyland, who are parishioners of St Agnes’ Catholic Parish as well as Diocesan Coordinators of the Passionist Family Group for Lismore and Armidale.

After so much time apart due to COVID, the retreat was a wonderful, gentle way to come together as a community. The program for the day centred around learning and applying the spiritual disciplines of Lectio Divina and Visio Divina and contemplating the virtue of simplicity.

Lectio Divina means ‘divine reading’ and is a process that aims to lead the Christian prayer from head to heart, while meditating upon the scripture in the presence of God.

Visio Divina means ‘divine seeing’. It is the slow, thoughtful contemplation of a picture, photo, work of art, or really anything visual that invites God to speak to us in a deeper way.

In each of these sessions, quite a few participants chose to remain in Assisi hall to enjoy the benefits of being guided through these spiritual disciplines by Leanne and Shane whilst others chose to go outside in the beautiful surrounds for self-directed prayer.

Participants also spent time walking in the labyrinth skilfully created by The Francis Retreat managers, Joady and Peter Castles, taking time to reflect on the presence of God in their lives. They also enjoy singing along to the lovely reflective music Shane provided.

Youth Ministry Officers from Mackillop College, Ella Ippavic and Gian Pollaci Byrnes, facilitated the Youth Program offered on the day. The young people who attended were guided through similar experiences to the adults and had a great time playing together outdoors.

As indicated by the positive feedback received, participants thoroughly enjoyed the reflective and prayerful nature of the retreat and are looking forward to the next one.

Participants’ comments included:

“I valued the quiet times for reflection and practice of various disciplines. I found the third session – walking, labyrinth, breathing meditation especially helpful.”

“It was facilitated so well and the venue was just perfect. I really appreciated the time and space to retreat. We are grateful that children were welcomed and catered for. It was all terrific!”

“I valued the balance between guidance and personal self-direction. I also valued the booklet provided. The quietness, reflection time, just what I needed… A wonderful setting!”

“Welcoming, relaxed, spiritual, lifegiving!! Just so very thankful for a timely and much needed spiritual renewal – Thank you. It was a joy!”

“A different simple approach to a spiritual experience (Christian). For myself the option of guiding and completing the tasks in the beautiful surroundings was a success!”

The day ended with three beautiful meditation options of Mindful Walking, Labyrinth & Breathing Meditation.

The retreat was provided on behalf of the Passionist Family Group Movement. Family groups help people get to know other members of their parish community. Members of a family group support each other, sharing each other’s joys and sorrows and so building the Christian community as in the early Church. Family groups bring together people of all ages and help us involve our children in our Christian sharing directly, if possible, or indirectly by our example. For more information about Family Groups please contact the Parish office.

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