27 April 2012
The first of the two pre Chapter gatherings was held in “High Leigh Conference Centre,” Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. It was a large, busy, comfortable Centre with very good bedroom and Conference facilities but no extras. There was obvious effort to be sustainable and simple. We met the other groups using the Centre, in the dining areas and it was great to see a large number of young families there. Our meeting rooms were quite separate and the various groups had full privacy
We were seventy in number including the Team, Facilitators and Freda, our secretary for the event. Most Sisters were from the southern half of the country but there was a fair mix from the North and Midlands.
Our days were full, starting with breakfast from 8.15. The sessions started with a simple, inspirational Morning Prayer which prepared us for the deep, intense work of the days. They were intense, because we were dealing with our core values, who we are; why we are; and how we are, in this critical period of our history. We looked at the critical issues in society, the global arena and in our Church and Congregation; what were the risks , and the challenges we must face up to in next ten years as we face radical diminishment?
We were blessed with our facilitators Sr. Raymunda Jordon OP and Fr. Gabriel Zsidi who kept us gently but firmly to task. They let us know when they were not satisfied with our efforts! There was tendency at first to keep to our comfort zone and avoid the stark realities we must face.
We were very blessed and moved by the Eucharist each Day in which the new, beautiful Mercy Eucharistic Prayer was used. I think we all experienced the 'Gathering' as enriching and fruitful, moving us together, into the similar insecurities and challenges that faced our Founding Sisters. May we live up to the challenges with their faith and courage!
Our last evening would, I am sure, have delighted Catherine McAuley. A small group started a sing song and were joined by others, so we moved from the corridor into a larger room; more and more sisters were drawn to the sound. We were soon crowded to the door, as almost the whole gathering ended joining in. The musical content was wide and varied. Probably the most popular was the nursery rhyme contest to the tune of “I love to go a wandering “. We never did discover which side won because after at least 25 minutes of contest we all gave up in exhaustion. It was a very enjoyable end to a very fruitful Gathering.