Give thanks for a good Oxford year

Barmouth summer retreat
Barmouth summer retreat

The Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy year came to a close last week with a retreat at the Jesuit Villa House in Barmouth for eight students and two of the Chaplains.

For the students, it was a chance to become better acquainted with the Ignatian Examen and to use it as a way of looking back over the year and to give thanks to God for its blessings. For the Chaplains too, the days away provided time and space to review a year that had been particularly rich, and it is good to evoke some of that here.

There had been major liturgical celebrations: an Academic Mass in October, a Remembrance Day Mass commemorating the Oxford Catholic students who died in World War I, a Mass with Archbishop Longley, and the celebration of the Baptisms and Receptions of five students into the Catholic Church with Bishop Kenney.

There had been three residential retreats (two at Barmouth and one at Stanbrook Abbey), some well attended talks (Fr Nick Austin SJ on ‘The Good Life’, Michael Wee, from the Anscombe Centre and Becky Short, Assistant Chaplain, on Bioethics, and a series of excellent speakers on Bl. John Henry Newman); and a number of social events had fosted the sense of community within the Chaplaincy, most enjoyably, a variety show in which even the chaplains, Frs Nick King and Matthew Power and Becky Short were willing to send themselves up in a version of ‘Favourite Things’, to the delight of the audience.

One of the baptismal candidates being confirmed

In January the Chaplaincy had hosted ten or so organisations including Jesuit Missions, the Jesuit Refugee Service and MAGIS, to make students more aware of summer and longer-term volunteering at an all-day Sunday Vacations Project Fair (hopefully to become an annual event). OxUnboxed, an eco-pop-up supermarket, also came on a Sunday in the Easter and Summer terms. There is no doubt more could be done in the area of engagement in pressing social issues, but with a good number of students helping rough sleepers through the Order of Malta Volunteers, there is already much to be grateful for.

Also a cause for encouragement is the fact that once again the Week of Guided Prayer, led this year by Iona Dalglish-Reid, attracted a good number of participants, 38, and that in the course of the year the Ignatian Examen has been offered on a series of Fridays rotating through four different Oxford Colleges.

Fr Matthew Power SJ said: “we are hugely helped by the engagement of students, in the flourishing Newman CathSoc and in the various areas of Chaplaincy life: serving and choir, for example. We are helped too by the support that we receive from the Jesuits at Campion Hall,  the Anglican College Chaplains, and the Newman Trust, who keep the roof over our heads and do so much more. A good year, for which we give thanks to God.”