Students encountering God

Formby pinewoods Credit Stan Lewis
Formby pinewoods Credit Stan Lewis

Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy held a weekend residential retreat at St Joseph's prayer centre in Formby last month. Led by chaplains Sr Cecilia, Fr William Pearsall SJ and Br Geoff te Braake SJ, eleven students considered the theme of Belonging, and spent half a day in silent contemplation. “It was a rewarding experience full of graces with a deep quality to the questions posed” observed Sr Cecilia.

For most participants it was the first time they had attempted a sustained period of silent contemplation. Michael commented “At first this was quite challenging considering that as students we are so used to the cacophony of noises that punctuate our day – lectures, traffic on Oxford Road, conversations with flatmates.  However as the afternoon went on I felt a sense of calm that I had felt since arriving in Manchester five months before.”

Mary commented “silent afternoon is a unique experience which allowed me to focus on prayer but also to immerse myself in simple activities like reading and writing which I don’t usually have time to do without distractions.”

Linda said “it was an encounter with me, with people and with God. The freedom and peace of the woods and the shore helped me to disconnect from my normal-busy-but-stressful life. It seems a privilege to walk along the beach and see the presence of God in every single detail in the environment, to see the ocean, to feel the breeze, to pray in the woods.”

Will particularly enjoyed “being around so many people on different journeys in their faith.. it was a rare opportunity to discuss ideas, difficulties and positive experiences about the Catholic faith”.