Maitland-Newcastle heads to ACYF: Day 8 (Retreat Day 1)

“I guess I’m hoping to be able to slow down and unpack a lot of what happened at ACYF [Australian Catholic Youth Festival],” young Maitland-Newcastle pilgrim Jess said when posed with the question of what she hoped to gain from the two-day retreat at St John of God Retreat Centre in Shoalwater.

“It was such a crazy few days full of workshops and experiences. I just want to be able to process everything that’s happened.”

According to facilitator Fr Anthony Coloma, the retreat aims to provide the following opportunities for pilgrims:

  • Listen with fellow pilgrims about personal and significant ACYF experiences.
  • Deepen personal and communal relationships with other Maitland-Newcastle pilgrims.
  • Recognise the subtle yet active presence of God in their ACYF experiences, in their lives, and in the lives of the men and women that they minister to, serve with and live with.
  • Encounter God both personally and as a faith community preparing to return to Newcastle.
  • Discern and elect the Spirit’s invitation for them as they prepare to go back to their lives, occupations and relationships in Newcastle.

Day one began with a morning prayer before commencing the first of 7 retreat experiences. 

‘The Transformative Power of Silence’ was the name of the first experience, which invited pilgrims to discuss the connection between feelings and behaviours.

Pilgrims collectively concluded that, through active silence and prayer, they can sort through their feelings and act on them accordingly.

After morning tea, the group continued with their second retreat experience, ‘Listening to the Spirit in my Personal Experience (part 1),’ in which Fr Anthony welcomed pilgrims to share stories of their personal encounters with God and faith. 

One point of reflection Fr Anthony offered to pilgrims was, “If your entire life story were a book, what chapters would it contain? Outline each chapter briefly, dwelling on the leading events and experiences, including especially the main blessings and consolation graces received at each phase of your life.”

The day continued with a mass at the centre’s chapel followed by lunch and two further retreat experiences which continued to focus on ‘Listening to the Spirit in my Personal Experience’.

Throughout the day, several pilgrims made note of how valuable downtime, prayer, reflection and silence have been on retreat.

“It’s hard for me to switch off and just be silent,” group leader Renata Powell said. “It’s nice to take a moment to reflect and just be.”

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Alexander Foster

Alexander Foster is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle