Belvedere College - Retreat Reports

Retreat Reports

Retreat Reports

Rhetoric Retreats 2016 – 8 locations, 8 different experiences, one conclusion – ‘it was worth it’

The Rhetoric retreat programme is one of the highlights of the Rhetoric Pastoral calendar. Apart from Kairos, which is a 4 day residential retreat, the Rhetoric retreats are the longest retreat programme we run in the school. The 3 day retreats ran from Wednesday Oct 26th to Friday Oct 28th. 8 different groups of students travelled to 8 different locations across the country on their final retreat in Belvedere College. Given it’s their final retreat, and for some perhaps their final retreat for a long time or indeed if they ever get to go on one again, the emphasis on the retreat is to take stock of all that Belvedere gives in shaping them to be ‘men for others’ rooted in a faith experience. Hence, there was time for prayer and reflection, and in some cases, this was combined with active service to others such as the homeless or people living with a disability.
The 8 retreats were; 1) a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo, 2) ‘calm in the storm’ in Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow, 3) quiet time of prayer and reflection on Lough Key in Co. Roscommon, 4) an immersion experience of homelessness in Dublin city centre, 5) an immersion experience into living with disability in Limerick, 6) Group dynamics in Ruah retreat centre, Drumcondra, 7) quiet time of prayer and reflection in Donard, Co. Wicklow, and 8) contemplative days in Mt St Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary.
Different students get different experiences from these retreats. For example, one student on the Group Dynamics retreat said ‘I have come away with a new found self-awareness’, and another said ‘that everybody has a story and to open your eyes more because there are beautiful people all around us’.
On some of the more reflective retreats students said ‘I got to know people that I wouldn’t usually talk to and I also got to relax and take a break from school’. Another said ‘it’s always good to take some time out of your schedule to relax and unwind and it’s good to be on your own to reflect’. This sentiment met the expressed expectations of many, of ‘having time to relax and get away’, summarised by one student who stated that ‘it has given me a much needed break after a long first term and I feel I am ready to begin the new term fresh’. For those on the Roscrea retreat they gained a very valuable and worthwhile insight to monastic life through tours of the Cistercian monastery and joining in the prayer life of the monks.
The 2 ‘immersion’ retreats were on the topics of homelessness, and living with disability. They are called ‘immersion’ as they are set up to jump right into a particular issue from a faith and action perspective. They followed an Ignatian retreat format called MAGiS which combines service activity with reflection, liturgy and prayer.
In the homeless retreat the students had talks from 2 lads who were recently homeless; they visited a homeless hostel; they had talks from Peter McVerry, Focus Ireland and De Paul Ireland. They also did soup runs each evening and spent a morning ‘on the streets’ with no specific purpose except to experience what it might be like to wander aimlessly through the streets and imagine what it would be like for homeless people. There was mass each day celebrated by Fr Bryan Shortall from the Capuchin Day Centre, and morning and evening prayer. The impact was powerful as explained by some students; ‘I’ve learned more than I expected about the causes of homelessness, the ways in which it can be dealt with, and what might be done in the future’. Others said ‘it was such a great retreat which tied in with other social justice activities in the school such as the soup run’, and ‘this retreat is what the Jesuits are all about – action through faith’.
In the ‘living with disability’ retreat students came away with ‘a much deeper respect for people living with a disability’ and ‘a greater appreciation for what we have’, especially ‘seeing people with
a disability being happy a lot of the time when often we are not’. One student was struck by a newfound awareness that ‘people with disabilities are not any different to us. In fact they are more positive if anything’. Another student captured his reflection on how this relates to his faith as ‘I feel inspired now to take action on all the prayers I say because the most important thing about faith to me is how you act on it’.
In summary, there is a large investment in Rhetoric retreats, both financially and in time away from school for students and teachers. Sincere thanks goes to all the 19 teachers that made them happen and the wonderful support of the staff that stayed behind to cover classes, and especially to the Board of Management, Headmaster and Deputy Headmaster for their continued support of the retreat programme. The comment of one student who went to Roscrea sums up this value – ‘during my reflection I realised how lucky I am. My family are all healthy and I am very happy. I also realised that most schools don’t get opportunities like this’.

A.M.D.G.Grammar Retreat 2016/2017
The Jesuit Education Ethos focusses on the holistic formation of its learners which include spiritual formation. As such, Belvedere College SJ offers retreats for all its students annually. The Grammar retreats took place between September and October 2016 for the 168 students. The theme of the grammar retreats is pilgrimage which is a spiritual as well as physical life journey. The retreat aims at helping students to reflect on their lives in terms of what one considers a blessing and to be grateful for it, also areas where one has not been good at; given that he could have done better and to make amends to do better.
We had six pilgrimage retreats for Grammar and all the retreats took place in Glendalough county, Wicklow. Glendalough is a traditional pilgrim site in Ireland where thousands of people over the years have come for pilgrimage, following in the footstep of St. Kevin. As pilgrims, the retreatants walked along what has come to be known as St. Kevin’s path until St. Kevin’s beehive cell. According to one student, “the beehive cell of St. Kevin amazed me how a man searched all his life for peace and tranquility and to reflect. It also helped me realize how little moments I have in life alone and it showed me I should appreciate the quiet times that I have.”

The path of the pilgrimage crosses the dead forest which is a steep climb signifying the struggles in life. One student commented that “I would personally every now and then think about the darkness into light/light into darkness. Even though there are dark times there will always be the light (good) ones.” Pointedly, there is light at the top of the plain which signifies the power of perseverance and determination.

Undoubtedly, the 10 to 15 minutes’ walk in silence was resourceful. One retreatant remarked that “the part of the retreat when we walked alone, I think this will help me in everyday life as sometimes you need to take time out from the stress of everyday life and the walking alone helps you do this.” For another, “My favorite part of the retreat was when we walked on our own that allowed us to genuinely reflect on our lives.” The walk was difficult and challenging for some as one of the retreatant remarked; “… I did not talk for 15 minutes walking down the hill. I noticed how I craved attention and needed to speak to someone.”

The students also had time to reflect and pray for whatever need they have. According to one student “as I was looking over the lake I was thinking about my gramy who was put in a home care over the weekend and my mum who was setting off to do the camino and without even thinking I was praying for them. I felt very good and I really enjoyed it.”

St. Ignatius Loyola always encourages his men to review their prayers. In the same way, the students were encouraged to review their retreat. One thing that comes clearly is that the lads benefited from the retreats. According to one lad, “the retreat gave me a chance to reflect on my life that I normally would not have. The calm and relaxing natural environment made it easy to feel God’s presence.” According to another, “parts of the retreat really invited me to see where I am weak and where I am strong in life.” The students also made amends as reflected by one lad who decided that “I will consider putting my phone down during the day and think about the day and think about what I have done that day, reflecting on the day.” On a whole the retreats were successful and the success of the retreats can be summarized by the words of a retreatant who remarked that “the retreat on Monday was by far the best retreat we have had.”

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