A message from our Chair
This prolonged time of challenge and trial has continued to also be a time of growth, creativity and connection. Recently two members of the Core Group participated in an unprecedented national gathering of representatives of groups working in the field of Ignatian Spirituality, organised by the Jesuits. Postponed from 2020, we met finally on Zoom for a remarkable weekend that had no agenda other than to be attentive to God's spirit and to connect with one another.
We began by contemplating the Gospel reading for Sunday, which very aptly was the parable of the mustard seed. Out of this arose the image of a garden, or eco-system, that resonated with many and may appeal to you to: the idea that we work in different areas of the same garden – some of us tending to sun-loving roses, others to shrubs that thrive in shade, or alpines at home in the desert. A variety of landscapes calling for different skills, languages and approaches.
An insight that stayed with me was that it is not about inviting others into our garden, but recognising that we are *all* in the garden. Perhaps some are less visible? In which case, how do we encounter others in the garden?
This touches on some conversations about diversity that we have been having in the core group: what are the areas of the garden that we perhaps need to revisit, or indeed discover for the first time, to ensure that all kinds of plants are flourishing in our corner of the Ignatian garden? What conversations might we need to have as individuals, and with whom?
We are preparing for our AGM on 18th September, which we very much hope will be in person. However there may be some unable to attend in person, for various reasons, and so we would like to be able to stream the meeting to those at a distance, or indeed enable them to participate if it is technically possible. If you or someone you know would be able to assist us with the technical side of things please do get in touch.
At the AGM we will be exploring our vision and dreams within Manresa Link - getting in touch with the fire that kindled Manresa Link into being at the very beginning, and looking at where the Spirit is leading us next.
We'll also have some workshops that will enable us to both engage with the theme and build up our skills and tools as prayer guides. Much to look forward to In addition, there is much to celebrate in this newsletter.-
from the Spring Meeting, developments in training to give the 19th annotation and in supervision, the Lament days and also many RIDLs across the West Midlands.
On the theme of further training/formation, some members have suggested having input on the Exercises as a way of growing/developing; we are currently exploring possibilities so watch this space!
A reminder that, if you see a course you would like to go on but are put off by the cost, we have a dedicated Gerry Hughes fund to subsidise training for members so please don’t hesitate to ask us about this. An example would be the excellent ‘Manresa Days’ that the London Jesuit Centre have been running this year, on Zoom.
Returning to the theme of the garden, or ecosystem, I shall leave you with this image of 4 different landscapes and something to ponder: which image, if any, draws you and why? Where is God calling you to labour with him in His garden?
The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come ad make nests in its branches ~ Matthew 13:31-2
With my love and prayers,
Retreats that have taken place so far in 2021
Stourbridge RIDL - early 2021
Report from Judy Spencer
In Autumn 2020 we were all eager to set up an ecumenical RIDL through Churches Together. Because of the Covid 19 restrictions the retreat was to be held on the Zoom platform, a first for us.
We were delighted to see a great response from retreatants and prayer guides alike.
We were in total thirty-one retreatants and fifteen prayer guides,
Few of the retreatants had made such a retreat before but expressed hopes of finding guidance and encouragement in their spiritual life, a deeper commitment to prayer, understanding of different forms of prayer, wanting to see how all this could translate into everyday life, a new level of relationship to the Lord, wanting to feel God’s love and express it.
Most met their guides over Zoom, otherwise by phone.
The Closing Meeting again filled the screen, and as Max and Cecelia Jourdier noted, it was a joy to see so many happy faces. Appreciation and gratitude were voiced to all guides and, from the guides, also to our supervisors.
From the evaluation sheets came comments that among the most helpful things were:- having the support, skilled listening and encouragement of the PG, and getting their feedback, input and helpful choice of Scripture passages; stillness prayer; keeping a daily journal; knowing they were being prayed for; lack of competition - no targets to be met. Art work had been significant for two retreatants.
Further comments were interesting - most of which expressed enjoyment, “Just what I needed at this time” ”I was extremely grateful” “A tiny island of calm and quiet” “Time out of everyday life”… “A truly wonderful experience, especially at this time”
Many expressed appreciation for the prayer guides taking time to listen to them “as complete strangers,” and valued their listening skills and choice of scripture passages.
We give thanks that it was all possible in such a difficult time – Thanks be to the Lord.
Queen’s College Staff Retreat
Report from Rob Hingley
For several years now we have given a Retreat in College Life for full-time students at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, women and men training for the Anglican and Methodist ordained ministries. The retreat has taken place on alternate years from January – March. More than 30 students sign up to take part each time, and the indications are that this is a much-valued addition to their theological training.
This year is a gap year in the pattern, when, because of the virus, the college has been mainly focusing online. So, Sister Bev, the college chaplain, suggested we offer a similar retreat online to the College staff.
I recruited a team of 7 from previous guides on Queen’s College retreats. 9 staff members signed up to take part. Though all experts in their particular theological disciplines, the staff retreatants had a varied amount of knowledge and experience of Ignatian spirituality. Despite their already busy online workload, the retreatants engaged wholeheartedly with the discipline of the retreat. It met a need for them in this strange time. Both retreatants and guides appear to have greatly valued and enjoyed the experience, and this further raises our profile with the college.
Next year it will be the students turn again.
Hampton in Arden RIDL
Report from Gill Jones
This retreat was organised at the request of the Church of England parish at Hampton in Arden and happened over Lent 2021. At the request of the local clergy, we took the unusual step of beginning with a voluntary act of worship before our opening meeting. This was led by the vicar of Hampton. We concluded on Wednesday of Holy Week, again with another voluntary act of worship before the closing meeting.
Those taking part were mostly from local churches. The pilgrims’ feedback was that they found the retreat a real blessing and a valuable experience.
Solihull RIDL – pre Pentecost
Report from Gill Jones
In Solihull there was also a RIDL organised for the Catholic church of St Augustine’s in Solihull.
Although most of the pilgrims were from the church, several people, having heard about the retreat, asked if they could join in. The retreat was a preparation for Pentecost and ran for 4 weeks rather than the usual 6. Pilgrims found the retreat so much a blessing that they are talking of making it an annual event.
Report from Max Jourdier
There were 13 for the Tuesday afternoon group and 15 for the Thursday evening group, though usually one, or sometimes two people, mightn't turn up. There were also quite a few people we had invited who had preferred to do the retreat on their own and not come to meetings.
We had five kind people who helped to facilitate the groups - we had anticipated breaking down each group into two subgroups, but each group made it clear that they would prefer to stay as a single group and that worked fine.
Both groups were a mixture of Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists, male and female, and from several different churches. Quite a few knew each other and had done this before but some had not experienced an Ignatian retreat before.
We thought both groups went brilliantly, right from the start, (and this feeling was generally shared) and there was a wonderful spirit of unity and a feeling that the Holy Spirit was working in us all. We were surprised that it really seemed that Zoom was an advantage and helped us all to share more deeply and sooner than we might have done if we were all physically present. Again people really like all the resources that ISC in Glasgow sent in their daily emails. Each person found different things that really spoke to them.
It all seemed rather marvellous.
Shallowford Weekend Retreat, June 2021
Report from Rob Hingley
This regular annual retreat at Shallowford House resumed after Covid precautions caused the cancellation of the 2020 retreat. It was led this year by Rob Hingley, Juliet Fletcher and Enid Thomas, and the house was fully booked with twenty retreatants.
The weekend seemed particularly blessed. Fine weather helped us enjoy the extensive grounds and the peace of the Staffordshire countryside. The house staff were sensitively hospitable. Some Covid restrictions applied, but, if anything, they assisted rather than hindered the atmosphere of a silent retreat: breakfast supplied to eat in your own room at your own time was appreciated by many as a bonus.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son provided the framework for guided meditation and group and private reflection. In the silence God seemed to speak through the parable in fresh ways for many of the participants.
The now well-tried balance of the weekend programme provided a minimum of core activities for everyone, some worship and guided meditation, alongside optional shared activities. The reflection groups, labyrinth and art workshops and private one-to-one sessions were all well attended. These enriched the retreat experience for many, while others enjoyed more space on their own to catch up with themselves and commune with God.
Nowadays there are limited opportunities for silent weekend retreats, but they have a special value for introducing cautious newcomers to the residential retreat experience, and provide a good retreat opportunity for others who are unable to come away for a longer period. God seems to bless many of our retreatants with a renewed relationship with Him
One offs continuing
Meanwhile, following the move to online RIDLs, we still get a steady stream of requests either via the website or personal referrals, for people wanting to take part in one-to-one RIDLs. These are from all over the UK, but also over time we have engaged with people from Malta, Italy and Brazil. This looks set to continue even after lockdown.
Chaplaincy Plus – this year sees the 10th year in a row of the Autumn Retreat in Daily Working Life in association with Chaplaincy Plus. Commences 13th September. Requests for guides in due course.
Rob Hingley's residential retreat at St Nicholstans (Gower peninsula) – September 2021 fully booked. Next one is 2022 July 18-22nd.
Enquiries via Rob (contact details on database on website)
Spring meeting in March (Workshop on Similarities in Mental Distress and Spiritual Crisis)
Our usual annual Spring meeting was held on Zoom and focused on correlations between mental distress and spiritual crisis. This was led by Nuala Graham, who drew on her long experience of working in both fields. It was well attended (32 delegates) and very well received.
A new 3-week programme from Nuala
Manresa Link has been exploring a variety of options to offer to people, either after a RIDL, or for its members who are looking for more. Our own Nuala was inspired by notes from a meeting with the Jesuits about this, and was caught by the words - growth, development, formation.
From that she has put together a Three-Week Course, focusing on a Life Review. She has done a “test-drive” and is ready to offer it to any who are interested.
It is designed to be done with or without a prayer-companion.
Contact Nuala direct if you are interested (contact details on database on website)
“Living our Laments” – a BIG success story!
Report from Juliet Fletcher
A lament can be described as an outpouring of deep emotion expressed within the safety of a loving relationship with God. Such a prayer seems particularly appropriate during these days of living with the covid pandemic.
I felt this would be a good focus for a quiet morning in place of the February quiet day for Manresa Link members which I have helped facilitate over recent years.
Four of us, Maureen Slattery-Marsh, Kathryn Darby and Ruth Chatfield, put together a programme for an online quiet morning entitled “Living our Laments”. We wanted to offer a safe space where people could engage with and create their own lament.
About 35 people attended the day in February. Ruth opened the event by leading us in a body prayer. I introduced the topic of Lament, drawing on various examples from the Psalms, Maureen led us in a Lectio reading of Psalm 43 and, also, introduced us to creating a word collage while Kathryn led an introduction to expressing our lament through art.
There was then an hour in which participants created their own lament, followed by time in small groups, followed by whole group sharing and a closing prayer. There was a lovely sense of flow throughout the morning. Everyone seemed to engage deeply with this theme as they expressed their personal lament.
Because there had been such a positive response, we decided to offer the morning again on two further occasions. We first extended the invitation to members of the Spiritual Directors’ Forum as well as Manresa Link and to others who were interested. The second morning was held on 27 March, the Saturday before Holy Week. This time over fifty folk attended and the morning clearly impacted people deeply. Many expressed their appreciation and said that creating their lament had been a deeply meaningful experience for them, increasing their faith and trust in God as they found a way of expressing their prayer for personal, national and global situations.
The third time we offered the morning nationally through including Sarah Young who forwarded the invitation to a number of regional Ignatian Prayer networks around the country. This session was held on 26 June and we adjusted the focus of the morning to include feelings of coming out of lockdown, prayer for our suffering planet in these days of climate emergency and other issues of injustice that might be on participant’s hearts. We used Psalm 57 for the Lectio Divina prayer, and the programme followed a similar format to the previous sessions. This time 25 people attended and several described having a profound experience of God.
The four of us have been wonderfully supported on zoom by John Price and Caroline Homan, who have hosted the sessions. The second session was recorded and in time it will be added to the Manresa Link website. Their help with managing the technology contributed greatly to the smooth flow of the morning. Throughout, we have felt inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit and are in awe of how God touches our lives when we open our vulnerable selves to him.
1 July, 2021
19th Annotation introductory training
As planned there was a 3-day course, on Zoom, led by Nick Helm during April, aimed at bringing in new people to lead pilgrims on the 19th Annotation, and to give the few existing guides a chance to reflect and renew.
This was attended by 15 Manresa Link members, and two non-members. Some of the members were already experienced in delivering the 19th. The 3 days all involved a mix of theory and experiential. It was a very professional and positive experience. It ended with a discernment process to help people decide if they wished to continue/begin to deliver the 19th, under a supervision/mentoring process.
The “plan” is that whoever proceeds to guide people on this programme, will do so under ongoing tutelage/mentoring/supervision by our more experienced members.
We will be edging forward in seeing how this might all work!
If you would like to journey through the 19th, or just want to explore the possibility, make a contact through the website. But you need to realise that this is a major commitment that will take several weeks/months.
Supervision Training 2021
Many of you have taken part in the Supervision Mornings held regularly over the past couple of years finding them enriching and supportive in our prayer guiding ministry. With the expansion of RIDLS the need to train more supervisors has become urgent. So, for three days in May and June, a Supervision Training course took place via Zoom offering focused training for those who wished to explore the role of supervisor for Manresa Link Retreats in Daily Life. There were 12 participants and the facilitators were Maureen Slattery-March, Maria Price, Jennie Keyte and Pauline Myers.
What was amazing was that in spite of doing this through Zoom, it seems that virtual technology is yet another place where we find God! Should we have been surprised??
The three days were blessed with insights and practical learning in how a contemplative approach to supervision can make it a positive and enjoyable experience for the Supervisee /Prayer Guide. Course participants tried on the supervisor role and experienced how the contemplative approach could enable them to support prayer guides/supervisees to confidently explore their experience of guiding in a safe and brave space, and to find their own ways of developing their practice. As always, it's letting God take the helm. We are excited for the future blessings, like concentric ripples of water that spread outwards in ever increasing circles. Please pray for everyone as they discern God's calling. Day 4 of the course takes place on Sunday 17th October 2-5pm
For many Manresa Link members, the Jesuit base in Harborne, Birmingham, has been a sort of “home”.
Our Basic Training Course was always there for decades, so new members always came to us through those “gates” and formed memories. Then there were meetings of all sorts, and the constant warm welcome from the Jesuit residents added to making it our “home”.
You may be interested in a bit of the history?
The main part of the house was built around 1840/50 as a private dwelling, but it then became a convent school before passing into the hands of the Jesuits in 1939. They set it up as “St Gabriel’s” – a retreat house for men.
1956 seems to have been a busy year- weekend retreats attended by 62 men, 5-day retreats attend by 52 priests, and a marriage preparation weekend was held.
In 1977 the Jesuit novitiate moved in and the library was built.
In 1985 Fr Gerry Hughes joined the community, and he founded Manresa Link, as a group of lay and religious men and women who learned to guide on RIDLs, and they used the house for their meetings. CLC members also become regular users
But a point came a little while back where substantial renovation and rebuilding was needed, so we have had to step back.
We hope to be able to “go back home” in the future, but meanwhile here are some photos of the rebuilding going on.
AGM 2021 18th September
For some years we have held our annual AGM at St Paul’s convent in Selly Park.
Last year, because of lockdown we had to hold it on-line.
This year we have pencilled in the date back at St Paul’s, and we are really hoping we can hold the meeting there. If not, we will revert to Zoom on the same date. So, book that into your diaries now!
We are still working on the agenda, and will let you have details later, but whether at St Paul’s or on-line, we are aiming at a full day. As always there will be a short business meeting, and the rest of the day will be full of enrichment!
Opportunities for development
Our Jesuit colleagues in London are offering programmes for development in our ministry as prayer guides - Manresa Days — London Jesuit Centre. If the costs are off-putting, we are more than willing to consider bursaries
God’s gift of music
Our heads and our hearts are both parts of who we are. They both help us to connect with God.
They are only 18 inches apart, but sometimes they get disconnected and can feel like contradictions. Our head distrusts our feelings, our feelings pull us away from our head.
Singing is a way that God designed to reconnect head and heart.