It was a very busy Thursday morning for a 3 October 2013. Sisters finished packing and taking care of final tasks before leaving for the Conference Centre and Retreat House run by the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Hartzer Park. The Conference Centre is located in the southern highlands of New South Wales. The group would be together for the whole weekend until Sunday 6 October!
Most of the participants from convents in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland arrived around 4:30 pm. They found their assigned bedrooms, unpacked, and then explored building to find the rooms we would gather: conference room, dining room and prayer rooms. After vespers and the evening meal, Father Tim Norton svd, our retreat facilitator, and Sister Grażyna Rocławska welcomed the group and introduced the theme of the Retreat. That evening the sisters spent time in community recreation. The twenty of us were really glad for the opportunity to be altogether. When that ended, the retreat silence began and after a very busy day, we scattered to our rooms for a good night’s rest.
On Friday morning the Retreat began in earnest and was our day of silence. Father Tim Norton svd presented two sessions of talks to the sisters. The first was to help us understand how the early church understood Mission. The second session extended the concepts of Mission to religious life. After lunch, Father Tim made himself available for celebrations of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Since the afternoons were free, some sisters engaged in taking walks to explore the grounds, take photos of the flora, rest or spend time in private prayer in one of the prayer rooms or the chapel. Vespers was said in common and then we enjoyed the evening meal and shared the insights of the day with each other during that time. After tea, the group met to discuss Provincial matters. This provided time for lively discussion. We dispersed around 9:00 pm.
Saturday was our day of discussion and interaction. After breakfast and individual morning prayers, Father Tim Norton celebrated the Eucharist. During the Mass we renewed our Vows. Hearing each sister pronounce her name and mystery as she renewed her self-offering to God at the appropriate time in the formulary was extremely impressive.
The rest of the morning was spent listening to and sharing with Father Tim Norton and each other. After lunch, until the closing session, sisters could rest, pray or celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with Father Tim. After the closing session, the group gathered in the prayer room for Vespers with Benediction. Sisters Christine Ramada and Rita Apura led the group in singing the hymns. That evening Sister Grażyna shared her impressions and important information about the International Planning Meeting. A lot of discussion ensued around the interesting topics presented.
Sunday, October 6, 2013 was a bright and sunny day. Sunday Mass was celebrated with the local parish community in the main chapel. Then the sisters moved to the Conference Room to pray our morning office together. After morning tea, Sister Rosanne Maree Sinclair spoke to the group about Faith in Mother Foundress’ writings. The final commissioning ritual followed. The sisters offered well wishes and blessings to each other. Lunch concluded the retreat. Sisters packed their belongings and returned home.
The sisters made some interesting comments in their evaluations.
“. Father was terrific! He is EXCELLENT in Confession”.
“ Just what we needed to hear at this time.”
“ I learned a lot from Fr’s talks and his presentation was excellent.”
““ I enjoyed the long afternoons free.”
“ I think the time table did not provide enough time for community prayers: Adoration in the chapel, benediction and recitation of the rosary in common.”
The one thing EVERYONE agreed on was an expression of “gratitude for the opportunity to be together.”