Saturday, November 14, 2009

SABBATICAL - final reflections

So I come to the end of my Retreat and my time at the Mercy Center.

When I came here I had not quite known what to expect. I had stayed at the Mercy Center in Burlingame, San Francisco some years back but what I encountered here was different from anything I had experienced in Burlingame! This Mercy Center had been founded in 1988 by Fr. William Jarema. As their website says: "The Mercy Center for Healing the Whole Person is dedicated to an eclectic and whole-person approach to healing and wholeness and prides itself on the intimate dialogue maintained between the physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social dynamics of each person who comes to seek their personal healing and well-being." The Center also acts as a focus for the Society of Missionaries of Mercy. The Society is a Lay Association within the RC Church which "welcomes men and women, single and married, Priest and Laity who desire to celebrate a spirituality of mercy, participate in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and serve as a lay missionary to families, friends, neighborhood and the community at large." As their website continues: "Our Way of Life is a four-fold awareness that we share in common: a celebration of our spirituality of mercy, dedication to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, living the vow of conversion of life and the prayer of mentoring that is two-fold: Monthly Veneration of the Cross and the shared Examination of Consciousness."

Apart from meeting members of the Society I shared the Center with a group of Catholic religious and priests from the US, England, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Trinidad and Uganda who are on a three-month Sabbatical programme and from whom I have gained a great deal just by living alongside them, sharing food and attending Mass with them each day.

Someone has asked what this 30 Day Retreat involves. The Retreat is the means whereby one is taken through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Whilst this is not the place to write of my experiences, the Retreat has proved a most valuable period and I am deeply grateful to Fr. Bill Jarema who directed the Retreat. I hope to meet up with him again when he visits the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham near Brentwood in June.

So I am almost at the close of my three month Sabbatical. A journey which embraced and brought me into contact with different cultures, expanded my understanding of art, cemented bonds with our twin parish and renewed my own faith. For all this, I am deeply grateful.

"In the Lord, I'll be ever thankful;
In the Lord I will rejoice!
Look to him, do not be afraid,
in God rejoicing, the Lord is near.
in God rejoicing, the Lord is near."

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