Good Samaritan Education Staff Retreat 6th – 8th August 2014
At the Good Samaritan Education Staff Retreat, I discovered not only a new life motto, but the key to world peace, in the words of Joan Chittister: “being gentle with ourselves, gentle with the other, and gentle with the earth.”
As I rushed to complete the lesson plans for my absence in time to leave for the airport, three days away from my usual schedule did not seem to be creating peacefulness, nor allowing me to be gentle with myself. Along with two other staff members from Lourdes Hill College, I departed for Sydney with little idea of what the GSE Staff Retreat might involve. After three days at the Mount Saint Benedict Centre, we agreed that this really was a fantastic experience, to be recommended to anyone who might have the opportunity to attend in the future.
The highlights can best be summed up via the Benedictine values, beginning, of course, with Hospitality. The Mount Saint Benedict Centre staff and the Sisters of the Good Samaritan took wonderful care of all who attended the retreat, in the comfortable, clean surrounds of the beautiful 87 year-old building. We were warmly welcomed from the moment we arrived at the door and exceptionally well-fed.
There was a lovely sense of Community. The retreat brings together teachers, administration staff and others from across the ten Australian Good Samaritan schools, creating a positive sense of our part in a wider community. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with others socially and professionally.
Listening was at the heart of our retreat experience. Led by Monica and Sister Meg, we found new ways to hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Rule of St Benedict and the stories of people who have lived the Benedictine values. We also truly enjoyed listening deeply to ourselves, exploring our individual spiritual styles and even indulging our artistic and poetic selves, which are too often quieted in our everyday lives. To take time to listen was both intellectually engaging and spiritually refreshing. I have continued to think, speak and act on Benedict’s assertions about Listening since returning, which has reinvigorated me in both my personal and school life.
Which brings me back to Peace. Calm, positive and refreshed, I feel the retreat has better armed me to live my new motto, and to try to manage everything with a sense of gentleness.
Now, if only I could spend three days of every week at a Good Samaritan Education retreat, I might be able to finally achieve that most elusive of Benedictine values: Balance.
Charlene McMenamin, Lourdes Hill College
Three days in sunny Sydney for a retreat! As always you start with the anxiety of leaving classes and family behind but you always know that they are in capable hands. And then the thought of a retreat?!
The Good Samaritan Education retreat was not at all what I expected. I thought it would be a time for reflection and probably prayer but it was much more than that. I had an opportunity to explore my own spirituality and to discover new ways to find peace. Meg and Monica introduced us to Art, readings, poems, prayer in the Benedict way, my own little red book (Rule of Benedict), silence, personal stories and informal chats as ways to explore our spirituality. Some of them were confronting and a little bit scary and some with the thought that I can’t possibly make a difference! I discovered the importance of small steps, making one change at a time and giving yourself time in your day to stop and be still. The following are some thoughts/quotes from my retreat.
In the face of all of this, the Rule of Benedict offers a model of peace that depends on being gentle with ourselves, gentle with the other, and gentle with the earth. (Wisdom Distilled from the Daily Joan Chittister osb)
“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least” Dorothy Day
Actions speak louder than words – reflection on personal faith experiences
“Do One Thing Different” B O’Hanlon
Listen when we would not hear
Hear the needs of others
Hear in the tongue of the other
Learn to hear on every level
Part of a Found poem by Leanne Richards taken from Chapter 2: Listening: The key to Spiritual Growth.
Thanks to the team at GSE and the people that I met during my three days at Pennant Hills, but a special thanks to my school who gave me the opportunity to attend.
Leanne Richards, Santa Maria College