Passionist Partners from across the country gathered at Minsteracres Retreat Centre in Durham this week to share ideas, pray and reflect on their work.
Partners who attended, included representatives from Green Christian, London Catholic Worker, Calais Catholic Worker, Catholic Worker Farm, The Vestibule, a community project based in Liverpool, Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support (CAPS), Project 72, who work with refugees, Reformed a group who support former prisoners, Martha House, which offers accommodation and assistance to destitute refugees in London, resident artist Lya Hollering and Independent Catholic News. Among Passionist clergy who attended were Bishop Emeritus William Kenney, Provincial Fr Jim Sweeney and Fr Nicholas Poslethwaite.
The gathering was facilitated by William Devine and Helen Holgate.
For many of us it was the first time we had met in person since the pandemic - and there was much to report. New partners Mary O'Brien and Anna Gibson from Project 72 gave a presentation on their work with a refugee couple from Kosovo. Kemi Ryan gave a very heartfelt account of the work of Reformed with ex-offenders.
Small groups reflected on the motivation for their work - there was general agreement that all feel committed to the Passionist charism - dedicated to serve the 'Crucified God, Crucified People, Crucified Earth' - working to promote the values of God's Kingdom, of peace, justice, care for creation, freedom and human rights.
When asked "what do you need in your circumstances to make you more resilient" many expressed gratitude for the support the support they already receive from the Passionists. Some said it might be helpful to have some professional mentoring or counselling to help them in their work. There were also calls for more initiatives involving young people.
Participants were able to attend Mass and prayers with the Passionist community based at Minsteracres.
At the beginning of each session, Paschal Somers read this prayer, by Joyce Rupp, from her book 'Walk in a Relaxed Manner - Life Lessons from the Camino': 'In the name of all that is we come together. In the name of the elements of life. In the name of the soil, water and air. In the name of all that is. we come. In the name of all that is we come together. In the name of the children of the earth. In the name of the Spirit breathing in all things. In the name of all that is, we come.'
On the Tuesday afternoon many members visit resident artist Lya Hollering's 'Laudato Si installation in the Walled Garden. Several then took part in the art project. In March this year, Lya had an exhibition of her Stations of the Cross sculptures in the Chapel of Unity in Coventry Cathedral. Besides her art work at Minsteracres, Lya is involved in several campaigns for climate justice.
Lya says: "I came to see that these sculptures express many kinds of suffering, conflict and injustice. They evoke the anxiety and isolation people felt during the pandemic; the burden of living in times of war, and an environmental and climate crisis.....The Stations are an invitation to put our sufferings alongside Jesus."
Fr James Sweeney CP, who had flown in from Dublin to attend the gathering, gave a talk about the developments in the Passionist Order. He described how the original London-based Anglo-Hibernian province was which divided in 1927 into the English St Joseph's Congregation and Irish St Patrick's congregation had reunited this year. A General Synod of the worldwide congregation approved the merger in Rome on 16 September.
Fr James now heads the new expanded province. He said there were also discussions underway to add the Netherlands to the new structure. Although the numbers of Passionist priests and religious are down, Fr James said he was encouraged to hear about the many activities of the Passionist Partners. Earlier he wrote in the province bulletin: "the hope we must have is for a renewed as well as integrated province as we now move ahead together."
For more information about the Passionists see: https://passionists.org.uk/
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