The volunteers of Savio House, Bollington, kicked 2010 off in style when they took a trip to The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, earlier this month to join volunteers from Catholic Youth Ministry Centres from all around the country to take part in the annual Volunteers‟ Gathering. Daniel Antonio, Chloe Ceairns, Amy Flood, Jonny Dearden, Judy Oliver, and Polly Witter with Fr Martin Coyle SDB (Rector) and Jessica Wilkinson (Retreat Team Leader) arrived on Sunday 3rd January, the second day of the event, due to heavy snow preventing the team from travelling on the Saturday, when the conference was scheduled to start. This unfortunately meant that they missed two of the three talks delivered by the events key speaker, Monsignor Mark Crisp, which explored the theme of the weekend, “God Speaks”.
Volunteers from Alton Castle, Soli House, The Briars, Castlerigg, Kintbury, St Vincent‟s, SPEC/SPEC East and In Reality (Hallam) were lead through the gathering by Sarah and David Beresford, Directors of Walsingham House and were given the opportunity to get to know each other and share their experience of their faith and ministry by taking part in a range of activities. These included small group discussions based around the theme of the gathering along with workshop sessions which covered a whole array of interesting areas. The workshop options ranged from learning about Pope John Paul II‟s teaching on the Theology of the Body to Sport, which basically involved a run around in the freshly-fallen snow! The Savio team were lucky enough to experience a range of different workshops, such as Story Telling (which was lead by an experienced professional story teller), Art (involving preparations for an altar hanging for the evening Mass) and an Interactive Physical Quiz, which involved playing some silly games which could be taken back to Savio for use with the hundreds of young people who come through their doors throughout the year.
The venue for the event could not fail to impress, with The Hayes providing first class facilities for the volunteers. With fantastic food, very comfortable accommodation and friendly hospitality from the staff – what more could a volunteer ask for?
The weekend gave the teams a chance to pray alongside each other and to support each other spiritually, aided by the thought-provoking discussion material and the beautiful liturgy which took place in the form of the evening Mass. This was a wonderful, prayerful occasion, celebrated by Fr Bill from Soli House and music provided by the talents of Walsingham House. Mgr Mark Crisp delivered the homily which again drew on the theme of “God Speaks”, as well as thinking about the day‟s feast, the Feast of the Epiphany. With spirits high, the congregation‟s renditions of „Days of Elijah‟ were sure to continue throughout the evening! The Mass was followed by an extended time of praise and worship, during which the Sacrament of Reconciliation was on offer for those who wished to receive it. This time of prayer was seen as a highlight by many team members, having been moved by the special atmosphere created. The night prayer which followed was especially moving, with each community praying for each other by laying on of hands – a very faithbuilding experience for many.
But the celebrations did not stop there!
The gathering was lead in evening entertainment by a Cahleigh band, which got everyone up on their feet and swinging their partners for hours on end! A fantastic time was had by everyone…except the directors! After the band had finished playing, the directors from each centre performed some additional entertainment for their teams, much to their delight!
“You sing, we‟ll dance,” said a rather perturbed Fr Martin. Yet, true to his word, the newly-appointed Provincial-Elect for the GBR Province supported the rest of the directors with his perfectly synced box-steps to Billy Joel‟s “Brown-Eyed Girl”. Needless to say, the team were delighted with Martin‟s efforts and will not let him escape from a retreat disco ever again!
Both the volunteers and directors returned to their centres on Monday afternoon a little tired after a busy yet fun-filled weekend, but excited at the prospect of working with young people again after the long Christmas break. But, as for the Savio House team, it’s back up to Bollington to play in the snow and to quickly upload the video of Jess and Martin dancing onto YouTube!