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New programme gives a taste of Retreat Team Life

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Theresa, Theo, Moses and Chloe


A group of four sixth form students formed the very first cohort of the Salesians' Young Adult Programme, designed to offer a taste of life as a volunteer on the Savio retreat team, and an introduction to the skills they’d use and to the Salesian spirituality that underpins it all. They loved their week so much, they stayed on to support the second Phoenix Summer Camp!


Theresa, Chloe, Theo and Moses, who are all about to enter their final year of sixth form, spent a week experiencing Savio House from behind the scenes. The new programme ran alongside this year’s RISE Young Leaders' project and the first week of the Phoenix Summer Camps, to provide them with a taster of the activities they may encounter on the Savio Team.

The four spent time hosting the groups, seeing the work that goes on to serve the retreat groups and make their stay comfortable. They also supported the Rise and Phoenix teams in animation of activities, and on trips. In their own sessions, they learned more about the Salesians and gained deeper insights into Salesian spirituality.


Theo told me how they first encountered Savio House: ‘I came here on a Year 8 retreat. Eventually I met Moses here – we went to the same school. Then I met Chloe in Year 10, and Theresa. When we were in Year 11, we all came for Easter. The four of us got on really well.”


“I’m interested in the Savio Team for the year after next, and I have to make the choice between that or straight to uni,” said Chloe. “Seeing the work that goes on, and meeting and talking to people like Ryan (Savio Team 2016-17 who is staying on for a second year), has been amazing. He’s done so much in the last year at Savio. There’s so much experience you can gain.”



Chloe plays football in a dragon suit


Theresa told me how she heard about the new programme: “At the Easter retreat last year, Polly (former Savio Team Leader) told me they could be running a programme for a week that would give me the experience of what it’s like being on the retreat team.”


“When I heard about it at Easter, I liked the idea of first-hand experience of volunteering. But this week has made my decision harder!” added Chloe.


Theo found more encouragement a bit further away, “I met Polly at Lourdes and she told me more about the programme and said I should go!”



Theo the Dragon and Friar Moses in the Realm of Phoienix


So, what differences were there experiencing Savio from the ‘other side’?


“I’ve now done three Easter retreats at Savio, and we all know it really well, but only by being ‘on retreat’. It was great to be able to try it out, to be part of the team and see behind the scenes,” Moses said.


Theo agreed: “When we’ve been here before, you have meals brought out, and the dishes are cleared away, but this time, we took a turn doing the hosting that the staff do, so we were seeing all the hard work that goes on to make things go smoothly."


“But it’s nice that after you do all the hard work, you get to sit in the community room, and talk to the priests and brothers,” said Chloe.


“And that’s not like you might expect,” Theresa added, “Nobody makes you feel, ‘oh, they’re only young’, and you don’t wonder what you can talk about. You’re treated on an equal footing, regardless of your age or experience. We had really interesting conversations.”


“When we’ve been here before we’ve stayed in the rooms everyone has on retreat, but this time, we’re staying in a cottage where the staff live. It’s really cosy, and it’s nice to spend time together after a busy day. We’ve become addicted to Uno!"


Moses talked about the involvement they’d had with the two groups who were at Savio at the same time, “We went to Blackpool with the young people on Phoenix, to help the team, and we went on RISE as well.”



Sir Theo helps with the egg-drop experiement


“We had sessions on Salesian spirituality from Sue, and found out more about the influence Salesians have around the world,” Theo said.


“We learned about what Salesians actually do, and what they feel about optimism and ‘wasting time with the young’,” said Theresa, and we found out more about the other opportunities there are with the Salesians, like BOVA. One thing we learned was how to prepare morning prayer and the Good-Night. Being able to work on that was a big help. The first time is quite stressful – you prepare and then you forget. We’re doing the Good-Night this week, so that was really helpful,” she said.


The friendship the four young adults have developed over years of shared retreats has clearly developed their ability to work together, as Chloe explained: “We prepared prayer as a team too. That was a really good Good-Night!”



Lady Theresa and Br Joe the Jester lead a group task


Towards the end of their programme, there was a late change to the team for the second Phoenix Camp, as a member sadly had to withdraw because of a family bereavement.


Chloe told me how they came to stay on and be part of that team: “We had been saying to each other that we wanted to stay longer, because we didn’t want it to end. We were thinking of asking if we could, and then we were asked if we’d like to stay on and help the team with the second week of Phoenix!”


The appeal of Savio and everyone connected to it helped everyone make up their minds to stay on. As Chloe explained, “Savio is just such a nice place; it’s like a family. You believe in these people. It’s trust.”


Rapid phone calls home were made, and Chloe found she had understanding bosses when she had to change arrangements for moving to a new job, but things were soon in place and the young adults had a speedy induction with the Phoenix team to get them set up for the following week.

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Chloe helps with artwork


Visiting Savio House on the first full day of activities on that camp, it was impossible to tell that four members of the team were a surprise late-entry. With the support of Salesian Youth Ministry’s team of highly skilled and experienced animators, Theresa, Chloe, Theo and Moses fitted in superbly, and used their impressive talents and newly-acquired skills and knowledge to give the Phoenix Campers a wonderful experience.


To find out more about future Young Adult Programme weeks, contact Sue McDonald.


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Theresa, Moses & Br Joe help their team compose a chant

Last modified on Friday, 11 August 2017 18:39


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