The day was led by Aileen Jones, who volunteers with the Archdiocese of Liverpool in music ministry and chaplaincy for Lourdes pilgrimages. The theme for the retreat was “A Song in My Heart”, and the Celtic prayers chosen by Aileen contributed to the atmosphere of stillness and calm, including the building of a miniature cairn of pebbles.
Aileen asked the chaplains to think of their ‘go to’ music - a song that helps them through difficult times, or has special meaning for them – the ‘song in my heart’, that is prompted by God.
The Gospel reading was the Prodigal Son, a story so familiar to us, we don’t necessarily think too deeply about it, but in their reflections, Aileen asked the retreatants to look at the story in new ways – we can be any one of the characters, and each has a different point of view. By seeing the events from a different perspective, we can see fresh meaning in the parable.
Aileen asked “Who is the chaplain’s chaplain?” - chaplains often have to be their own support, acknowledging the fact that this can sometimes be a lonely vocation, with events like today’s and the other services offered by this network providing valuable connections and support.
The Chaplains spent a time of reflection on the theme “we are many parts”, and each was given a seaside postcard to write to focus their thoughts (and a tiny picnic, to sustain them on the beach). For the chaplains just to have this opportunity to reflect on their vocation in work time was something they really appreciated.
After lunch. Aileen led the group in exploring how Pope Francis’ words on spirit-filled evangelisation, in Evangelii Gaudium, relate to their work in chaplaincy. Pope Francis urges us to avoid the safety of our familiar ‘niches’, and fully engage with others in the messiness of real life and human misfortune: “Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people”.
The group broke for a final time of quiet reflection, before coming together for a summing up of the day from Aileen, and a closing prayer, before the day concluded with Mass in the chapel.
The retreat was a valuable day of refreshment and renewal, and Aileen received enthusiastic thanks for leading a wonderful day.
The Salesian Chaplaincy Network is open to any chaplain who works in a Salesian way, and we welcome newcomers. Usually at our meetings, we have input from contributors, and focus on resources and documents.
The Network’s next event is a conference for teachers, which will be held in Birmingham on Saturday 2nd February 2018. (See poster below)
If you would like to be part of the Network, Contact Fr David O’Malley SDB to find out more.