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Pat Halpin fcJ - Time Away

The FCJ Retreat in Calgary had a Trinitarian theme.It was in late August of 2005, after our FCJ retreat at Sacred Heart Convent in Calgary, that I requested and received permission to  have a year away.

It  has proven a wonderful experience.  My initial plan was to leave and return about the 5th of January, but the Lord provided me time to recoup energies before I left Toronto on April 12, 2006.

Having arrived in London (Somers Town) and been welcomed by Sr. Margarita and the community of five others,  I wandered the city and got acclimatized for a month.  Then I removed to the Continent,  where our Sisters welcomed me.  I also had the good fortune to make a pilgrimage in honor of Ignatius Loyola and reflect on our Ignatian roots, and spend time in Spain. Our Amiens Foundation House was a wonderful place to which to escape.

While in Paris, I visited not only a few spots in that city, but Taizé (of Brother Roger and the ecumenical movement fame).  In Bayeux too I enjoyed  the Tapestry and whet my curosity about early English history, and, on my return to England, followed  it with participating in a re-enactment of The Battle of Hastings on site in Battle.  The magnificent  Le Courbusier Notre Dame en Haut chapel which was designed as a contemporary place of Christian worhip by a Dominican who enlisted the best of the artists of his day.  Thus Matisse for example, designed the liturgical vestments.

I returned to England in the summer to pick up my explorations of the City of London for about 5 weeks, and visited Devon. It was my happy experience to go to St. Beuno's in Wales, the theologate that Gerard Manley Hopkins loved and where he wrote some of his very best poetry.  There I made my retreat, before attending Heythrop College.  It is the Jesuit college in the University of London, which continues to expand and offer very good courses and degrees.  I participated in two classes, Spirituality and Spiritual Direction, both taught by Gemma Simmonds, CJ.  The readings were challenging and the classes most interesting.

Christmas was most pleasant, (with great mince pies and Christmas Cake and Pudding, but no baking!) and by late January I was looking forward to beginning at Loyola Hall Spirituality Centre in Merseyside in Lancashire.  Here we are being trained for Guided Prayer experiences, and have had some experience in discernment and input on the Exercises.  A group of 8 — one American Jesuit, one Irish IBVM, one Ursuline of Bordeaux, one Australian secular priest, one Marist Brother, also Australian, and one Dutchman whose heart is in Ghana  after several years in the ministry there as a White Father, and me--make up the 'Intern' group.

Picture of Sr. Pat.So what I have I learned?

First:  that our Society is very generous, not only in educational possibilities but in its hospitality to itinerants like I have been. I now see us as a small but highly committed group of  women doing their level best for the sake of the Kindom.

Second: that seeking God is really the most fundamental and important task that I have, and that I may be called to help others in this pursuit.

Third:  that London and the rest of this part of the EU will not be experienced in a lifetime, but that I am grateful to have seen and done what I have.

Fourth:  that getting older does mean I experience a lot less energy, but is also time to live a life balanced in every way, and that service is still a most important dimension of our lives even though it might be pretty simple service!

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