In its various different guises, Minsteracres has relied on the help and support of trustees to carry out its work, and no more so than in the four years since it became a charitable trust in 2012.
In its development over the years from a place for training Passionist priests, to a retreat centre providing spiritual wellbeing, support to the marginalised and championing care for environment, parishioners and friends have freely given help and expertise to enable the retreat centre to achieve its goals.
One such is Jim Darlington. Like many of the trustees, Jim’s connection with Minsteracres is long-standing. He has been a parishioner since 1980 and became more involved by degrees, chairing the group planning the celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of the Church in 2004 and as member, then chair, of the parish council. Finally, he was invited to join the board of the newly established charity.
Jim’s background is in town planning and regeneration. He has worked for the Department of the Environment and the Countryside Commission, as a director at the Government Office for the North East and as chief planner at One North East preparing planning and transport strategies for the region.
Jim has worked closely with the Minsteracres team in preparing the centre’s environmental policy and action plan, helping to define its business plan, and now heads its marketing and environment sub groups.
“My wife Ann and I started coming to Minsteracres as parishioners back in 1980 with young children. That was when we first received that famous, warm Minsteracres welcome.
“I didn’t start getting more involved until the late 1990s when Fr Mark White asked me to do a few things. Then, Fr Luke Magee asked me to get involved with the new parish council, and we started fundraising in support of Minsteracres.
“With my background in sustainability and the environment, I was intrigued with emerging ideas to protect and manage the environment on Minsteracres’ 110 acre estate. I was also able to use my experience to help develop our business plan and recognised the importance of basing its objectives on the Passionist ethos with its emphasis on hospitality, outreach to those in need and respect for the environment.” says Jim.
It is not hard, he argues, to see how people are drawn in to help. “You don’t have to be here long to recognise the Passionist ethos at play and how the presence of the community here makes such a difference”.
“Just look at our volunteers. We have so many of them! Many have found a real welcome here or received help at a difficult time in their lives and they want to give something back.
“I’m really excited at present by our evolving plans to offer training in conservation and horticulture to disadvantaged young people, hopefully helping to put their lives on a different footing and giving them job-ready skills.
“I feel very privileged to be involved at Minsteracres supporting the community, staff and volunteers who make such a difference to people’s lives. Long may it continue to provide space for prayer and reflection, support for the marginalised in society, and its special welcome and hospitality to visitors.”
Jim may have retired from full time employment back in 2010, but it is clear that the contribution he continues to make to Minsteracres is undiminished.