An individually guided retreat (IGR) might seem a bit hard core to the uninitiated. Five days held in silence except for meeting with your spiritual director might seem daunting but those who undertake these retreats usually love the experience and gain deep, spiritual nurturing from them.

One such is Pat Moran who has just completed her 15th IGR at Minsteracres. At the suggestion of David Williams, who with Anne McCarthy led this week’s retreat, Pat decided to go back to the beginning of her IGR experience all those years ago.

To her surprise, as someone who she admits did not excel at art at school, Pat found herself in our art room folding paper as she contemplated the idea of birds as an expression of space, liberation and the Holy Spirit.

“The art room is a fab space with loads of material to use. I was inspired by what I found in the many boxes,” says Pat.

As she worked, a scene began to emerge in the artwork in front of her. “Each of the birds has something written on the back: names of people, places, things that have happened and experiences of God and prayer – they’re all there.

“I was thinking about a Pascal candle shedding light, but as I live by a lighthouse that was the image I settled on as a way of grounding the piece in my own life,” she says.

Pat is an Anglican priest, but like so many of other faiths who come says she has always felt at home at Minsteracres. “This has been an important week for me. This special place has a huge impact – it’s my spiritual home and coming here has changed my life.”

Pat is not alone in describing Minsteracres as a liminal place, a place where ’the veil is thin’, though for atmosphere nothing has quite surpassed her first experience when, as she says, “The mist descended on Sunday night and didn’t lift the whole time we were here.”

Neither that, nor the prospect of a week of silence has deterred her since, but she admits it was a few years before she found herself longing for the experience. “Silence – it’s absolutely fabulous, though the first time I came I thought I’d never be able to last the full five days.” Nowadays she can’t wait until the next time.