Parishioners Liz and Derek Gallagher from Our Lady of Lourdes in Chopwell rallied a busload of parishioners to our recent open house event.
“There’s a welcome for everyone whatever denomination you are. We come here on retreat about three times a year. All kinds of people come, of different faiths and some don’t believe at all.”
Liz’s husband Derek adds, “For me it’s the atmosphere here. It’s very special. The peace and quiet are fantastic.”
The open house event offered the chance for the launch of a £500,000 fundraising appeal for the refurbishment of the retreat house. Formerly the stables, the building was converted in the 1960s with volunteer labour largely provided by the parishioners of St Patrick’s in Consett. Fifty years on it is showing its age and the latest plans will bring it up to modern standards.
“I try not to be too concerned about the facilities,” says Derek, “But people demand things now and it’s great that they can. They expect more for from their accommodation. It is important that they try to update everything to accommodate people in the 21st century.
“It’s quite exciting what’s being planned for here. It’s great to get so many people here and to explain how they can help.
“We’re moving away from the weekend retreat thing. If we have the right facilities for what people want now it will be different story to tell. A lot of people are elderly and getting a lift in will be a great for them.
“At the end of the day it’s very important that Minsteracres keeps going and is kept alive. It is a real part of the diocese.” he adds.
Derek and Liz are keen to spread the word about what Minsteracres has to offer. “There are so many people who have passed Minsteracres and not come in – an open house like this is a perfect opportunity to experience the place.
“They can get a history tour as well. And it doesn’t cost them anything!” says Derek.