John Smith from Edinburgh and Peter Traynor from Dalkeith are both coming towards the end of their training to become deacons and will be ordained in September. They have come to Minsteracres to take part in a pre-ordination retreat as one of the final steps in their preparation.

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“We were told we should have a five day, led retreat and someone mentioned Minsteracres as a place to go,” says Peter.

“We discussed with Sister Therese, our retreat leader, what we each felt we needed in a guided retreat. You have a number of different strings to the bow here and we adopted different elements of retreat styles – both silent and themed.”

“We had freedom to choose what suited each of us,” agrees John. “Up to now, it has been very prescriptive and we’ve had to fit in with what others want, but not here.”

Both men felt the advantage of the presence of a community at Minsteracres. “Because there’s a community, we were able to fit in with the prayer life here. To be able to pray together is highly rewarding and it’s a privilege to celebrate mass every day. It makes for a very spiritual environment,” says Paul.

“It’s a spiritual place,” agrees John, “and it has been great to spend time with your Deacon, David Collins.

“The house is great and so are the grounds. We like the sheep! It reminds us of God’s creation.”

Like many people who visit, John and Peter enjoyed meeting other guests. “There’s a great diversity of people. Every time you have a meal, you meet someone different.”

“It’s a great privilege to be able to be the facilitator for them,” says Sr Therese O’Regan, their spiritual director during their stay. “It has been lovely to journey with them on such a significant retreat.”

As they prepare to head home, they are reflecting on what they have experienced. “Maybe I’ll be back again – with the parish!” says John.