With this edition of our newsletter we are approaching the end of the year. It may just be me, but it feels like the year 2018 has passed very quickly. Some people say that this happens when you get older. That may well be true… However, I think it has also something to do with the fact that a lot has happened during the past year. There was much activity and many people visited and stayed at Minsteracres for retreats and other events.

‘Sacred Journey’ was the theme for this year’s retreats. Our retreat team had prepared a programme, which was well received by the groups who came for a day, weekend or week-long retreat. It gave the participants an opportunity to connect and reconnect with their life’s journey which is also a journey of faith.

We will continue the journey in 2019 with a focus on discipleship. ‘Daring Disciples’ is the title of next year’s theme. We intend to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ. In the gospels we hear how Jesus called his first disciples. We also read about the challenges he poses to his followers. It is a daring business… What does it mean for us? How have we responded to the call to be disciples and what choices do we face as disciples of the Lord in response to the challenges of the present world?

Reflecting on the word ‘disciple’, I am aware that the origin of this word has to do with ‘learning’. A disciple is someone who is ready to learn. It is a person who is willing to sit at the feet of the Lord and listen to His word with an openness of mind and heart. That is not easy and takes time and effort.

This listening attitude always reminds me of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The gospels present her to us as a model of discipleship. During the season of Advent we meet Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. We hear how the angel Gabriel announces to her that she will give birth to a child who will be called the Son of the Most High. Mary listens, questions, ponders and then surrenders to what will happen. It is this attitude of discipleship, which enabled God to work through her and to come among us through the child of Bethlehem.

May Mary be our companion as we journey through the days of Advent and prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas. I hope this Advent season will be an inspiring time for you.

I end by thanking you for your prayers and other ways in which you have helped us during this year and I hope you will continue to support us in 2019.

On behalf of all at Minsteracres I wish you a joyful Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Fr. Jeroen Hoogland CP