Our summer schedule is punctuated by the arrival of many old friends, among them a group of parishioners from Herne Bay in Kent who come on retreat for a week every August.

Among this year’s retreatants is Linda Thomson who, unlike the others in the group, is visiting Minsteracres for the first time.

“I came back to my faith two years ago after many, many years,” explains Linda. “Some friends where I live in Whitstable recommended a church in Herne Bay where, they told me, there are some great Passionist priests.

“I finally went on a Good Friday and it was the most wonderful service. The parish and the congregation were warm and welcoming and Fr Mark White (a former rector at Minsteracres) gave a very moving homily. After that I kept going back.

“Finally I made my confession and then received communion again which was the most joyous moment for me.”

Linda didn’t know Minsteracres then but began to hear about it. “Our deacon Barry Walker mentioned the annual retreat, then Fr White suggested in passing that I might like it.”

She finally got her chance to come this summer and has loved it. “It has been an opportunity to retreat away from the speed of life, to go deeper into my faith, something I can carry home with me. I have found all that in abundance. It has given me food for my body, my heart and especially my soul.

“There is going to be so much to reflect on. It’s been a spiritual experience of greatness and I think it will bring about a great change in me. I’ve loved it all, though some parts have not been easy, but it has been good for me.”

This year’s theme – seeds of hope –has struck a chord. “The theme was so useful,” says Linda. “In scripture, hope comes up a lot. It’s excellent that the programme separated spiritual hope from hopeful optimism. Hope became something bigger and deeper.”

Fr Mark, who accompanied the group agrees, “It has been a great theme, especially in these difficult times – focusing on hope is brilliant.”