“People are living in the midst of so much noise, that simply experiencing the peace and space which Minsteracres has in abundance offers a real boost,” says volunteer Sister Rosarie Spence who leads the quiet days.
“What you get here is peace like nowhere else,” agrees Shirley Mansfield, a retired paediatrician working with Freedom from Torture, who helps to run the day, “You can go to other places for quiet days, but here we have the beautiful countryside and surroundings. And the weather’s always great! Even if you leave home in bad weather, by the time we arrive at Minsteracres it’s lovely. Everyone remarks on it.”
It seems that the simplicity of the quiet day format is the secret of its success. “I started these days when I was part of the Minsteracres community as a way of using down-time at centre and to share this lovely space,” says Rosarie, “We begin and end with a liturgy, and we look at the coming Sunday’s gospel. In between people sit quietly or walk around the grounds while they meditate on what we’ve discussed.”
The informality of the day means that anyone can come, and there is no need to book. “We don’t turn anyone away – today we had 30, which is the biggest group we’ve ever had, but they all seemed to enjoy it.”
The reason for that soon becomes clear, “I always look forward to it, it’s a breath of calm,” says Josie, “I took it into my head that some others in the parish might like it and brought 16 people with me who are coming for the first time.”
There are no complaints among the newcomers, and several say they want to come again, “It’s been a real tonic, I feel elated and a great sense of contentment,” confirms one.
“What people most often say is ‘this could have been made for me!’,” says Rosarie.
The inspiration for the retreats came when four head teachers booked themselves in for some time-out. They said they had got just what they needed: time just to be.
Christine Coxon, one of the four, was about to retire. “I asked her if she would join me running quiet days, and she was so pleased,” remembers Rosarie. “Then I asked Shirley who comes regularly, and she just smiled and said yes too.”
“It’s great having the support of people like them. They bring a different perspective: mother, doctor, wife, teacher. It gives a new dimension. We talk about involving the laity, but too often we don’t ask. As soon as I did, they both jumped at it.”