For the last couple of years our community has been boosted in the summer with visitors who come to experience community life and to offer practical help during our busiest months.

Two of this year’s summer visitors are Jakub Barczentewicz and Arkadiusz (Arek) Galka from Poland. Both men are training to be priests in the Passionist monastery in Warsaw. Jakub returns in the autumn to start his fifth year of the seven year course, and Arek his second.

This model of community is new to them, with priests, sisters and lay members taking equal part in decisions as well as the day to day running. Both Jakub and Arek are struck by the atmosphere of peace and prayer.

“The most experienced member of the community, Fr Mark, will always remain the master for me,” says Arek, “Not only spiritual, but also master of joy!”

“And I have never met such lovely sisters as Sr Cecilia and Sr Therese. They’re so happy!” adds Jakub. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that they have nicknamed them grandma and aunty.

Jakub and Arek have relished meeting a great variety of visitors and retreatants from all over the world, especially Fr Dominic, a Passionist priest from Korea, who spent a week here during their stay “Now we know more about what’s happening in other places in the world,” says Arek.

During their stay they have been digging in the garden, decorating in the main house, washing up after meals and serving in the dining room when occasion demanded. They also joined in this year’s three-day walking retreat, visiting Hadrian’s Wall and the North Pennines along the way.

Add to that visits to Raby Castle, Durham, Darlington, Newcastle and Alnwick, as well as Keswick in the Lake District, Holy Island and Bamburgh and it’s clear they’ve enjoyed a pretty comprehensive tour of the north east.

But their fondest memories are reserved Minsteracres itself:  the people, the community and, of course, the sequoias.