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National Retreat for Catholic Heads June 2012

National Retreat for Catholic Heads

(June 2012 at The Hayes, Derbyshire)

CISC News September 2012



At the Opening Liturgy we were reminded that this was the first national retreat of its kind. It was not a conference and was not intended to be a forum for sharing good practice: a few colleagues appeared to find it relatively difficult to lay aside, even temporarily, the responsible burden of headship but for those who could, the retreat offered a chance to put our own spiritual houses in better order as well as an opportunity to pause and take stock prior to the close of the academic year. To that end, it served a most valuable purpose and I am sure that other CISC members would benefit from attending next time around(13-14 June 2013 led by Fr Christopher Jamison).


Father Denis McBride C.Ss.R led us on a spiritual journey over a trinity of sessions which explored Emmaus as the theme. We started at the point on the road where Cleopas and his companion started – the end of a promised calling where hope is ‘in the past perfect tense’ – and where many, both outside and inside the Church today, might be: confused or disillusioned by ambiguity and disappointment. Fr McBride went on to explore the nature of hope, quoting Vaclav Havel’s experience as a political prisoner that hope is not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation; it is an orientation of the spirit and comes from elsewhere. Fr McBride looked at the present as a place of hope through the ‘double dynamic’ of re-interpreting the present in the light of the past and the past, in turn, being re-evaluated in the light of more current events. He drew an analogy between the experience on the Emmaus road and our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist, and went on to articulate that we can ultimately find meaning in our own lives by reflecting on biblical narrative.


At the close of the retreat, all Retreatants were given a copy of Fr McBride’s ‘Emmaus’, the Introduction of which helpfully rehearsed the argument through which we had been led; the rest offers an exegesis on Luke’s gospel which I have enjoyed subsequently.


Fr Gerry Hughes SJ presented a session on ‘Exploring Spiritual Direction’ in which he took one of the Retreatants publicly through the sort of direction that a Jesuit Spiritual Director would undertake and thereby answered three questions: ‘What is it? Why is it important for me? What can it do for me?’ It was indeed a moving experience to listen into the dialogue, as an invited bystander. For those interested in learning more, there was information available regarding spiritual direction, education and practical suggestions for nurturing spirituality and prayer life in school communities through displays and individuals available to discuss these matters in the Focus Area. A Redemptorist bookshop was also available.


Liturgies throughout the retreat included Reconciliation and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after Evening Prayer. Morning Prayer the following morning was a joyous event which included ACCE Chaplains who were having their conference at the same time. There was a wonderful Powerpoint to music – ‘A lesson from Geese’ which offered a metaphorical reflection on fellowship and the Common Good within a Christian community. To conclude, we were privileged to see Steve Murray present a profoundly moving and very beautiful mime. His School Ministry ‘Energise’ claims to ‘energise, encourage, engage and equip teenagers to discover their own identity in God and help them overcome peer pressure, rejection and low self esteem’. He has run sessions at a CISC School, Farnborough Hill, and Sarah Buckle, Headmistress, could not recommend Steve more highly. I for one will be contacting him at


Charlotte Avery (Headmistress of St Mary’s Cambridge)