Walsingham Retreat - February 2016
Over the first weekend of Lent, a group of young members and volunteers of the Order of Malta gathered for a retreat in Walsingham, hosted by Mgr John Armitage (Rector of Walsingham and Vision 2050 Chaplain). The aim of the weekend was to reflect on our spirituality as individuals, as a group of young Catholics, and as part of the Order of Malta. When we are busy with hospitaller work we can sometimes forget why we are there, so the retreat was a pause for thought about why we do what we do in the Order. The programme included thought-provoking talks by Mgr Armitage, opportunities for both formal and informal prayer, quiet time, spiritual reading, and getting to know each other in the local pub. We were also pilgrims to the shrine of Our Lady, walking the Holy Mile to the Slipper Chapel and entering through the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy.
The retreat brought together people from our various arms, including the Grand Priory of England, the British Association, the Companions and the OMV, and much fruitful discussion was had in the margins of the formal programme. The weekend was principally for UK members and volunteers but we were lucky enough to be joined by people who have also had involvement in other associations of the Order, in Lebanon, Italy, France, Malta, Poland and others. This provided a unique opportunity to discuss youth involvement in the Order in the UK, with illumination from how some other associations differ. Friendships were forged and strengthened and many good ideas emerged that could help young people both in their faith and in their participation in the Order.
There was an overwhelmingly positive response both in terms of numbers of applications and also in the feedback from those who were able to go. It seems clear that anybody wanting to organise something similar either in the UK or elsewhere would have the support and enthusiasm from the governance of the Order as well as plenty of young people joining in.
We are greatly indebted to our benefactors who generously donated to the weekend and made it possible. Special thanks must also go to Mgr Armitage for hosting us so well and for opening our eyes to what is behind the works of the Order that we all know and love.