Community on retreat 22-30 July. Services open; shop closed.

Return of Sr Therese

It is now just over a week since I returned to Stanbrook after my three-month sojourn in Rome and Assisi as a participant on the Monastic Formators’ Program. When I wrote my previous piece we had just moved to Assisi from Rome.

After a few days of uncertainty, I began to delight in Assisi. We stayed in a guest house on the outskirts of the city from which it was a short walk down to the Franciscan shrine of San Damiano, where the cross once hung from which Christ spoke to St Francis, or a short walk up into the city to the Basilica of Santa Chiara, where the same crucifix now hangs. I was often able to go and pray in these places. Assisi is dominated by the character of St Francis, and by images of the San Damiano Cross. However, one of our group heard shopkeepers complaining that these days people are coming to Assisi not just because of St Francis, but also to visit the shrine of Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 at the age of 15.

During these weeks, besides eating ice creams and drinking cappuccino, we continued to work hard at our studies – having five classes a day. The topics were generally orientated towards human formation and development, but also included a week in which we travelled through about twelve centuries of monastic history. In the final week our Abbess, Sr Anna, came to give us two days of input to help sum up the program and to begin the process of what she called ‘decompression’, as we prepared to return to our diverse communities.

On our final evening in Assisi we held a party which included a video showcasing each member of the group, limericks composed about each group member, and a humorous awards ceremony, as well as tributes and thanks to our directors, Fr Brendan and Fr Javier. The joy, playfulness and good-humoured teasing showed how over the three months we had grown as a community and in appreciation of each other, and in some ways we didn’t want the MFP to end. Yet at the same time, I was beginning spontaneously to thank our good God that I was about to return to my Sisters, to my monastery, to my own cell, to my choir stall and the organ bench, and to be there in Yorkshire with the One who is always with me.

And in the event, my return was a greater joy and blessing than I ever imagined.