Sr. Judith Russi, Director of EducareM with Marist retreat attendees Alan Craven and Gerry Lambe (St. Mary’s College Dundalk).
The 6th Annual Headteachers’ National Retreat took place in Coombe Abbey, Coventry on the 15th-16th June 2017. At the invitation of the MEA, Mr. Alan Craven (Incoming Principal, St. Mary’s College Dundalk) and Mr. Gerry Lambe (Deputy Principal, St. Mary’s College Dundalk) were in attendance. The theme of this year’s retreat was ‘Headteachers: A Call to Dialogue and Encounter’. Sr. Judith Russi, Director of EducareM, opened the retreat with a warm welcome to all the attendees, especially those who had travelled from Wales, Scotland and Ireland. She introduced Canadian priest, Fr. Michael Brehl C.Sr.R, the Superior General of the Redemptorists who was to be the spiritual leader for the retreat and who delivered four reflections over the course of the two days.
- Meeting Jesus: The Joy of Encounter
In his introductory reflection, Fr. Michael spoke of the awesome and humbling responsibility Catholic Headteachers are entrusted with regarding the mission of the Church. He explained how creating opportunities for children to encounter God is a central feature of this mission. He stated that how we present God is a critical influence on children and stressed the importance of reflecting the humanity of Jesus to children so they can ‘encounter’ him as a real person. He wished for the joy of the Gospel to fill the hearts of all those who encounter Jesus, especially children.
- Becoming Friends: Servants to Companions
In his second session, Fr. Michael reflected on how to become ‘friends’ with Jesus. He defined friendship as ‘a real concern for the good of the other’ and detailed how genuine friendship must get beyond the image we project. He concluded his reflection by explaining how in the words of Pope Francis ‘few human joys are as deep… as those achieved through working together’.
- Welcoming Community: The Gift of Family
In this third reflection, Fr. Michael considered the significance of ‘family’ in the life of the Church. He emphasised the role of Mary and her qualities of ‘tenderness, mercy and compassion’. He explained how Mary’s mission was to display a mother’s tenderness in marrying compassion for all those who suffer with a passion for justice. This of course held a particular resonance for us as Marist delegates.
- Vocation: Missionary Disciples and Prophetic Witnesses in a Wounded World
In his final discourse, Fr. Michael explored what does renewed evangelism mean for us today. As in his opening session he found answers in the theme of joy and echoed Pope Francis’ belief that ‘joy is at the heart of the mission of the Church’. True evangelism he explained is keeping the mission as a central focus in all the day to day work that we do.
Outside of Fr. Michael’s discussions, attendees had the opportunity to engage in reflection and prayer, or explore the parklands that surrounded the hotel. A service of reconciliation was held on the first evening, while Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon brought the Retreat to a close with the celebration of the Eucharist.