Lucy writes: As supporters of the Guild of St Clare will remember, our February retreat was to have been held at Park Place Pastoral Centre, near Wickham, Hants. Owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding, it turned out that our dates were not in the Centre's diary, and I made this discovery only a week before the retreat was due to start. That we managed to find a replacement venue at such short notice - and one only a half hour's drive from Park Place - was nothing short of miraculous.
We held the retreat instead at St Joseph's Centre, Ashurst, a beautiful house run by the Montfort Missionaries. And it became evident, once the weekend had begun, that Our Lady herself had had a hand in the new arrangements. St Joseph's is a superbly run retreat centre, where retreatants are welcomed with roaring log fires and magnificent meals; but what meant the most to us was the profoundly Catholic atmosphere of the place.
We had the exclusive use of a small ad orientem chapel, and were delighted to find a wonderful Stations of the Cross in the garden, not to mention an abundance of religious art that harmonised charmingly with the surroundings.
Our retreat began on 3rd February, the Feast of St Blaise, and our chaplain, Fr Thomas Crean O.P., gave us the blessing of throats, as well as our usual devotions of daily Mass, daily Rosary, Compline each evening and Adoration on Saturday.
We achieved a great deal in the short time available to us. Progress was made on re-lining a chasuble, making a chalice veil, a maniple and a burse, adding new facings to a cope, patching a much-loved cotta, stitching lace on to an alb where it had come loose, strengthening some fragile panels in an old chasuble, adding lace protectors to stoles, labelling new vestments with the names of the owners and repairing the gold work on a humeral veil.
Despite the last-minute change of venue, the retreat was fully booked, and we had retreatants from all over the UK including Scotland, Manchester and Kent, and also from abroad: from Slovakia, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.
Fr Des Connolly, who was our host, embodies the Ancient Greek spirit of philoxenia. We have never been so warmly welcomed in any place as we were at St Joseph's last weekend. He pressed us most earnestly to return, and as every retreantant, on leaving, also urged the claims of St Joseph's as our future home, it will be so.
Our November retreat (3-5th Nov) will therefore be held at St Joseph's likewise: online booking is open here. For more information about the Guild of St Clare and our events, look at our website here.