As part of the school’s retreat programme, Year 8 attended have attended one-day form retreats to Mount Saint Bernard Abbey.
The school retreat programme offers the opportunity for students to get to know one another, work together as a team, undertake cross-curricular enquiry, explore scriptures from the Bible and to pray together. This retreat focused on Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si.
On arrival, students were greeted by Fr Joseph Delargy, the Abbot of the Community at Mount Saint Bernard. We then took in the beautiful Leicestershire scenery, as Fr Joseph described it, by going for a walk around the extensive grounds of the Abbey. We focused on the changes in environment as we followed the path that encircles the Abbey. From the agricultural path that goes past the enclosure, through the enclosed field footpaths, and through the deep dark woods to see if we could encounter the variety of environments.
We also focused on the uses of our environment as we saw the disused quarry and Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power station in the distance, and the names of some of the nearby villages – Shepshed (Sheep shed), Whitwick (White Farm) and Coalville (named for the coal mining during the industrial revolution to the early 1980’s).
After the walk we spent some time together in our break and during Mass, celebrated by a different member of the community every day. During Mass, Fr Joseph reflected on how little changes can bring about huge differences to species. As a keen bird spotter in his youth, he reflected on how the gold finches were almost on the brink of extinction, captured as curiosities and kept in bird cages. He then paused the Mass to listen to the many gold finches that now inhabit the Abbey and happily sing, due to a change in law and thought. As part of our cross-curricular enquiry, students also learned about the history of the Abbey, the Cistercian order, Pugin architecture and Catholic emancipation.
In the afternoon students reflected on their favourite places, the sights, the sounds and the smells. It was lovely to read the diversity of places that are special to our students.
We ended our retreat by listening to some extracts from Laudato Si. Pope Francis reminds us that “Young people demand change” and the students reflected on the steps they and others could take to bring about change.
As a school we are incredibly grateful to the community at Mount Saint Bernard Abbey for the kindness they have shown us over the past few months. Our leavers’ Masses and Year 11 retreats were all made possible by the community’s kindness and generosity.