“Each of you can be a bridge that unites distant peoples”

Refugee Retreat Day at Maryvale Institute, 16 July 2016

On Saturday 16 July, Maryvale Institute hosted an interfaith Refugees Retreat Day for asylum seekers and refugees from St Chad’s Sanctuary as part of their contribution to the Year of Mercy.

Hope 1

10 retreatants came, accompanied by Sister Margaret Walsh, who helped to lead the retreat along with Melissa Pearce from Maryvale Institute. The theme of the day was “hope”, symbolised by the image of flowers in the desert, drawn from Isaiah 35:1 “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom”. The Lampedusa cross, on loan from St. Chad’s Cathedral and CAFOD, provided a focal point within the prayer display as a symbol of hope for refugees and asylum seekers.

We reflected on this theme through a number of different prayer stations, which provided an opportunity to engage in creative activity, group sharing and silent prayer.

After the initial welcome and introductions, we spent a moment in silence remembering the recent tragedy at Nice, and one of the refugees shared a prayer she had written in response, praying for love to overcome hatred. Indeed, love was made visible through willingness to share hearts and be open to one another, and through the generous hospitality shown by the Bridgettine sisters of Maryvale Institute.

In one of the prayer stations we tasted some fruit, and spoke about the things or people in our lives that have sustained us in time of need. For many, this was their mother or daughter, family, friends, hope, faith… and for some it was also things like tea!

Another of the prayer stations focused on building bridges, and as well as having some creative fun, we were reflected on Pope Francis’s invitation to be a “bridge” in our local communities: “each one of you can be a bridge that unites distant peoples, which makes possible an encounter between different cultures and religions, a way to discover our common humanity”[1]

After a delicious hot lunch, we ventured outside for a reflective walk around Maryvale’s beautiful gardens and grounds, on a quest to find “something small, but beautiful”. Coming together afterwards, we shared our “things of beauty”, then planted coriander and lettuce seeds in pots as an act of hope.

Together, we created a piece of artwork containing our interlinked handprints around the word “HOPE”:


At the end of the day we came together to reflect and pray in silence, and to share our thankfulness for the beauty of the day and the time spent together.  Messages of hope written by members of a local youth group and staff from Maryvale Institute on Lampedusa postcards provided by CAFOD were given to each retreatant.

Prayer display with Lampedusa cross

[1] Pope’s Video-Message for the 35th Anniversary of the Founding of the Astalli Centre for Refugees <https://zenit.org/articles/popes-video-message-for-the-35th-anniversary-of-the-founding-of-the-astalli-center-for-refugees/> 19 April 2016



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