‘Miracles really happen’
Women and men volunteer trainers from the Ignatian Spirituality Project in Ireland had a two-day training retreat in Gardiner St Church on Sat 18 and Sunday 19 September 2021. Their retreat mirrored the format of the ISP retreats for people experiencing homelessness.
The ISP aims to give hope and healing to men and women recovering from homelessness and addiction, through spiritual accompaniment, and building community. They also offer retreats that combine both Ignatian and 12 Step spirituality. Participants and retreat givers are invited to share their personal and sacred stories in the light of their relationship with God or their Higher Power and to ask for a special grace that they would want to receive during their retreat time together.
A key part of the retreat experience is the ‘Witness’ story offered by someone who has experienced homelessness and/or addiction. On this retreat, the group was touched deeply by the witness of Darnell, a former retreat participant who now works on the men’s ISP team.
Eddie Cosgrove SJ, ISP Director in Ireland (in photo, front row bottom right) and ISP co-ordinator Christine Halloran (front row first left) welcomed the group of trainers to this face-to-face but socially distanced meeting. It was the first such gathering since the lockdown of March 2020.
Since then the trainers had been meeting and sharing together regularly via Zoom. But all agreed that whilst it was great to have the Zoom meeting technology which allowed them to experience the powerful presence of a supportive community during the pandemic, it was no substitute for being able to meet face to face and in small groups.
“By walking with others, as Jesus did, and sharing our stories and meals in the light of faith, a community of healing and hope emerges,” according to Eddie Cosgrove SJ who is grateful for what he says was a “powerful volunteer training retreat” where old and new volunteers experienced the training together.
As Christine Halloran, co-ordinator of ISP Ireland, put it: “The weekend team retreat reaffirmed so strongly for me the necessity and the powers of the work of the ISP programme. When people are invited into a safe and sacred space that is founded on a bedrock of trust and acceptance and mutual respect miracles really do happen.”
Christine also noted that the truth of who people really are emerges in such conditions. “Our woundedness comes into the light, and God’s all-embracing and unconditional love is set free to do its thing – free to love us, free to heal us and free to make us whole.”
ISP Ireland is hoping to begin offering retreats in Manresa Jesuit Centre for Spirituality for men and women starting in October.