Women at the well

July 14, 2022 in Featured News, News

An Tobar (the well) was the aptly titled retreat centre where the ISP (Ignatian Spirituality Project) women’s team held their summer retreat for women in recovery from addiction and living in transition hostels.

Christine Halloran is co-ordinator of the ISP women’s team Ireland and below is her report of how the team and eight women reflected, shared deeply, and prayed together on Saturday 8 June and Sunday 9 June, 2022.

Grace and Gratitude

The ISP women’s team was delighted to finally host their first retreat for women in over two years. After several thwarted attempts due to Covid outbreaks and restrictions, team members finally got to facilitate an overnight stay on the 8/9th June at An Tobar retreat center near Navan in Co. Meath.

Women from 3 hostels in Dublin, Sancta Maria, Regina Coeli, and Suaimhneas, were picked up by retreat team members early on Saturday morning and ferried to An Tobar in time for a 9.30 am start.

There were 11 women in all, 8 from the hostels, and 3 team members. Sadly, Susan Jones, a key team member had tested positive for Covid on Friday afternoon and so could not join us – she was greatly missed.

The aim of ISP is to give hope and healing to men and women recovering from homelessness and addiction. The overnight retreats combine both Ignatian and 12 Step spirituality. During the course of the weekend participants along with the retreat team 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.

The group ranged in age from early 20’s to mid 70’s and we were all astonished and grateful at how quickly the group came together. We bonded as a community from early on when retreatants and team members shared instances from their own lives in small one-to-one sessions and in the larger group setting.

A real sense of honesty and trust emerged as the entire group, team members included, engaged, and shared deeply from the wellspring of their own woundedness over the course of the weekend.

Input sessions covered topics such as trust versus fear, and a healing of memories para-liturgy was led by ISP team member Ber Danaher.

One of the highlights of the weekend came on Saturday afternoon when one courageous retreatant bore powerful witness to her painful personal journey into addiction and her ongoing recovery.

Another highlight was the Fellowship Art Activity facilitated by team member Pat Coyle on Saturday evening. The exercise involved the creation of personal mandalas, using all sorts of arts and crafts materials, beads, stars, furry bobbles, glitter glue, paint – you name it. Each of us created a mandala that told our unique life story and relationships.

As we worked on them we laughed, we sang, we chatted, and we danced. Then when we had finished, each of us in turn, presented our mandala to the group. What emerged were not only powerful but also painfully and unforgettably beautiful stories…the Spirit we could see had turned our mandalas, like She turns our lives, into prayer-infused, wondrous masterpieces! (See photo).

The group left on Sunday with a real determination to meet share and support one another again and we are already looking forward to early August when we regroup again.

Christine Halloran

June 2022.