Tomorrow we will take nine ordinands on a retreat, just a few weeks before their ordination. This is one of the most rewarding and awesome elements in my job. It’s such a privilege to be a part of the journey of each person, in their growth, their formation as pastors, and their dedication to the ministry of the Gospel. So what’s this all about?
The retreat includes a number of sessions and themes, with a fairly simple focus. At the outset, I will invite them to spend a period in silence reflecting upon their own sense of who Christ is, for them. Who is ‘your’ Jesus?—in the sense of what aspects or stories of Jesus inspire and especially shape your own faith and your vision of ministry? I will encourage the candidates to follow the Irish Jesuits’ idea of actually talking to Jesus, as if he was sitting there with them.
This private reflection leads to some time formulating a statement, to be shared with the group.
From this process we will proceed to a full afternoon spent reflecting upon the vows which will be part of the ordination service. We introduce the candidates to these, in our retreats at the beginning of each year, and now these candidates are coming to the end of their training, they encounter these vows in a very immediate way. So we will explores some questions about what things inspire and excite them, in these vows, and what things daunt or challenge them very deeply. Again, we will have some time sharing as an outcome from this process.
Another phase of our time will be more social and relaxing, sharing stories and symbols of blessing: things, songs, stories which have been special sources of blessing to us, or times when we have particularly been able to bring God’s blessing to others. I’ve been part of such a session several times before, and it was truly wonderful.
The second day of the retreat focusses on the ordination service, and the candidates’ reflection is specially focussed on their own faith statements, to be presented in the service. Along with the Scripture readings, these statements function as the presentation of God’s word in the liturgy. This has been a wonderful innovation in our services, which was a bit of a challenge for some of us who thought that we had to have a sermon. But these students and their stories of faith are the sermon!
I am deeply privileged to be part of this whole process and I’m looking forward to this retreat again.
And after this weekend, some holiday. I’m looking forward to that too!