BY Ryan McDougall | May 17 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

CHAS Conference, 10th May 2019 at the MacDonald Inchyra Hotel, Polmont.Our Daily Bread, by Bishop John Keenan and Julie McFarlane Barrow.Photo by and copyright of Paul Mc Sherry 07770 393960 @Paulmcsherry2

Retreats can help youth grow in Faith

Retreats have a ‘central place’ in renewing the Church and growing the Faith of the young people, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley has said.

The bishop was speaking at this year’s Catholic Headteachers’ Association of Scotland (CHAS) conference, at which he and Julie MacFarlane-Barrow, wife of Mary’s Meals founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, told of the charity’s new retreat that aims to ‘feed the hunger for Faith’ felt by children in schools.

The retreats are titled Our Daily Bread and take place at Craig Lodge, Dalmally.

The bishop and Mrs MacFarlane-Barrow, pictured right, explained how the retreats were inspired by Magnus’ experience meeting young people who desperately wanted to grow in their Faith.

Bishop Keenan reflected on his own experience of going on retreats while he was a schoolboy.

Very powerful

He said he remembered one particular retreat as a ‘real time of joy, of grace, of life, like a spiritual holiday.’

He added: “I can still remember the talks at the retreats all these years later, there’s something very powerful and memorable about them.

“There is something very human and spiritual about spending a full day and night together. Jesus said to His apostles, come away and rest for a while with Him, and they did.

“He would take them away and He would teach them and they would form a companionship or a community. Through forming a community we can do a lot of things together.”

Headteachers from almost all of Scotland’s Catholic secondary schools were present at the two-day conference at the Macdonald Inchyra Hotel, Polmont.

Bishop Keenan commented on the role retreats can play in schoolchildren’s Faith lives and said that in the face of a secular society, Catholic schools have become ‘more savvy’ in addressing the issue through various initiatives such as Our Daily Bread.

“We find that headteachers are really keen to support these initiatives,” he said.

“The wider Church creates these initiatives and it can always expect the schools to take them on.”

Spiritual hunger

Speaking to the SCO, Mrs MacFarlane-Barrow explained the retreats’ role in feeding the spiritual hunger experienced by young people, and stated they can be of a sign of ‘great hope’ for the Church in Scotland.

“Our Daily Bread is aimed at high school age children and it does seem to meet a hunger that they have,” she said.

“We’re at the beginning of Our Daily Bread’s journey and we’ll learn from each child that comes. There’s something in that act that when you give to someone else, you receive and they learn through that basic Christian act.”

On headteachers’ roles in their pupils’ Faith, she added: “I thank teachers and headteachers for what they’re doing already.

“They, within the Catholic education system in Scotland, have this unique position to nurture young people and what we’re able to do with Our Daily Bread complements what they’re currently doing.”

Mrs MacFarlane-Barrow explained that much of what Our Daily Bread offers in its various talks isn’t too different from what the young people learn in school, but the different setting at Craig Lodge means they may be more motivated to listen.

“We’re not saying things will be that different to what their teachers are saying, but because we take them into a different environment maybe they’ll listen more.

“What the teachers are already doing for them is so important and we’re happy to be able to help.”

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