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Sydney retreats offer a refocus on Christ

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Dominican Sisters talk to retreatants on 13 June. Personal relationship with God is the focus of the retreats which will be offered at Beverly Hills and Fairfield in coming weeks. PHOTO: Elizabeth Arblaster

Under the Go Make Disciples Archdiocesan Mission Plan, retreats deliver time, guidance and opportunities to connect with the Lord

Sydney Catholics experiencing a retreat for the first time in years said they are now encouraging others to take up the opportunities being offered throughout the archdiocese. Over June and July the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia and the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation (SCE) are holding three one-day retreats around the city on the theme of discipleship.

Titled Come, Follow Me: Discipleship Retreat Days, the events for people over 18 years are an opportunity to spend some time re-connecting with Jesus Christ, reflecting on what it means to be His disciple, how to grow as a disciple, and how to respond to the gift of discipleship by serving in their parishes and the wider community.

Sr Cecilia Joseph OP said the first retreat day, held at St Mary’s Cathedral, was ‘life-changing’ for many, including some who took the opportunity to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after many years. “The Holy Spirit was so present and the grace was abundant,” she said.

“I didn’t realise how much I wanted and needed something like this” – Emma Gilchrist

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“We hope that those who attend these retreat days will encounter Christ in a new and deeper way, that they will meet Him personally, as they never have before. It is the goal that they are renewed in their call to holiness and take the next step in this great adventure of following the Lord. As a team of religious and lay people working together, we are able to reach many hearts and pass along that fire of the Holy Spirit that will bring people closer to Christ and His Church.”

Manager of the SCE Parish Renewal Team Elizabeth Arblaster said she was pleased at the positive response to the retreats, and at people’s willingness to discern how they are called to serve in Christ’s mission.

“The purpose of these retreats is to provide the people of the parishes and communities in Sydney with an opportunity to enter more deeply into their own experience of being a disciple of Jesus, in keeping with the call of our Archdiocesan Mission Plan, Go Make Disciples,” she said.

“The graces we receive from our relationship with Our Lord are so great that they can’t help but overflow to others. However, we do need to be intentional about spending time to either experience a deeper encounter with Him in the first instance or else to recall the great blessing of having encountered Him in the past.

Dominican Sister Cecilia Joseph chats with a participant at the Come Follow Me retreat held at St Mary’s Cathedral on 13 June. More retreats are on offer this June and July across Sydney. PHOTO: Patrick J. Lee

“We are called to deepening our discipleship and to discern how best to use our gifts to help our parishes continue to grow as places where people can encounter the Lord.”

Emma Gilchrist, parish administration assistant at St Canice’s Parish in Elizabeth Bay, said that the day exceeded her expectations.

“I saw it as an opportunity to invest in some time out and went with a very open mind, but was totally blown away by how much I gained from a spiritual perspective,” she said.

“I didn’t realise how much I wanted and needed something like this. It has made me reflect on my personal relationship with God and the Church and to think more deeply about my own vocation as a Christian and in my work and what we are doing as a parish. The Sisters were very inspiring and engaging and really spoke such a profound and simple way that reached everyone including me.

“We are called to deepening our discipleship and to discern how best to use our gifts to help our parishes continue to grow as places where people can encounter the Lord” – Elizabeth Arblaster

“It was such a lovely and enriching experience and the presentations and structure of the day worked really well so I’ve recommended it to people I work with and close friends of mine.”

Fiona McGrath also said she is grateful to have attended the first Discipleship Retreat and has also encouraged others to attend one if possible. The Family Educator at St Brendan’s School, which is connected to St Brendan’s Parish in Annandale, said it was “wonderful to experience Eucharistic Adoration in the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral, have the opportunity for reflective prayer and learn about the modern day saints”.

“All the presenters were excellent as they were engaging and easy to listen to,” she said.

The next Come, Follow Me Discipleship Retreat Day will be held at Regina Coeli parish, Beverly Hills, on 26 June and Our Lady of the Rosary parish, Fairfield on 17 July.
The cost is $10 per person, which includes a light lunch.

Register at or email Helen Wagner at [email protected]


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