In April this year, the Australian Province provided Shane Hogan, former Headmaster of Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview, with the opportunity to attend a six-week retreat program in Manresa, Spain. This is his report:
In mid April this year, 34 people gathered in Spain for the Third Ignatian Immersion Course offered by the Centre of Spirituality in Manresa. Attending the course were people from 15 countries across five continents. Twenty of the participants were from non-English speaking backgrounds.
The group was very diverse. It included lay people, religious sisters, people of different Christian denominations and a very varied group of Jesuits: some former Provincials, some current Masters of Novices, theologians, and pastors.
And while we were indeed a varied group, we were all part of the worldwide Ignatian family.
‘Companions on a Journey’, apart from being sung often, was a most appropriate description of the experiences we shared at Manresa - the very same place where Ignatius had such intimate and life-changing interactions with God, Jesus, Mary and the ordinary people of his time. At Manresa we, too, had the opportunity to grow and deepen our faith, and to come to know and understand Ignatius the saint and the man who has left such a significant impact on the world for more than four centuries.
The six-week Ignatian Immersion Course was presented by the team from The Centre of Spirituality at the “Cave of Saint Ignatius (Manresa)”, along with an outstanding team of scholars from universities in Rome, Madrid, Catalonia and India.
We began the course with a study of the spiritual experiences of Ignatius himself – experiences recorded in his Autobiography and his Spiritual Diary. We then reflected on our own spiritual experiences as we undertook an 8-day guided silent retreat. We also studied the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and reflected on how Ignatian Spirituality can and does inspire people today.
For six weeks we followed the journey of Ignatius the pilgrim from Loyola to Montserrat, and then spent time finding the places in Manresa that were so significant in his formation, in his writings and in his life – places that are still important to people today.
As a participant on this course, the opportunity to live, breath and deepen my spiritual connections with the Ignatian story, in such a mystical place, was pure magic. Having worked alongside some very inspiring Jesuits for the past 33 years, it was wonderful to have the time to study, and to discuss in depth, the origins of the Society and the significant men, apart from Ignatius, who founded the Society.
It was exciting to spend time studying the early documents of the Society - documents that have served the Society so well for so long. It was also a privilege to read the letters of Ignatius that are so rich in history and the every day issues the first Jesuits faced in the early years of the Society.
I was also inspired by my three colleagues Larry, Jen and Stephanie, who work with the Australian Centres of Ignatian Spirituality which provide opportunities for people to participate in retreats and the Spiritual Exercises with trained spiritual directors. Our time together was a most memorable experience and we will certainly be Companions on a Journey for the rest of our days!
A team from the Australian Province has participated at each of the previous two Ignatian Immersion Course offered by the Centre of Spirituality in Manresa, Spain. The work being done by the Province, through its Centres of Ignatian Spirituality, providing retreats and the Spiritual Exercises to a wide range of people across Australia, is quite outstanding.
To live with people from all over the world for six weeks could be, and was, a unique experience in itself. However, to share this wonderful Immersion with so many people from so many different contexts, but with a similar ethos and mission, will certainly enhance our lives and our ability to enhance the lives of others, forever.
Thank you to the team from La Cova, Manresa and the Australian Province for allowing each of us, and myself in particular, the opportunity to have such a remarkable Immersion.
Shane Hogan. Jennifer Sanders. Stephanie Brabin. Larry Cox.