When Sr Elaine Morzone opened the Sychar Spirituality Centre in Toowoomba Queensland late last year, she hoped to start some long-term faith sharing groups in the community. “I wanted to offer something that could sustain our communities who have been through so much, and for it to be ongoing, not just a one-off program” Elaine said.
While Toowoomba is a large regional centre in south east Queensland, the diocese is very much rural and covers a huge area. Many of these rural communities have been badly affected by the drought. “Even though we have had some rain recently, the drought has not fully broken. There is a real need for ongoing spiritual conversation” says Sr Elaine.
Elaine contacted Clive Hamlin and Maria Shelley at JISA Faber and invited them to offer the First Spiritual Exercises (FSE) Retreat “Inner Peace in Divine Love” undertaken in daily life over a 4 week period in October. “We were happy to accept Sr Elaine’s invitation” says Clive Hamlin, “in meeting Elaine, it was like a kindred spirit.”
Even with Covid restrictions Clive and Maria were able to offer two opportunities to experience the FSE both during the day and in the evening. “It turned out that the people who attended were at a place where they wanted to share more of their spiritual lives” said Sr Elaine. “there was a freedom of people coming because they felt called.”
“Maria and I were struck by the authentic heartfelt sharing from the participants. Ignatius believed that God wanted a personal relationship with everybody as long as we are open and generous” said Clive “and I felt that from the people we met in these groups in Toowoomba. It was nothing to do with us and all to do with the Holy Spirit.”
“Clive and Maria did a wonderful job, and when they shared something of their own lives, this encouraged others to share deeply.” stated Elaine. “We followed up with further sessions and there was a trust that built up and deeper sharing.”
“It is my hope that as well as enrichment for themselves, that some people may go on to be trained in the giving of the First Spiritual Exercises.” said Elaine. “I want people to say this is their centre and to respond to a calling not feeling burdened that they should do something.”
“I would like us to be a centre of outreach for rural areas, where people can feel safe to share their faith more deeply than they wouldn in their social circles.” says Elaine.
“I am grateful for the association with JISA Faber, even though we’re not an Ignatian centre, it can still be a part of what we offer here. Spiritual conversations, the use of a listening book (journal) and the Awareness Examen have been wonderful gifts from this retreat.”