We made the journey up to Ampleforth by minibus, having a blast, chatting and listening to music as we went. It was raining as we arrived but the views from the abbey out over the valley more than compensated for the weather.
After dropping off our bags we were given a tour of the abbey church, sitting in choir where the monks sat when they pray and worship. Our accommodation was not far from the abbey church and in our free time we could play table tennis and pool or just sit around on the bean bags and socialise with our friends.
We settled in for our first session with Fr Bede, a wise monk and proud Yorkshire man. He asked us what we wanted from our retreat and we told him that we wanted to explore the idea of friendship. We certainly did this and at night we watched a film together before settling down to sleep (eventually) in our dormitories - one for the girls and one for the boys.
Next morning, would you believe, some of the boys voluntarily rose early to go and worship at 6am with the monks joining them for their morning prayer. This was certainly a new and different experience, but they found it to be so peaceful and special that they did it again the following day. For the rest of the group it was shower and breakfast at a more reasonable hour.
Throughout the day we enjoyed Fr Bede’s little talks but we also had plenty of time to socialise, for example, playing rounders, or going on what was called an Emmaus Walk where we paired up and got to know people we might not have been really close friends with. This was good as it made us widen our friendship boundaries and made us tighter as a group. Fr Bede was always keen that we should try to do things that would make us step outside of our comfort zone, and forging new friendships was one example.
On the last day we prepared our own mass, led by Fr Bede, but with each of us having a little part to play. It was a lovely way to celebrate our time together and to thank God for new insights and new found friendships. It was very enjoyable and relaxing being away from school and this kind of retreat or pilgrimage experience would certainly be something we would look forward to next year.
Written by Jullian Unisan and Ben Leonard of 9C