It was a cold autumn day at St Joseph Conference Centre in Bringelly, South-West of Sydney. A group consisting of over 50 people from the Emmanuel community and guests grouped to prepare for Pentecost, appropriately themed ‘With Mary in the Upper Room.’
The theme was based on a bible passage (Acts 1:13-15) where Mary stood with the apostles during Pentecost:
When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers….
On the eve of Pentecost or the first day of the retreat, there was plenty of food. This is typical of any Emmanuel community-centred event where cake, fabulous company and opportunities to learn and reflect on our spiritual life was in abundance.
Mary MacGregor’s talk reminded us of Mary’s presence in key decisive moments – Incarnation, Cruxifixon and Pentecost. John Collins talk on the ‘Charisms of the Holy Spirit’ was light-hearted and explored the many gifts of the Holy Spirit that is freely offered to all of us.
The rest of the first day set the scene and created a disposition of hope on that eve of Pentecost, where we waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
There was opportunity to learn more about the gift of tongues from Peter McGregor’s talk. For those who wished to know more about this gift, there was opportunity to learn from those who were using this gift.
When we were praying over each other, some received various spiritual gifts for the first time while others opened their hearts to invite the Holy Spirit to actively fill their lives. Some sensed definite things while others will wait to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives in the coming weeks and months.
When I asked for feedback on day 1, a participant said “We are expecting great things of the coming of the Holy Spirit.”
Another participant was going through a tumultuous health journey and found the retreat ‘the icing on the cake.’ The words received when she was being prayed with was healing, and reminded her to praise the Lord, no matter what.
The final day was punctuated with a panel of testimonies, reminding the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives, mass and how He continues to work.
It was a retreat that definitely celebrated one of the lesser talked about member of the Holy Trinity.
Finally, 2 first-time retreaters summed up the whole weekend beautifully:
“I’ve been to many retreats but this is one where I really felt the Holy Spirit.”
“The presence of the Holy Spirit was overwhelming. On Saturday night, I had the feeling that we were in the Upper Room, receiving the Holy Spirit. During the retreat I was able to pray for the first time, in tongues, from my heart.”