On a chilly Saturday morning on 31 January, 28 students gathered at Newman House, the University Chaplaincy, to begin a pilgrimage around London visiting members of religious communities in the Diocese.
The first stop was a visit to the Carmelites in Notting Hill where we were welcomed by Sr Mary of St Philip who spoke to us about St Teresa of Avila and the foundation of the Carmelites. The day of a Carmelite is spent predominantly in silence, maintaining an atmosphere of prayer and contemplation. In this way, the Carmelites see themselves as an ‘engine room’ of prayer which supports the Church and people throughout the world. Our meeting closed with Mass in the chapel, celebrated by Fr Stephen Wang, Senior University Chaplain.
After a short bus ride, the group arrived at the Convent of the Assumption in Kensington where we were joined by Fr Paul Fletcher SJ, the chaplain to Heythrop College, and Sr Frances from the Sisters of Nazareth. Fr Paul gave an inspiring talk on his journey of discernment and the challenges he faced along the way. This was by no means an easy path for him, he explained, and even once he had discerned a calling to the priesthood, he was unclear whether this was as a diocesan priest or a Jesuit. Sr Frances spoke of her love of nursing, which is the charism of the Sisters of Nazareth. Her convent, Nazareth House, is attached to the nursing home which enables Sr Frances to maintain a structured prayer life whilst performing important work in the home, bringing her great joy and fulfilment.
The day ended with a visit to Allen Hall seminary where the group heard from three seminarians about their experience of discernment and formation for the priesthood. Everyone we met that day had such a strong sense of purpose in their lives, but also radiated joy and a great love for God in all that they did. It is safe to say that all came away truly inspired.