Since 2011, YAG has been on a yearly retreat to Aylesford Priory where we've been welcomed by the Carmelite Friars.
The feedback from the retreats has been great, and the weekend away has become a highlight of the YAG calendar.
21st - 23rd October 2011
The first YAG retreat was organised by members of the YAG community and included sessions on "Our Identity in Christ" and "Coming out at Work". Our guest speaker, Fr Anthony Lester OCarm, lead a reflection "In Silence before God".
On Saturday evening we hosted the first retreat Gala Night . YAG members shared their many artistic and musical talents, and a number of us became unexpectedly aware of previously (very) hidden skills in cake decoration.
We ended the retreat with an Emmaus walk through the grounds of the priory, giving is time to reflect on the weekend's experiences.
5th - 7th October 2012
Our second annual weekend retreat led by David Birchall SJ included sessions on "Transformations for the better in my Life", "Christ and Relationships"and "A Consideration of my Heart's Desires."
There was an opportunity to try out a "Feldenkreis - Awareness through Movement" session on the Saturday afternoon before enjoying afternoon tea and cake.
During Gala Night, we attempted to learn some German folk dances, and watched some fantastic dance routines by various YAG members.
Change and the Heart's Desire
Laudato si - On care for our common home
27th -29th September 2013
The third annual retreat was based on Pope Francis' homily given in the Sistine Chapel on 14th March 2013 - "My prayer for us all is that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, will grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ crucified".
Sessions included "Journeying", "Building" and "Professing", and the retreat concluded with YAG attending a pilgrimage mass at the Priory with Archbishop Peter Smith.
The photo shows us alongside our 'LGBT Catholics Younger Adults Group' sign, the first time our table placard made reference to the acronym 'LGBT'.
The Joy of the Gospel
Journeying, Building, Professing
26th - 28th September 2014
More than 20 people from LGBT Younger Adults Group met for an awesome weekend retreat at the Carmelite Monastery in Aylesford. We explored the Joy of the Gospel, through the story of Emmaus.
For two days we reflected, prayed, and shared our lives in relation to the disciples that encountered Jesus on the road, and whose eyes were opened when he broke the bread. In each session we explored a bit of the story in a different way, through imaginative contemplation, reflection on art - led by Jesuit Fr O'Reilly - a theology discussion, and sharing of our personal journeys.
We were very welcomed at the monastery, where we attended mass, and were fortunate to have the prior to come to speak to us and give us a blessing at the end of the retreat. We came back to our lives energised, closer to Jesus, and with a stronger sense of a community. A worthwile experience!
Lent Retreat 2017
6th - 8th November 2015
The fifth YAG retreat was based on Pope Francis' second ecyclical Laudato Si - On care for our common home.
24th - 26th March 2017
The sixth retreat at Aylesford reflected on how the life, death and resurrection of Christ resonates with our own lives and experiences as LGBT people within the church.
This is what one of the participants had to say about their experience...
I was a bit nervous ahead of the YAG retreat- I've only been to mass at Farm street a few times, and I'd not gone to any YAG events, nor had I ever gone on a retreat. I needn't have been nervous, as it turned out: I found the group exceedingly welcoming and the weekend as a whole both fun and spiritually rewarding.
Arriving at The Friary was interesting - as it was early November it was very dark and the site of medieval buildings and Friars in hooded habits felt a bit like stepping back in time, to use a cliche. We had dinner, and then the first (brief) session followed by a series of icebreaker games, which did do as intended and break the ice.
The bulk of the retreat started on Saturday, as we had the first sessions really focusing on Laudato Si. The format of a group, or small group, discussion, a period of personal reflection and prayer, and then a further group discussion allowed for a range of views to be expressed and issues to be engaged with in some more depth than in just one discussion.
I personally found the rosary garden in the Friary an excellent place for reflection - and discovering it early on Saturday gave me a bit of inspiration for a later session inspired by Gerard Manley Hopkins in which we had to reflect on the imperfection and beauty of a tree.
There was, of course, the opportunity to go to mass and several of the other services conducted by the Friars. (Night prayer was especially beautiful). Early on Saturday evening Monsignor Keith had composed a very lovely piece of liturgy which allowed those present to affirm their individual vocations as Catholics.
It would be remiss not to mention the Gala night which displayed the talents of various of those present, and allowed everyone present to learn some ceilidh dancing (to various degrees of skill).
Sunday featured Mass, and a frenzied dash back for the final session: an interesting reflection on the common good. Wil's exercise "Twix or treat" was somewhat stymied by the sheer number of economists in the room, who decided against sharing, but this led to an interesting discussion (especially on the gap between thought experiment and real life)
All in all, the retreat was a lovely and welcoming occasion for someone who hadn't attended before, and I look forward to attending the next one.