A Different Kind of Retreat

During the first week of July our prayer group went to Portugal on retreat. Forty two comprised the whole group. We joined forces with a similar group who meet in Wimbledon. A Nigerian priest named Father Ted led everyone for the entire week. He is a gifted preacher. The Prayer Group which is organised by David and Eileen has strong associations with a group of Indian Sisters who work in the field of medicine in India with extremely poor people. Two of them travelled to Castilo de Vide, where we made our retreat to meet the group and tell us about their work.

The programme each day was different. Some mornings the day began with breakfast while on others it was early Mass at 7.00 a.m. followed by breakfast. A constant each morning was recitation of the Rosary said outside at the shrine of Our Lady. That usually lasted about half an hour. The Rosary was prayed numerous times in the day. Father Ted has wonderful devotion to Our Blessed Lady evident by the way he spoke so naturally about her, usually addressing her as ‘Our Mother’. He also showed astounding devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. There was adoration every day for at least one hour. There were two chapels available for our use twenty four hours a day. We certainly had many opportunities for prayer. Mass each day lasted about an hour and twenty minutes. Some days it was longer. Two accomplished musicians provided the music, a guitarist and a keyboard player. The singing was usually charismatic in style. Thus there was a balance between the times of quiet prayer and those of a more exuberant flavour.

On the Sunday, we visited Fatima for the whole day. It was extremely hot there. It was also crowded. We enjoyed lunch in the Convent run by the ‘Daughters of Charity’. It is they who also administer in the Retreat Centre which is owned by the Lisbon Diocese.

Castilo de Vide is a little town about an hour’s drive north east of Lisbon. It is not far from the Spanish border. There is quite a Spanish flavour to the place with typical white adobe buildings and red, slate roofs. The Retreat Centre is owned by the Diocese of Lisbon. It is far from the nearest habitation. Whenever we travelled it was through quite mountainous terrain so although the temperature was high each day, one could feel rather chilly which was good. Yet one would not dream of sitting out in the sun, it was too strong. The cool, mountainous air caused hay fever to flare up for some of the group. There are numerous shrines to Our Lady dotted here and there, indicating the strong Catholic allegiance of the local people. I just pray that their faith may be strengthened.

Sr Nuala McGinley RSC


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