Wednesday 8th November 2023
Finally the day has arrived - we have landed at Spec!
The children met with their group leaders on arrival and were taken to their dormitories - as you can imagine, tremendous excitement. After dropping their things to their rooms we went to lunch. Nikodem and Venice led us in a beautiful prayer before we enjoyed a jacket potato with baked beans, salad and coleslaw. Very tasty. This was followed with a flap jack. Unfortunately the rain started to come down after lunch so we had to have our break in our common room. Miss Murphy has taught the children some card games and it is getting very serious...! We are looking forward to our first activity.
Our first activity was in the beautiful Chapel. The children learnt how sin is something that separates us from God but Jesus came into the world to remove sin and let us be close to God. Then the children went on a treasure hunt all over the site. They had to answer RE based questions and find the RE based clues to find the card. The red team won. This task involved lots of running all over the place so let us hope they will sleep well later! The children also got to make a cross with beads after our time in the Chapel. I have been on many residentials but had a first today. At around 4:20pm, one of the group leaders reported that two of our children had changed into their pyjamas - they had not even had their dinner! There was I thinking we were in for a late night! Holy Family children are trying to go to bed! For dinner the children had shepherds pie with vegetables and they loved it - almost everyone had second helpings. For desert they had jam sponge cake and I think we will have to get the recipe for Chef Ola because the children couldn't get enough of it. Everyone had more than one slice and lots of custard. So we now have lots of well fed and very happy children. We are having a short break in our common room and then heading out for a night walk - can't wait! Will post another update later tonight.
I have been bamboozled tonight by Magician Louis and his card tricks. Incredible! Night walk was lots of fun - the torches came in very handy. It ended at the small Chapel and we had our second visit of the day. I was so impressed by your children's ability to go from excited, laughing and playing on the night walk to reverent and respectful as we entered the Chapel for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We spent around twenty minutes with God and it was a very special time. I genuinely feel very fortunate that I get to spend this time with your children - there is something very powerful and enriching when you pray with a group of children, thank you. During Exposition the children were invited to think about how loved they are and then to speak to Jesus. The theme of our retreat is 'living life to the full' and to do this we need to know God more and more just as He knows us. The time spent in the Chapel this evening is something that I will remember for a long time and I hope your children will too. At the end, one of the children whispered to me, "It is nice here, I wish we could stay." We then headed back to our common room for a film, 'Joseph King of Dreams'. The children have all had some popcorn and are sitting together watching the film. We are celebrating Casey's birthday tonight and have some special treats to share - Happy Birthday Casey! I think we have lots of tired children and am anticipating (hoping!) they will all have a good nights sleep.
Goodnight from Pinner.
Thursday 9th November 2023
The children were all up and about around 6:30am this morning after a good nights sleep. I was awoken by the sound of the rugby players working out in the common room - they are taking this very seriously! The 6 children representing the school came down for breakfast a little earlier than everyone else and were then met by Miss Emma who very kindly came to collect our children so that they didn't miss out - thank you Miss Emma. After waving goodbye to the players I headed straight to the Chapel for a prayer - Please God help the children to do their very best. I can not tell you how nervous I am. The children had a full and healthy breakfast this morning: cereal, apple juice, orange juice, croissant, pain au chocolat, fruit, toast and yoghurt. We then had break time outside and now the children have headed off for their first activities.
This morning the children had Stations of the Cross in the grounds of the SPEC Centre. This was followed by a session on the Saints - individuals who have 'lived life to the full'. The children enjoyed a quiz on Saints and have started to prepare a play on the life of a Saint - this play is to be presented to the whole group later this evening, can't wait! For lunch the children enjoyed pasta with tomato or bolognese sauce and with grated cheese and as much salad as they want. For desert they had a flap jack or chocolate cookie. Everything was eaten - clean plates all round, a wonderful sight. After lunch we had some time to play in the grounds. We spent some time searching for the elusive Pinner Drop Bears. Some children are adamant they have seen one scurrying up a tree (they seem to be shy creatures). We have a plan to lay some bait tonight to try and trap one. If successful we will rehome it in our forest back at school (we can check with Miss Emma later!). It could be a income generating tourist attraction...
On a separate note - some Year 12 children from Cardinal Pole School in Hackney have been sharing the site with us - they are leaving today. They are the most impressive group of young adults I have met in a very long time and have been so kind and friendly to our children - wonderful role models. We will miss them when they leave.
This afternoon we welcomed back our triumphant rugby players who told us all about life on the 'outside' and their success at Trailfinders - we are very proud of them. The children then headed out to find some interesting pieces of nature to use in a piece of art work. They added a piece of scripture to this once back in their small groups. They then spent the rest of the afternoon rehearsing for their Saints play performance later in the evening. For dinner the children had bangers and mash followed by apple crumble and custard - very, very tasty. We then had some free time in our common room and the table tennis table came out. We then had the joy of watching the children performing their plays on the lives of different Saints - Joan of Arc, St Carlo Acutis, St Stephen, St Paul and St Rita. Unfortunately the rain started to fall this evening so we had an inside camp fire with hot chocolate and marshmallows. There was lots and lots of laughter tonight - the children were a joy. We finished the evening with a prayer round the camp fire. The children are now showering and getting bags packed ready for the morning. We have to be out of our bedrooms with our bags by 8am for breakfast. An early start for all of us but we have some tired children who are ready for their beds. Will continue to upload photos tomorrow. Wishing you all a very goodnight from a sleepy and happy Pinner. Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow.
Friday 10th November
The children had the most wonderful sleep last night - not a sound came from them and they have woken looking refreshed. Breakfast was the same as yesterday and everything was eaten. We said goodbye to our friend Yara this morning who headed off with her Dad to represent the school football team in an important football tournament today - we will pray for the team in the Chapel today.
This morning the children are preparing for our Mass - the climax of our retreat. The theme of our retreat is 'live life to the full' and they are now focusing on how they have been created for a purpose and how important it is for them to use their gifts in a world that has been waiting for them.
This is my final update from Pinner. I would like to finish by thanking you for letting us spend this very special time with your children - it has been a privilege. Before coming away with your children some misinformed people actually told me that I would have to spend time running after some of the children, Benny Hill style. Thankfully, I know your children far better than any member of staff at Holy Family and I didn't listen. Why on earth would a child run away from me or the retreat!? I don't think I have ever enjoyed a residential as much - the children's behaviour has been exemplary and they have been a sheer joy. We will see you in a few hours and we will be praying for the school community and all our families at the Mass.