The Thomas More Winter School held at Lake Glenmaggie, 15-17 August 2003, with its theme "The Eucharist: Our Source and Summit", was everything hoped for: kangaroos and cold nights, stones skipped on Lake Glenmaggie and smoky camp fires. The food was excellent; our thanks to caterers/caretakers Heather and Ian Mumford.
And the talks?
The young Dominican, Fr Dominic Murphy spoke on the Pope's "Theology of the Body". His talk was up to his usual high standard. The human body as made in the image and likeness of God underlines our great value. This not only gives meaning to marriage and consecrated life, but also sheds light on the love of God through the Incarnation and Eucharist.
Another young speaker, Marc Florio, with years of Catholic Youth Ministry experience, referred to the Eucharist as the incredible gift of Jesus on the Cross. This love of Jesus compels us to love others in turn. There is no excuse for Catholics who understand Jesus' love not in turn to love others by social action - "So join a good group!"
A further young speaker, Fr Michael Willemsen, assistant priest in Traralgon, showed the really joyful sides of both the Sacrament of Penance and the Penitential Rite at the start of Mass. The Eucharist's Penitential Rite is not mere padding, formality. It does something. Along with his informative talk, Fr Willemsen led us in adoration and Benediction, and together with three other priests gave us the opportunity for confession.
John Morrissey, a Melbourne man with relatives in Gippsland, took us through the history of the Eucharist. The tour began with Scripture and that inspiring second century philosopher, St Justin Martyr, who wrote even to the Roman Emperor about the Eucharist: "We mix a little water with the wine and we believe that the bread is truly changed into the Body of the Lord". John Morrissey's history tour ended with Vatican II and the Pope's latest encyclical.
Cranbourne parish priest Fr Andrew Wise gave us inspiring stories and simple messages to communicate to us that in the Eucharist is Jesus who loves us. Did he give us symbol only, or his whole self? "Jesus could hold nothing back!"
The Winter School concluded with a Mass, celebrated for us by the Bishop of Sale. Bishop Coffey's homily spoke of Jesus' loving sacrifice of the Eucharist, and showed that this is the fundamental motivation for our social action. We must recognise and join ourselves to the "movement of the Eucharist". The Mass, he said, is not a static picture, but something happening. If we enter into it, into the purpose and heart of Christ, then it will be completely natural and reasonable for us to respond to the needs of the world. After all, wasn't Jesus, on the Cross, responding out of the love of the Trinity to the needs of the world?
Bishop Coffey referred to the Pope's encyclical, which, while strong on contemplation of Jesus, also seeks to remind us of our duty as citizens of this world. (And so, despite our second last speaker being unable to get to the Winter School, her topic of Catholic Action was well covered).
A bit of feedback from attendees:
"In my opinion the format and setting were excellent." Michael Nieuwesteeg.
"Well worth the drive!" Josie Dimauro.
"Another fantastic weekend of enlightenment and fun!" Tanya Bruty.
"The retreat really has made me stronger especially in regards knowing I have a good group of people to support me in my active missions and my friend Boris told me it was the best thing he had ever done." James Grant.
"The focused nature of the weekend's topic and talks gave me new insights and a richer, fuller perspective on the awesome and sublimely beautiful mystery of Christ truly present in the Eucharist. The company, which was friendly, entertaining and at times hilarious, was perhaps at its best telling stories and singing around the campfire." Tess Duflou.
Thanks are due to the fifty plus attendees and all the helpers, especially the Sale National Civic Council group, whose commitment to social action comes with an enthusiasm for the Faith. The Winter School organisers left the camp not merely tired, but revived and inspired.