Fr Brian O’Leary SJ has just returned from directing (together with two sister directors) a group of Lutheran pastors in an Ignatian retreat in Gothenburg, Sweden. The initiative came from an ecumenical Ignatian association named Kompass, whose guiding spirit is Sister Adelheid (82), a German Sacred Heart sister (pictured here on the right of Brian and his fellow-director Sr Helen McLaughlin). Over the years they have organised several Ignatian retreats in Gothenburg, and this year’s followed the pattern: eight full days of silence, no general talks apart from the homily at Mass, but a daily period of direction for each retreatant, many of them experienced directors themselves.
Some have made the 30-day Exercises, others a 19th-Annotation retreat. Some learned their Ignatian spirituality at St Bueno’s. Brian found that they bring an unencumbered freshness to the Exercises: less mindful than us of things ecclesiastical, yet anxious for contact with the Catholic Church, at the level not of hierarchy but of spirituality.
The operation is facing a big hurdle. The RSCJ sisters are pulling out of Sweden at the start of 2009. Without the inspiration of Sister Adelheid, will the tradition – which over the years has involved several Irish and British Jesuits – survive? May the Holy Spirit, working through the Spiritual Exercises, keep it alive.