Many longstanding members of the Lay Retreat Association enjoyed a thanksgiving Mass and dinner followed by dinner in Milltown Park of Sunday 2 October. Liam O’Connell SJ was the main celebrant and Mike Drennan SJ preached the homily. Marking the closing down of the LRA, Fr Liam told those present, “As we celebrate the last 71 years since the founding of the LRA, we remember that as Christians we see that at every ending there is a possibility for new life, and that Jesus Christ waits for us in the future to surprise us and welcome us to something new.”
Fr Mike Drennan, in his homily, said the Mass was a gathering of people who wanted to remember with gratitude the work of God in their midst down the years. “We gather to remember and to give thanks. We celebrate a sacred story that tells of faith, service and generosity over many years – the story of the LRA that is ultimately God’s story. It incorporates the lives of a wide range of people from founders, officers, promoters, and the thousands who were part of the journey as retreatants.”
Referring to the collective decision earlier in the year to to wind up the Association he said, “I would not call it an ending as such, as it is a sacred story that lives on – the memory remains alive. If we take the image of Glendalough, we can say that it is not dead – it remains a place of pilgrimage, a living memory that invites people into God’s story and into prayer. In a similar spirit we can say that the LRA has touched many lives and leaves a rich legacy for the future.”
The Mass was a reflective and prayerful occasion marked by gratitude and memories. The meal afterwards was a true community celebration of people looking to the future with hope. This mood was summed up by Liam O’Connell, assistant to the Provincial in the Irish Jesuit Province who spoke at the dinner saying,
“The Society of Jesus is going to continue the work of the LRA, in helping people to know and love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be attentive by the Holy Spirit. We will continue to support the prayer website called Sacred Space; support the Manresa Retreat House in Dollymount, where they are developing new types of reflection days, including a one day retreats for lay people, called Oasis Days; we have the Galway Jesuit Spirituality Centre, whose programme includes one day retreats for lay people, including days for women, called Women at the Well. There, they explore the importance of women in Scripture. And we will continue our work in Messenger Publications who publish books on prayer and Jesuit spirituality.”
As a token of thanks all of the LRA promoters at the mass and dinner were given a selection of recent books published by Messenger publications.