The Lay Retreat Association has been running retreats since its foundation (by Fr Eugene Ward SJ) in 1945. It is still alive and well, meeting the needs of lay people from all over the country. Pat Carey describes its origins and aims.
We all need our own little space from time to time. The LRA has been providing such a service for the leity for over 60 years. This is achieved with short retreats at weekends. Approximately fifteen such retreats are held annually, and men, women and couples are all welcome. It is intended to actively pursue a youth programme as a priority, as early as possible.
The LRA, a Jesuit apostolate, was founded in Rathfarnham Retreat House by Fr Eugene Ward S.J. in 1945. It arose out of a retreat movement which commenced some years earlier in Rathfarnham Castle and which in turn owed its origins to the efforts in France of Fr Watrigant S.J. in the 1880s and was introduced into Ireland by Fr. Willie Doyle S.J. in the early 1900s. It was Fr Willie’s ambition to open a retreat house in Dublin for working men.
This only came to fruition after Fr. Willie’s death, and the location was Rathfarnham Castle, then in Jesuit hands. The building of the retreat house began in1918 and opened its doors to the first retreatants in 1921/22.
The early years
In the early days of the Association in Rathfarnham Castle many of the retreatants took a much deeper interest than just going on their retreat. Funds were collected and disbursed in making the sleeping quarters more comfortable. Extra bedclothes were bought. The chapel was painted voluntarily, as was the refectory. The enthusiasm was such that the men lived for their Association and the promotion of its aims: “to bring the benefits of enclosed retreats to as wide a range of Catholic men as possible”.
The move from Rathfarnham
The demise of the retreat house in Rathfarnham Castle in 1985 could have been the death knell of the LRA. Prior to 1985, promoters merely brought retreatants. The Jesuit spiritual directors did all administration work. Now, with no accommodation and no administrators, the future looked bleak. But the Holy Spirit was at work. The LRA was blessed with a wonderful president, the late John Grace, who, with his committee, set about taking on the work. Office accommodation was made available in Milltown Park with a promised supply of Spiritual Directors by the Jesuit Provincial. A very gifted and hard-working member, Peter Jordan who became coordinator/organiser, succeeded in finding residential accommodation in retreat houses in the Dublin area.
About this time the LRA answered a demand from ageing members for day retreats. These retreats began and were accommodated in Milltown Park while residential accommodation was available in Manresa, Emmaus, St. Mary’s Tallaght and Avila. A group of Wexford men who had been coming to Rathfarnham, one of them a founder member, got accommodation for a day retreat in St. John of God Convent, Ballyvaloo, Wexford, and the group still continues to this day.
The LRA today
Most retreatants come from Dublin, though many more come from areas as far away as Donegal, Galway, or Leitrim. Ladies are now making a big contribution since first joining in March 1988. So the LRA is still alive and well, though struggling at times but hopefully doing it’s best, placing its full confidence in the Holy Spirit. The active support of the retreat houses, which continue to provide the accommodation, has been most helpful in the development of the apostolate. The LRA is most thankful and appreciative of that support.
In a busy world, it is easy to understand Jesus saying to His busy apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” [Mk 6:31].
The LRA trusts in the Holy Spirit, and if you are moved to Time Out the LRA is waiting.
Enquiries welcomed: Milltown Park 01-2180230/2180274 or the Coordinator at 01-8370778.
Further info: Pat Carey 01 8327830.