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Spirituality Prayer Day Walk

Maureen Stella  |  26 June 2019

Teachers from St John's Catholic Primary School in Melbourne took part in a Spirituality Prayer Day Walk earlier this year.

The walk enabled staff to appreciate the silence of walking in nature and contemplating scripture.

The Walk was in response to a conversation Fr Mario (St John’s Parish Priest) and I had about our goal of providing our staff with the opportunity to deepen our faith experiences, aligned with our Education in Faith, School Improvement Goal “To strengthen and enrich our school as a contemporary Catholic community”.

We discussed the importance of developing our own spirituality and how this faith development was just as important as other areas of the curriculum.  We were inspired by Pope Francis Laudato si, “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live”.

We also spoke about the ways we could relate this experience to Lent where we are reminded to stop and spend some time reflecting on and listening to God’s presence in our lives. We wanted to offer our staff the time to do this in a natural setting.

The day's focus

Our focus for the day was “Being with God in Nature” and this “Walking with God in Nature Prayer Day” enabled staff to appreciate the silence and stillness of walking in nature and relating this to scripture.

The day was facilitated by Peter Saunders and staff from the Campion Centre of Ignatian Spirituality. Peter explained to staff at our initial staff meeting that the walk would be one of contemplation and conducted in silence and was not a fitness walk. This proved a challenge for some people, including myself.

The walk centred on the Heidelberg Flats and the day concluded with a Magis Circle where we gathered together to reflect on our experience.

The Latin word magis can be translated as “more, better, fuller” and Saint Ignatius of Loyola used this word to describe how authentic Christianity fosters a deeper connection with Christ and is more motivated in serving others. The founder of the Jesuit order summarised the dynamics of Christian life in three words-Know-Love-Follow.

The gift of silence

What I experienced from the day was a gift of silence!

As with many principals, my day is busy and involves multi-tasking. To have the time to really switch off and pray in natural surroundings was a wonderful experience and although I initially found the slow walking a challenge, I quickly moved on from that and was able to enter a state of meditative prayer.

Some feedback from my staff:

  • Great opportunity to reconnect with nature especially close by - a reminder we don’t have far to look.
  • Peter and his team. Well prepared and versed in leading us.
  • The timing of the day - Friday prior to the long weekend.
  • The surrounds.
  • Environment choice and having two groups.
  • A unique experience
  • Opportunity to explore local area and breakfast prior
  • Although we are fortunate to have that environment locally, a more remote location would have enabled me to reflect and pray better.
  • Can be challenging to ‘switch off’ - perhaps we could have spent some of the morning learning ‘how to’ be mindful, meditate, feel God on a walk
  • Opportunity as a staff to reflect on selves and own faith development
  • Great opportunity to experience silence - a rare thing for teachers!
  • The gift of silence and time to pray in nature.
  • The opportunity for all staff to participate in this faith formation and spirituality day.

Would you recommend the Prayer Day Walk?

Yes I would recommend this experience to other schools as it can be a unique and thought provoking time for staff, especially walking and praying in silence.

The sessions before the walk gave staff a glimpse of what the day would entail and Peter and his team were most professional and accommodating in planning for the day. It was a most worthwhile experience.

Maureen Stella is principal of St John's Catholic Primary School, Heidelberg

 

For more information about the Being with God in Nature Ministry and the retreats on offer, click here. If you’d like to contact the team about a workshop for your school, contact secretary@campion.asn.au or peter.saunders@campion.asn.au.

For more on spirituality walks, see Walking with God in Nature in the Winter  2019 edition of Australian Catholics.

 

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