Mount St Benedict Centre’s final program to the public will be a Lenten Reflection Day on Saturday 9 March. The day brings to a close more than 90 years of formation for both the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and the wider community.
The Lenten Reflection Day will include space for participants to reflect on the rich history of the Centre and its place in their own faith journeys, ahead of its transfer to Good Samaritan Education after March.
A defining feature of the Centre’s programs has been the high calibre of its facilitators. Since the 1980s the Centre has invited scripture scholars, liturgical theologians, leaders in spirituality and artists to facilitate its Lenten Reflection Days.
In doing so it has developed a reputation for offering that “something more” the baptised are looking for as they prepare for Easter.
Sister Patty Fawkner and Sister Catherine McCahill, both gifted presenters who have regularly facilitated programs at the Centre over the years, will co-facilitate the final Lenten Reflection Day.
According to Sister Elizabeth Brennan, Centre Director from 2006-2017, the reason for the popularity of the Lenten Reflection Days is twofold. It lies in part because of “the quality of the program” but also in the season of Lent itself.
“There is something about Lent that speaks to the heart of Catholics and the heart of Christians. If there’s any season that people attempt to live with great deliberation and earnestness, it’s the Lenten season,” Elizabeth says.
“As the baptised we are called to make this yearly journey of renewal, conversion and inner transformation. People have a deep thirst for something nourishing and solid for their lives on this Lenten journey. A place like Mount St Benedict Centre has had the opportunity to offer such inspiring programs.”
Two regular attendees of the Lenten Reflection Days are Oblates of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan Kathy Moran and Marilyn Maxwell. Both of them describe a similar experience upon entering the grounds of the Centre.
“From the moment I drive in there is such peace,” Kathy says. “There is a palpable sense of spirituality as soon as I drive in,” Marilyn says.
“The Lenten Reflection Days are at the beginning of Lent and are a good way to start to prepare,” Kathy says.
“The day’s have a richness and depth that I was looking for. Its an opportunity to share the preparation of Lent with others,” Marilyn says.
While fasting has long been a part of this preparation, Elizabeth sees fasting within the context of feasting. “There is a sense of fasting associated with Lent but it is a fasting from in order to feast on,” she says.
“Fasting from the discontent in my life so that I can feast on gratitude; fasting from anger so I can feast on patience; fasting from pessimism so I can feast on optimism; fasting from behaviours that pull us away from our life in Christ so that we can live more fully in Christ.”
“[The Lenten Reflection Day] is a great opportunity to go and experience serenity and spirituality; to reset and refocus,” Marilyn says.
For Elizabeth the act of ‘refocussing’ is one of the central aims of the Lenten season. “Lent is the season of great possibility. It’s the season where we have the potential to refocus and gather ourselves for the journey into the Paschal Mystery, and our recommitment to Christ,” Elizabeth says.
The grounds of the Centre are purpose-built for refocussing. Adjacent Pennant Hills Road and yet somehow a world away from it, the grounds themselves are as much a part of the Lenten program as the facilitation.
“I love to wander; to think about what I have heard. I like walking up and down the paths, sitting on the seats, and walking through the cloisters,” Kathy says.
“The Centre itself is part of the reason for coming. There are some magnificent trees to walk around, or to sit by a seat outside the rose garden near the circular driveway,” Marilyn says.
The final Lenten Reflection Day will include a closing ritual for participants to reflect on and farewell their own special places at Mount St Benedict Centre where they have encountered God over the years.