“For 175 years Saint Beuno’s has been the right place for people who have gone there to pray, to study, to take important steps in religion and in the spiritual life. The rightness of the place is in its beauty and peace. There, something can be understood. Contemplation and wisdom are favoured, and help comes from them. A beautiful place has views of other beautiful places. Snowdonia, the Valley of the Clywd and all that is beyond, even as far as heaven. Peace is being spread. Beauty is being discerned. God is being heard, glimpsed and searched for again.” - Fr Peter Gallagher SJ, homily from the 175th anniversary Mass.
From a theology faculty which turned men into Jesuits, through to a retreat centre for those seeking spiritual sustenance and Ignatian accompaniment, St Beuno’s has managed that rare feat of adapting to changing times while staying absolutely true to its founding purpose. Hundreds of men were once ordained as Jesuit priests in its chapel, and though those days are now in the past, its mission remains just as important; the centre’s Director Ruth Holgate said that two thousand people made the journey last year to north Wales, to become closer to God. 175 years on since the first novices walked through its doors, St Beuno’s has a full and thriving programme of retreats and courses all the year round, from weekends to 30 days.
To acknowledge the enduring power of St Beuno’s, Jesuits, staff and supporters gathered at Farm St church in Mayfair to celebrate Mass, and reflect on that 175 years. The new Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits, Father Peter Gallagher SJ, said in his homily that St Beuno’s recasts our worries in a context of hope and gratitude. There is certainly much hope and gratitude for the work of those at St Beuno’s, and an appreciation of its place in the wider Jesuit mission. As the Father Superior of the Jesuit community at St Beuno’s, Tom McGuinness, pointed out, the celebrations fall within the 400th anniversary of the British Province.
After the Mass, visitors viewed a selection of images and books showcasing the long history of the retreat centre, which are now preserved in the Jesuit Archives. On display were architectural drawings by Joseph Hansom in the 1840s, which included features such as a tower which was proposed but never built, and maps of the original extent of the farm and land holdings. Also included were log books and day books, recording both daily life at St Beuno’s and wider events, including the bombing of Chester and Liverpool in 1940. The St Beuno’s Debating Club kept meticulous notes of meetings over many decades, and the choir kept a scrap book of its concert programmes, both of which were on display. From more recent times, there were programmes of Spirituality courses organised by Fr Gerry Hughes in the 1980s, and photographs from the beginning of St Beuno’s in the 1840s through to the 1990s.
At the reception inside the London Jesuit Centre following the Mass, friends and supporters were able to meet staff and express their support and admiration in person. The Director, Ruth Holgate, thanked supporters past and present for their generous donations and legacies that ensures St Beuno’s retreats are available to those unable to afford them.
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