During the last weekend of May I was fortunate enough to attend the 2017 Passionist Institute, held at Holy Cross Centre in Templestowe, Victoria. I was one of 60 participants from all over ‘the Holy Spirit Province’: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. Myself and Finbarr Reynolds, being part of the Passionist Youth Retreat team for Wellington and Palmerston North, had our flights, registration and accommodation paid for by the Diocese of Palmerston North Allocations Group. It was our first time attending an Institute, and it was Finbarr’s first time to Australia.

Passionist Institutes are held most years, usually in Templestowe, although there have been a couple in Waihi Beach, NZ. The Institutes serve as formation for those involved with the Passionists – as Companions, through the Passionist Family Group Movement, as Consecrated men and women or as Novitiates – and include some study on the history and spirituality of the Passionist charism, ritual, contemplation, and prayer.

The theme of this year’s Institute was Hope and Gratitude. Fr’s Brian Traynor CP, Chris Monaghan CP, and Tom McDonough CP took turns presenting on this theme across the three days. Fr Brian explored hope/gratitude and the Passionist charism: from A Passionist Heart, “Although the Passion of Jesus offers no hope without the Resurrection, this Resurrection Hope cannot be experienced unless first we are willing to stay with the suffering”.  Fr Chris took us on a journey through scripture and showed how hope and gratitude is prevalent within the Old Testament, Paul’s letters and the Gospel of Matthew. Fr Tom touched on our emotions by discussing the recent events in Syria: something that affected most people was a video of a Syrian woman giving birth while the war raged on outside, which showed how hope can be found even in the midst of such devastation and suffering.

After a stressful few days trying to get to Melbourne (my flights being cancelled twice due to heavy fog), I found Holy Cross Centre the perfect place to relax and recharge spiritually. The grounds were amazing and the accommodation was superb, and I awoke each morning to the call of a kookaburra outside my window. During meal times Finbarr and I made friends with the other participants (many of whom were intrigued by our ‘kiwi’ accents), including two young people from the Youth Retreat team in Brisbane. The atmosphere after dinner was vibrant, particularly one evening where we were treated to performances by the seminarians from Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. Needless to say there were a few late nights!

Finbarr sums it up nicely: “It was a wonderful opportunity to attend the weekend and get to learn more about the Passionists. It was great to meet some of the people involved, from the priests who are based at the centre full time to the Companions from around Australia; they were all very welcoming and showed great hospitality in keeping with the Passionist charism. We had different speakers over each of the 3 days and that gave a nice balance and each had their own different styles, based around the theme of hope with gratitude.”

A great thank you to the organisers of the Institute and to Linda and Paul Darbyshire for organising funding for us.

Emma Dodsworth