Members learn all about the benefits of inclusive retreat

Father Jeroen Hoogland from Ministeracres Retreat Centre.
Father Jeroen Hoogland from Ministeracres Retreat Centre.

Morpeth Rotary Club

MORPETH Rotary Club welcomed Father Jeroen Hoogland from Minsteracres Retreat Centre, who gave a fascinating insight into the work that is carried out at the retreat.

Father Jeroen himself is from the Netherlands, but as usual his English shamed us all. Minsteracres was built as a mansion in 1758 by George Silvertop but over the years has had many additions to it.

Mr Silvertop was a Catholic and was the first Catholic appointed as a High Sheriff of Northumberland.

Over the years the building has had many uses and during the Second World War it was used by the fire service as a training centre.

In 1949 the family sold the mansion and it became a Passionist Monastery but the Retreat in operation today started in the 1980s. The Passionists were a small group originally from Italy, but when they bought Minsteracres they had about 2,000 members and they wanted to go out and share the good news around the community as well as inviting in the people to use the retreat.

In the 1960s Retreat House opened and many Catholic fathers came for counselling and confessions. However, 15 years ago things started to change and now it is people from many faiths who visit the retreat, as well as church and community groups.

A recent innovation has been preparing a space for people with ‘special needs’ and this has proved very successful. There is also a bereavement programme.

The retreat provides a holistic approach and offers all the amenities to individual people to come along and ‘chill out’, refugees seeking a restful haven, people who have been tortured or suffering from trauma, those having additional problems and so much more.

It is a safe environment for many people. Medication has also been successful, particularly enhancing the recovery process of many people who have experienced sorrow or sadness.

The owners are still Passionists, but they are now an independent charity. Many volunteers give up their time to do all types of jobs, whether it be the garden, washing the dishes, leading prayer or just listening to someone.

Those who come to work in the garden feel the peace of the retreat all around them.

Father Jeroen concluded by saying that the vision of the retreat was supported by three core values: a) create an atmosphere of welcome and hospitality with space for reflection and prayer; b) maintain a special option for people who find themselves on the margins of church and society; c) relate in a responsible way to the environment.

He welcomed members of the Rotary Club to visit Minsteracres to see for themselves the peace and tranquillity it provides to all people.

In addition, there is comfortable accommodation, home cooked food, rooms for meetings and events and beautiful and extensive grounds for various outdoor activities.

Within the main house, the chapel is used for private prayer, a prayer room is available on the second floor and the Poustinia chapel can often be used.