Looking Back with Gratitude
By Tom West
I am an Anglican and was for 23 years a lay reader at my parish church of St Peter and St Paul in Mansfield. In 1993 I was tasked with the formidable responsibility of developing holiness in my parish. I’d heard of St Beuno’s through an Anglican friend who’d been on a three month course there and so I applied for a place on the 3-Month Course in the autumn of 1993 and to my surprise was accepted I arrived at St Beuno’s with some trepidation to commence the three month course in Apostolic Spirituality which included the full 30 day Ignatian Retreat.
All I can say is that my fears were unfounded. There was only one other Anglican on the course, a priest-monk from the Anglican Benedictine community at Newby. All the others on the course were Roman Catholic – priests, monks and nuns, and one or two lay people, from all over the world. Father Damian Jackson was Director of St Beuno’s at the time and Father Tom Shufflebotham was my spiritual director and guided me through the 30-day retreat with great sensitivity. I came closer to our dear Lord Jesus during those silent days than at any other time in my life. Indeed the whole experience was ‘the time of my life’. I was accepted from the start and at the daily Mass heard the wonderful sermons of my Catholic friends. I was privileged to be able to speak myself and when I told them about the works of an Anglican lay reader and of my experiences of seeing Pope John XXIII in Rome in 1963 at St Peter’s, I was amazed to be greeted with spontaneous applause!
As a result of my experiences at St Beuno’s what I came to learn during my time there I was able to return to my parish and, under the leadership of our helpful parish priest, was encouraged to organise parish retreats and quiet days, vigils and ecumenical services. I also led a few parishioners through retreats in daily life. I would not have been able to carry out these activities but for the 3-month course at St Beuno’s.
I have been back to St Beuno’s for several short retreats in 2001, 2007, 2011 and 2013 and found the spiritual life of the place and the community unchanged.
The setting up of the Friends of St Beuno’s was an inspired move. I am now 88 and living in a sheltered home where I am very happy and well looked after but I can no longer travel as far as St Beuno’s. To receive the newsletters every month is a real boon. Thank you for all the work you do editing the newsletter and publishing lovely articles.
I’m still in touch with Father Tom Shufflebotham in his new venue in Preston. I remember he preached the farewell sermon at the last retreat I attended in 2013. Please remember me to Father Damian Jackson when you next see him.