A place to let go and be still
Prego Groups gather to celebrate in Llandudno, North Wales
‘You arrive rushed, but then you find that a Prego Group is a place to let go and be still and share the Gospel with others … and that gives great hope and energy to go out generously into the world again’. This was just one of the reflections shared as Prego group members from all over the Roman Catholic diocese of Wrexham gathered in the Loreto Centre, Llandudno, for a Day of Prayer and Fellowship on a breezy Saturday in June. At present there are about 25 such groups meeting within the Wrexham diocese – a huge area that covers the whole of north Wales, and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in Britain. The Prego groups are run by the St Beuno’s Outreach team, a group of about 25 local lay people trained in Ignatian spirituality and prayer guidance, led by Fr Damian Jackson SJ. The groups are supported both by the diocese and St Beuno’s, and most are fully ecumenical; numbers range from just half a dozen people in some of the more rural areas to over twenty elsewhere. Typically, each group meets fortnightly, beginning with a time of stillness, followed by prayerful reflection on one or more of the readings for the following Sunday, with a chance for sharing and then short intercessions. Groups pray with the ‘Prego leaflet’ produced by the Outreach each week – now used not only within the diocese but also by people in different pastoral situations all over the world.
This was the second annual gathering of Prego group members in Llandudno, and as last year travellers from all points of the diocese were welcomed by a constant supply of tea and homemade cakes – hospitality is always a key feature of the Outreach! Fr Damian’s introduction to the day reminded us of the joy and privilege of belonging to this wider Prego family, followed by the gentle buzz of fellowship as each person was invited to introduce themselves to someone new from another group – in some cases well over a hundred miles away from their own!
The day took as its main theme ‘Fruit that will last’ (reflected in a beautifully creative centrepiece), and there was a chance to pray silently with verses from John 15 later in the morning – and indeed to reflect on the ‘lasting fruit’ that belonging to a Prego group helps us to bear. The coming together of the groups also offered the chance to do something entirely new this year – to experience praying in a different way with the help of audio-visual material. Having been led gently into stillness by one of the Prayer Guides (which anchored us firmly within the presence of God for the rest of the day), we were invited to reflect on a series of contrasting video clips taken from seeingmore.org, a website resource of almost 500 carefully chosen Youtube clips devised by Fr Nikolaas Sintobin SJ. The vast majority of the clips are very short and on entirely secular themes, ranging from thought-provoking commercials through poignant real-life vignettes to whacky animations – all with remarkable potential to show us the God of surprises! Having watched each clip, we took a minute of silence to ponder, then shared with our neighbour on what had touched us and how we might take this experience deeper into our prayer. The clips turned out to be a continuing stimulus for conversation throughout the day. ‘This is a great tool for reflection that really pulls at the heart’, said one person – ‘and furthermore, not too “holy” or “churchy”!’ Others commented on the impact of the clips to touch us on several different levels, engaging the intellect as well as speaking to the heart. Several people were keen to take a proper look at the website when they returned home and perhaps to consider using some of the material in their own Prego group: ‘We all can benefit spiritually by embracing new methods of praying … and this chance to watch prayerfully and then reflect with others today really has helped me to “see more”’, observed one Prayer Guide.
Loreto is an ideal venue for a large group to meet in early summer, and no day spent here is complete without the chance to go outside! Most of us took the opportunity to breathe in the sea air and gaze at the magnificent landscape at some point during the day. The Centre’s comfortable layout also allows plenty of space for personal prayer and small group sharing, as well as offering an ideal gathering place in the main hall, where we celebrated the Eucharist later in the afternoon. This took the form of a ‘Mass that takes its time’, following the conventional pattern up to the Gospel Acclamation, but then allowing time out to ponder the Gospel before regrouping round the altar at the Offertory.
Above all, this was a day for sharing with others about what belonging to a Prego group can mean to us. What was it that had motivated each of us to join our group in the first place? What do we treasure most about Prego meetings? All of us felt that our group was a safe environment where God was truly at work both in our sharing and in the support received from others – and where deep, trustworthy, spiritual friendships can often grow very quickly. This is also a place where difficult and challenging things are shared just as often as comfortable ones: ‘My Prego group gives me life in a disturbing but good way’, said one person. Others noticed how much deeper their understanding of the weekly Scripture readings was by the time they reached the Sunday Mass, having prayed them with others in advance, and how that experience often stirs up new things and a desire to be outward-looking and apostolic. ‘This encourages me to give time to God and to others … the groups are so much bigger than just “us” … a place to “come and see”, helping others to respond to God’s invitation in the rest of life, especially at a time when churches are declining’.
St Beuno’s Outreach constantly tries to respond to changing needs and opportunities, and two new Prego groups have started just this last year in different parts of the diocese. In all of this, the value of coming together as one family is huge, and it was great to hear the cry of general enthusiasm over tea as we prepared for departure: ‘Let’s do this again next year!’.
For more about St Beuno’s Outreach, including information on starting a Prego group, go to www.stbeunosoutreach.wordpress.com or email us. You can also find information and regular scripture reflections with This Sunday