When you stay in Brussels for a traineeship, a job or for studies, you can easily forget the simple yet essential things required to develop as a future leader and especially as a conscious and educated human being. What is conducive for a little bit of reflection on life in many senses can be found in much the more peaceful and green surroundings – in the quiet Belgian countryside. A great opportunity for such a reflection was given the fellows in the middle of March. We were invited to Quartier Gallet, where one of the Jesuit shelters is located. Open for young people who are still looking for their own path in the world, this opportunity was meant to provide us with time to get to know each other and ourselves better.
On Saturday morning as a group of new fellows we departed on the trip from Schuman station. The destination was Beauraing and our spiritual coach for the whole weekend was Father Peter Rozic SJ. The first stop in Namur, where we changed trains, gave us the opportunity to take a pleasant walk through this charming city. When we arrived in Beauraing we paid a short visit to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Beauring, where Father Peter encouraged us to do the first spiritual exercise, focusing on considerations on one of the most famous and troubling questions, “Why am I here? How will this journey contribute to my life?”, along with experiencing the spirit of the holy place, where the revelations of Virgin Mary occurred between 1932 and 1933. After a while, we headed directly to Quartier Gallet, contemplating the surrounding countryside and farmlands. When we arrived at the shelter, we were astonished by the landscape surrounding us as well as the rural, self-sufficient character of the Jesuit facilities and gardens. We were greeted by the residents of Quartier Gallet, both priests and laypersons, who help maintain the place in good condition, decided to contribute to its development or simply want to think more about their marriages, job and vocation. Our group had also occasion to meet Tokyo, a friendly dog with inexhaustible energy.
We started our adventure by gathering together with Father Peter and his colleague from Quartier Gallet, Father Benoît Willemaers SJ, who as a graduate of the College of Europe was for us the best example that there are other ways of self-development and social service than working in European institutions. Our discussion focused on thankfulness to God and other people for the benefits that we receive from them which allow us to thrive. and on the end for which we are created. Father Peter presented us with the method for making the examen, consisting of five points: giving thanks to God for benefits received, asking for the grace to know our sins and cast them out, asking for an account of our soul, asking for pardon from God for our faults and purposing amendments with His grace. One of the most important lessons we learned during this first session was that it is crucial to be thankful to everyone and everything that gives us joy even to ourselves.
For many of us, the most unusual part of our retreat was the silent, lonely meditation on happiness, faith and peace. Everyone was able to find his or her own place within the boundaries of Quartier Gallet, be it near our shared houses, around the pond, in the field or in the forest. Somehow it allowed us all to relax and come back for a mass in the shelter’s shrine with pensive expressions on our faces. Singing and praying together was a lot more engaging and meaningful. Then, after a great dinner consisting of few rounds of spaghetti and resting a little, we gathered together with Father Peter and Father Benoît to discuss our views on leadership and its significance in modern society. Some of us compared the leader to a fire that is full of energy and enlightens minds, the others stated that leaders are rather like rivers, making up parts of one big river called “society”.
On Sunday morning we had one more discussion, this time on what we are going to do with the knowledge we gained thanks to this retreat and with the inner peace that is so difficult to experience in Brussels. Eventually, each and every one of us drew some lessons and was able to share them with the rest of the group. Father Peter then celebrated a mass for all inhabitants of Quartier Gallet and prepared for us the review forms in order to improve in some way this already magnificent way of teaching young leaders. Then we left this unique oasis of nature and silence and returned to the “Bubble”, “Jungle” and “European D.C.”. This time, however, it is almost certain that none of us will forget the value of discussion, social impact and peace.
ELP Fellow Spring Cohort 2022