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St Mary's Catholic High School

Year 7 Retreat to Aylesford Priory

On Tuesday, 21st June, Year 7 students went on retreat to Aylesford Priory for the day. For most this was their first school trip since Year 4 in primary school.

Aylesford Priory (The Friars) is the home of a Carmelite community, set in the beautiful Kent countryside, on the banks of the River Medway. Established in the 13th Century, it was a thriving centre of worship until it was closed during the reformation. For 500 years the Carmelite community was separated from Aylesford until the 1930s when they were able to purchase the land and return to the site. In the years since they have transformed Aylesford Prior into one of the foremost centres of pilgrimage in this country, with visitors and groups attending all year round.

The purpose of the day’s retreat was to offer our Year 7 students an opportunity to experience a day of calm reflection and prayer, away from their normal busy lives in and around Croydon. Following a welcome talk from Bro. Richard in the North Barn, the students embarked on a range of activities including: ‘Who am I?’; experiencing the beauty of nature in the Peace Garden and the Rosary Walk; and exploring the chapels at Aylesford, including the Relic Chapel, where a relic of St Simon Stock is on display.

At midday, Year 7 joined the Carmelite community, and other pilgrims, for Mass in the Relic Chapel. Rev. Fr. Michael Cox, O. Carm, delivered an inspirational homily on the feast day of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a saint of great courage and faith. Fr Michael spoke to the students of the importance of following in the footsteps of saints, which can inspire us on our own journeys of Faith. Fr. Michael had clearly done his homework on our school as he was able to quiz our students not only on our school's Mission Statement, badge and motto, but he also knew which were our House Saints and their various House colours!

We must thank the Carmelites at Aylesford Priory for hosting our retreat, as well as the St Mary’s staff who accompanied the Year 7 students. Importantly, we must also give praise to our Year 7 students who, without exception, behaved impeccably throughout the day as ambassadors for our school, and engaged fully in the retreat experience.

We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other, walk the mile and bear the load.

From the hymn: ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’