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Service Times

Visitors are welcome
to join with the Community
at any or all of the services.

They will be held in the chapel unless otherwise shown

For service times please CLICK HERE or on the picture above

The theme in 2016 was ‘Health, Wisdom and Tradition’.

Unfortunately, our original speakers were unavailable at short notice for health reasons. (We very much hope to invite them back when they are fully fit again.)

 Hope in Health 2016 Dr John McKayDr John McKay (R)
 Hope in Health 2016Sr Margaret Atkins Hope in Health 2016

Dr John McKay, who works as a hospital GP, and is also very involved in his parish, kindly stepped into the breach. He spoke about ‘Wisdom for the Next Generation’, and provoked much thought with his comparison between the NHS 25 years ago and now, and with his wonderful slide of an overburdened donkey!

Overloaded Donkey

Fr Dixie Taylor used the Wisdom books of the Old Testament to reflect on the importance of experience, community and truth in wisdom and tradition.

Sr Margaret Atkins used the original Hippocratic Oath to identify enduring fundamental principles for healthcare professionals and to consider the challenges they pose today. In a final group discussion we shared our wisdom in pondering the most important values, practices, ideals and principles to pass on to the next generation, and how we might best succeed in doing this.

Hope in Health 2016
 Hope in Health 2016

The programme provided the opportunity to share Mass and the Prayer of the Church with the Boarbank Sisters, to walk in the local area and to share conversation and social time as well as personal quiet. As always, many of the most important moments of the weekend came during the free time.

Fr John and Dr John

Hope in Health group 2016Apologies to Dom and Mary - A ray of sunlight bleached them out!

 Hope in Health 2016Hope in Health 2016

We plan to repeat the retreat on the same weekend next year.

To book or for further information, please contact SR MARGARET

Time to Reflect: 11th-13th March, 2016.

This year we took advantage of our local connections and chose the theme ‘Furness and the Cistercians’.

 Fr John with some of the group Chilly at Furness! 

On Saturday, we visited Furness Abbey on Saturday with a talk by Gill Jepson, a children’s author. One of the highlights was hearing about the recent uncovering of the body of a 14th century abbot, holding his crozier.

 Crozier At Furness Abbey 

The top of the crozier, decorated with a golden St Michael, can be seen in the Abbey museum.

(If you get a chance, do visit this site - it is wonderful and far too little known. CLICK HERE for the English Heritage Furness Abbey page).

Later that day Joyce Simpson led us through an excellent session on Furness Abbey in the poetry of William Wordsworth. In the evening the group watched the very powerful film about the Cistercian martyrs in Algeria "Of Gods and Men" and the next morning enjoyed a session on Aelred and friendship, putting practice into theory!

As usual, the group shared in Mass and Daily Office with the community - including Night Prayer around the fire.

Haydn Lee at the piano
On the introductory social evening Haydn Lee gave us a piano recital and told us some of the history of the piano as he did so. As usual, it was lovely to welcome old friends and new, and to give everyone a chance step out of the busy world of academia to pray and talk about the fundamental purpose of study and teaching.

The theme of friendship proved so rich that we have decided to take it for our main theme next year.

If you are, or have been, a lecturer, and might be interested in joining us, please email Sr Margaret



Sr Ruth reports:

Our course on 'Faith and the Arts' during the first week in August here was wonderful with a delightful group of enthusiastic, young professional people who joined in everything.

 Thinking Faith  Remember skimming?

We watched the film 'Babette’s Feast' on Sunday night and Sr Margaret gave fascinating input on the story of ‘Babette’s Feast' and the philosopher Kierkegaard the next day. This motivated us all to think about the meaning of this poignant yet inspiring story by Isak Dinesen with its relevance to our lives and experience of faith. Discussions were ensuing long into the day!

The week also included input on the auto-biographical book ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ from Fr Dixie. We had a lecture on ‘Icons’ from Fr Martin Ganeri and ‘Faith in Pre-Raphaelite Art’ from Rosemary Mitchell. Maria Hall spoke on ‘Music in the Catholic Tradition’.

 Gaëtan and friend!  Coniston Walk

One of the architects of our chapel, Jonathon Pritchard, gave an animated talk as to how the present chapel at Boarbank was re-created to be open to the needs of both visitors and the nursing home in the 1990s. His enthusiasm for the project remains undimmed. He brought to life the spiritual and practical achievements of the construction of our devotional places, including a commentary on our beautiful oratory which was created in 1986 by architects Benson and Forsyth in honour of the 1600th anniversary of the conversion of Augustine.

There is a wonderful BBC programme about the Oratory made in 1991. It lasts about 10 minutes but is well worth taking the time to watch. CLICK HERE for the link.

 Coniston Old Man walk  Thinking Faith meal out

 Our group enjoyed a cheerful pub supper in Cartmel on Wednesday night and a walk near Coniston or up Coniston Old Man on Thursday.

Options for Thursday also included a boat trip with a visit to Brantwood House, home of John Ruskin.

Boat Trip on Coniston Thinking Faith

On Friday, we had an inspiring expedition to a Tudor house in Preston where Edmund Arrowsmith, one of the Lancaster martyrs, celebrated his last Mass before capture. Our friend Maria Hall grew up there and lives there still. The house is curious by our standards with low ceilings and a tree supporting the kitchen. For Maria, it has the significance both of its spiritual import and her childhood memories. The small upstairs chapel still resonates with the closeted atmosphere of devotion, fear and sacrifice that surrounded Arrowsmith’s last Mass. Fr Martin celebrated Mass there and spoke about the martyr.

Group outside Edmund Arrowsmith house Edmund Arrowsmith Mass Room painting

In conclusion, the group and members of the Community enjoyed a buffet supper and social evening that night. It was enlivened by some of the music the informal choir, ably coached by Maria, had been practising during the week.

Health and Salvation week at Boarbank, 11th-16th January 2016: Body, Mind and Spirit

Karen & Sr Agatha

 This year we branched out somewhat with a focus on complementary therapies. These are used by billions of people worldwide, yet conventional heathcare professionals often treat them with scepticism.

Can they teach us something? Or is it all hocus pocus?

 Sr Margaret opening the course Health & Salvation 

Sr Margaret introduced the theme with a couple of lectures taking a theological approach. What does our faith tell us about the scientific questions involved? And what does the Church have to say religiously about treatments that are closely associated with other religions?

In both areas, the Catholic tradition seemed to point to a prudent openness to whatever is good in unfamiliar traditions, without ceasing to value the tremendous benefits of conventional medicine.

Other speakers introduced us to concrete examples.

Sue L on reflexology   Dr Nuala Bent

Sr Sue Lawrenson explained the principles of reflexology, and demonstrated on one of the participants. Dr Nuala Bent, who practises Bioenergy Therapy, explained its theoretical principles with reference to the New Physics, and again ran a demonstration session.

Dr Jonathan Berry  Dr Kath Mannix 
Dr Dominic Bray Night prayer

We also watched a Horizon documentary entitled ‘The Power of the Placebo’. Dr Jonathan Berry, a pharmacologist, provided an expert overview of questions about the safety and efficacy of both conventional and complementary medication.

Another aspect of the week was following up last year’s theme of mental health. Professor Kathryn Mannix introduced us to the principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, as something useful also for ordinary life. Dr Dominic Bray spoke enthusiastically about ‘Solution-focused Therapies’, which concentrate on the positive goals that someone wants to achieve rather than on their problems. Both speakers have expertise especially in palliative care, but both these methods have proved highly successful in wider practice also.

As usual, the context was one of friendships old and new, cemented by the experience of shared prayer and meals, conversation around the log fire, and exploring the local area.

 Fr Frank and Fr David  Bay view

We are very grateful to the priests who took part for presiding at Mass each day. One evening we watched the film ‘Lourdes’, a rather quizzical fictional exploration of a possible healing. On the free day, some people went birdwatching at Leighton Moss, while others took advantage of some rare glorious sunshine to climb Hampsfell, then return via a tea-tasting (and birthday celebration) session at the Hazelmere Cafe (tea grown in Cornwall was an unexpected highlight!) and a return walk along the promenade. The tea theme also included a cream tea when Sr Anne was able to join the group from the Nursing Home. We ended the week with our usual social evening, including Compline around the fire.

Walking group  Walking group 
Kath M birthday Sr Anne's cream tea!

Next year’s Health and Salvation will be from 9th-14th January 2017 and the theme will be ‘Healthcare and Time’.

More details to follow. If you are interested, please contact Sr Margaret

Very many thanks once again to John for the photos from the week.

Health and Salvation week at Boarbank, 12th-17th January 2015: Faith & Mental Health

Health & Salvation with Sister Margaret

Vercoe and Prof with Sr Margaret Sr Benedict Sr Margaret and Fr Dixie

Laughter is good for your health, and our week started in sparkling style with a presentation from Vercoe the Clown, whose distinguished career has included clowning in hospitals. But what is mental health and how does it relate to spiritual health? Fr Dixie Taylor gave us a New Testament perspective, with an intriguing comparison between Jesus' casting out of demons and modern methods of exorcism.

Fr Peter  Fr Peter Fr David & Fr David

Sr Margaret looked at the role of nature, religion and morality in ancient and medieval accounts of mental wholeness. Fr David Egan and Fr Peter Rosser then explored the distinction between confession and counselling, with some fascinating case studies.

Dr Susan Mary Benbow, used her wealth of experience as a psychiatrist to outline the various types of mental illness and distress that can be distinguished, raising a few questions about some of the conventional categorisation.

Dr Mary Benbow Bishop Richard & Sister Ruth

How can we improve our support for those with mental health problems? Bishop Richard Moth began the week of talks with an explanation of various innovative projects on mental health that the Bishops have sponsored as part of an organised programme over the last few years.  Dr Siobhan Reilly explained the way in which research methods can benefit decisions about better coordination of care for those with mental health problems. Fr Anthony Keefe, who provided a patient's perspective, offered a challenge to the whole Church to develop our awareness of and sympathy for the sufferers.

Dr Siobhan & Sr Margaret Fr Anthony

 As usual, the context was one of friendships old and new, cemented by the experience of shared prayer and meals, conversation around the log fire, and exploring the local area. We are very grateful to the priests who took part for presiding at Mass each day, including one day when we were joined by residents from the Nursing Home and celebrated the Sacrament of the Sick.

An Important Part Of The Day Bernadette and Nuala
Bishop Richard et al Liz, Sister Margaret and Trish

Other events included the film Molokai, about the life of Fr Damian, the leper priest, a visit to the local Buddhist community and temple at Conishead Priory, and a final social evening.

Gathering In The Hall Social discussion

Very many thanks once again to John for the photos from the week.

Next year’s event will be from 11th-16th January 2016 on the theme of Body, Mind and Spirit. Speakers will include Kathryn Mannix, Dominic Bray, Sue Lawrenson and Nuala Bent. For more information, please contact Sr Margaret


Autumn Break - Faith & the Arts

held between 9th and 13th November 2015

 Haydn Lee  Haydn Lee

A full group gathered with much enthusiasm for this new venture in November. Haydn Lee got the ball rolling with a musical presentation, ‘The Vocal Millennium’ on Monday night. He brought his lectures to life with his brilliant piano playing, singing and musical excerpts. His passion for his subject was infectious and he had great difficulty packing everything in that he wanted to include!

Bernadine McCreesh
Holding our attention!

Following another inspiring lecture from Haydn the next morning, we heard Bernardine McCreesh on ‘Christianity in Medieval Icelandic Literature’. It was a subject that few of us knew anything about but Bernardine brought vividly to life how Christianity incorporated some elements of previous Icelandic sagas. She excited our interest in her subject.

 Icons Maureen Calnan

 On Tuesday afternoon we had Maureen Calnan on ‘Writing Icons’. She illustrated her talk with beautiful examples of her own work. According to Maureen, you don’t pray to icons, they talk to you. Despite the hours of painstaking work involved, she gives her icons away to those who need the help.

Jonathon Pritchard by the altar
 Jonathon in the Blessed Sacrament chapel
 Jonathon (centre) Jonathon in full flow!

In the evening Jonathon Pritchard spoke of his role in the architecture of the chapel and oratory at Boarbank. He spoke with great commitment about his work which was clearly done with love and has given visitors greater access to our devotional places.

Wednesday was the free day. In the morning at eleven am we observed the two minutes silence in memory of the victims of the First World War and those killed in conflicts since. We watched a short film about the handcrafted poppies made to commemorate each soldier who has died. Although the weather was not very inviting, some people ventured out, including a group of bird watchers.

Brideshead Revisited by the Boarbank players

Late afternoon we had a reading on the death of Lord Marchmain in ‘Brideshead Revisited’. Members of the group took different parts with spirited performances and then a lively discussion. In the evening many of the group watched ‘Au Revoir Les Enfants’ considered one of the best films ever made about childhood.

The film is about the protection of some Jewish children in a French Carmelite boarding school during the Second World War and their eventual betrayal together with the head master who has protected them.

Sr Margaret and Neil Curry

Neil Curry
After another riveting musical presentation from Haydn on Thursday morning, we listened to Neil Curry on Christopher Smart.

He spoke about the poet’s joy in God’s creation despite a very troubled life which included being committed to an asylum by his wife and his eventual death in a debtor’s prison.

His gentle, affirming poems about childhood were a refreshing contrast to the harshness with which children were treated at this time.

Late afternoon Fr Patrick Clarke spoke about his work to help the poor of São Paulo at the heart of commercial Brazil.

 Fr Patrick Clarke Fr Patrick's Young Friend

When he arrived there he was confronted by such extreme poverty that he felt overwhelmed and helpless. Nevertheless, he has created a flourishing school, a cultural centre, with the help of three sisters and a few priests. Here pupils learn to read, receive meals and have produced beautiful works of art.

It is a difficult balance because of the danger of infringing on the interests of the ruthless gangsters and the corrupt police. He showed shocking photos to illustrate the immense gap between rich and poor and then the wonderful art of the children. 

[See which is in Portuguese and English]

We enjoyed our social evening and buffet that evening. Haydn’s lively piano recital, including some audience participation in singing a joyful Alleluia, was a fitting end to a stimulating course.

Next year the planned theme is 'Faith and the Arts in the 18th Century.'

If you are interested, please contact Sr Margaret.

This year we took as our topic St Catherine of Siena. She was an extraordinary combination of mystic, practical champion of the poor, and ecclesial reformer. She certainly challenges any view about the place women were meant to have in the Middle Ages!

We began by watching the video of a talk by Fr Robert Ombres OP 'St Catherine of Siena: Compassion and Mysticism' 

(video is 50 mins long)
Then Dr Rosemary Mitchell of the History Department at Trinity University, Leeds, spoke to us about nineteenth century representations of St Catherine - everything from a tool of the sinister Catholic clergy to an early feminist.

Finally, Rosemary led us in session looking closely at a few texts from St Catherine's Dialogue.

As usual, the group shared in Mass and Daily Office with the community - including Night Prayer around the fire. Some of us also had a short local walk (the weather was not at its best), and visited Cartmel to see the medieval priory. This year's film was The Book Thief - if you don't know it, it is set in Germany during World War II, with magnificent acting, especially from the young girl who is the heroine, and a very moving and unusual ending.

As usual, it was lovely to welcome old friends and new, and to give everyone a chance step out of the busy world of academia to pray and talk about the fundamental purpose of study and teaching.

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