SPEC is a Catholic youth retreat centre and young adult mission community serving the Diocese of Westminster. It’s main mission is to provide youth retreats for the Catholic school children in London and surrounding areas of the diocese.
What is a ‘retreat’?
A retreat is an opportunity to step back from our routines and evaluate our relationship with God. Going on retreat means entering an environment where everyone is challenged to reflect on the bigger questions in our hearts, to bring those questions to God and to each other, and to be invited to meet the Lord halfway.
Each year–around Easter–the staff and missionaries at SPEC enter into a process of prayer and discernment to help decide the retreat themes for the next academic year. In Revelation 21:5, God says “Behold, I am making all things new”. In this spirit, we discern because we fully believe that God wants to give us something new each year. Spiritual themes are discerned for Year 9-13 retreats, Year 7-8 retreats, and Year 5-6 retreats. Although the youth retreats at SPEC for each age group will be the same throughout the year, each day is different and prayer is an important tool in realising what each group needs to receive. Even though God shares something new each day and each group is wonderfully unique, all retreats will provide three essential elements: faith, fellowship, and fun.
The most important offering of retreat is the invitation to encounter Christ. All of our retreats are centred around this invitation. This can come through proclaims (talks), testimony, prayer exercises, Eucharistic Adoration, Mass, Reconciliation, devotionals, and personal prayer time. Not only does the SPEC community hope to engage young people in their faith, but we also hope to give answers to some of the questions they have about what a lived relationship with God looks like. Along with people a place for spiritual growth, SPEC retreats are a forum for catechesis.
Another upbuilding element to SPEC retreats is the opportunity to foster fellowship. Along with this journey towards Christ is a journey growing with each other. Peers will have time for small group discussion to voice what is standing out to them. The young people are challenged to be present to one another throughout their time at SPEC. Meals, sleeping hours, and free time are also a chance to chat and share about what makes each persons life unique: our families, our friends, our likes, our dislikes, and even our struggles. We at SPEC hope that by the end of retreat, the young people are able to see the image of God reflected their relationships with each other.
Nehemiah 8:10 says that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” At SPEC we firmly believe that where we encounter joy, happiness, and fun, we are encountering God’s goodness. Every SPEC retreat will allow young people to relax, have fun, laugh, and go for the gold. Missionaries will lead retreatants in large and small group games in order to warm them up . The garden is equipped with two football goals for use at free time. Various activities are available including frisbee, exploring the trails on our grounds, playing hide-and-go-seek, and taking up crafts, arts, music, and drama.