During my pilgrimage I was blessed to meet many older Jesuits in the communities across Spain. Their fascinating stories provided inspiration for my own vocation and the range of characters I met illuminated the journey. Upon returning from this experiment I was pleased to hear that we would visit Boscombe, home of the British Province’s retirement community.
We arrived at Boscombe, situated by Bournemouth on the South Coast of England, after having called in at Salisbury. We spent a few hours in this medieval market town, visiting its famous cathedral and seeing its copy of the original Magna Carta. I was happy to lead Mantas and Aurimas, our two Lithuanian novices, astray into a local shop for their first ever taste of British fudge, which was universally enjoyed.
Fr Kevin Fox SJ, the Superior of the Boscombe Community, warmly welcomed us and later gave us a breakdown of the Society’s history in the area. Then Fr Tony Horan SJ told us about the spirituality works of the Jesuits at Corpus Christi Parish and their current ‘Hearts on Fire’ programmes. The evening ended on a high note as Bastiaan, Mark and I went for a swim in the English Channel and enjoyed the beautiful sandy beaches in a part of the world (indeed my own country) I had never visited before.
The next day saw us spend quality time with the members of the Boscombe community. I accompanied Richard to visit Fr Ted Rogers SJ, a British-born Jesuit of the Zimbabwe province who spent 50 years working in Africa on a range of social works. Hearing his story and seeing his liveliness in sharing with us was really interesting and heart-warming. We also spent time with Br Bill Jordan SJ, who regaled us with his experiences as a prison chaplain and visitor, as well as a former resident of our novitiate building in Birmingham. Before leaving we took part in a moving Mass in the Community chapel. This involved Fr Dushan Croos SJ anointing the sick members of the community while Thomas, our novitiate music maestro, played some beautifully chosen hymns. These contributed to a deep atmosphere of prayer and unity that was the perfect end to our brief visit to Boscombe.
The way back to Birmingham was punctuated by a visit to Stonehenge. I was taken aback by the sheer scale of the stones and how they must have been moved and erected thousands of years ago. This feat of achievement gave a sense of wonder that leads to gratitude to God, a feeling present on my behalf throughout this two-day visit and the eclectic mix of experiences we enjoyed.