27th Jun 2017 - Further Reflections from North Shields Retreat

These shoes were made for journeying

Did you know that Sr. Kathleen Gooch hated wearing shoes as a youngster?  She admitted to the Sisters and Associates who gathered in North Shields on Saturday 13th May that in her childhood she was most happy to be unshod- indeed even now she is most comfortable when unconstrained by footwear. 

She followed that announcement by inviting the retreatants to discard their own choice of footwear and re-discover the joys of unfettered feet; to experience the cooling strength of the ground. After some interactive questions about how those present had decided what footwear to select that day, the audience was instructed to exchange with a neighbour that chosen item. With some nervous giggling, most complied, quickly discovering Sister Kathleen’s intent that it is not possible to walk in the shoes of another.

The day, in St Cuthbert’s Church hall, started around 9am when members of the National Commission arrived to prepare for the presentation. Sr. Bridie Stephens and Sr Betty Larkin (“Ty Coolock”) were quickly and efficiently installing audio visual resources whilst other Commission members along with local Associates were erecting tables and chairs. Other local Associates, in recognition of Venerable Catherine’s injunction, were soon providing teas and coffee for folk arriving from far and near. May Raughter Secretary of the National Commission organised the registration of those attending. 

Sr. Bernard McPeake, in the absence of Sr. Patricia Bell (North Shields), welcomed Sisters and Associates who were present from Alnwick, North Shields and High Heaton and the Keynote speaker Sr. Kathleen who had travelled the considerable distance from Clacton on Sea.

Around 10.30 am. Sr. Bridie Stevens (“Ty Coolock”) explained the format for the day; organised the procession to and from the beautiful day chapel where she led the Morning Prayer focussing on “Care for the Earth”- one of the aspects of the day’s theme:” The Eighth Work of Mercy”. 

The prayer readings and intercessions were shared among local Associates and Commission members. The elements in the procession: Paschal Candle; Mercy Cross; A recycled Globe. (created by the talented Sr. Betty); an icon of Venerable Catherine’s head; A Painting representing Creation and several smaller candles. These items were reverently carried to the chapel and equally devoutly transported back to the hall by members of the local groups, after the beautiful rendering of the Suscipe by all retreatants.

Sr Kathleen Gooch (Clacton on Sea) was introduced welcomed and presented to the hushed Associates by Marie Gray (Stechford). Marie reporting that Sr. Kathleen had been a founding member of the National Commission in 2000 along with Eileen Malone (North Shields) whose ten years as Commission Chair was recognised in earlier remarks by Sr. Bridie.

Marie continued her welcome with a concise outline of Sr. Kathleen’s resume and then it was time to put our “bare” feet on the ground. 

One sub-text for Sr. Kathleen’s interactive and thought provoking presentation, “walking in my own shoes of mercy” was convincingly demonstrated in that exchanging of shoes with your neighbour. Sr. Kathleen developed another strand of the Mercy journeying by contrasting the character-traits that our venerable foundress demonstrated in her footwear. At times, the elegant fun loving dancing slipper; but when required the business-like boot. She asked which Catherine was more familiar to her listeners. Responding to the view that  Venerable Catherine could appear confident determined and untroubled by setbacks, Sr. Kathleen considered that the prayer cry “..take from my heart all painful anxiety..” we hear in the Suscipe, could only be written by someone who had experienced such deep and troubling woe. Her shoes were really pinching then!

The morning session continued with the singing of the inspiring hymn
“LET ME WALK WITH YOU” on the journey, open your heart to me,
Share with me your story and you will come to see
That I am always beside you, walking the way with you.
I am always beside you, living my life through you.

The morning concluded with a tribute to Sr Kathleen’s great skill and hard work in the presentation of a truly educational and entertaining meditation on the Life of Mercy inspired by Venerable Catherine.  

Article kindly provided by Maurice


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