From the 13th of September to the 15th, TNCG held their 72nd retreat at Bringelly.
Coming in with zero expectations, little did I know I’d be driving out of Bringelly with a renewed sense of identity, bolstered by the growth of my spirituality over the course of these three days.
Reluctantly walking into the foyer 2 hours after the start time, I was greeted with beaming smiles and warm hugs from friends and strangers alike. Overwhelmed by the hospitality, I was reminded to free myself of any hesitation and to reciprocate these earnest gestures.
For dinner, we had incredibly generous servings of bun bo hue, at the generosity of the TNCG mothers who have sacrificed their weekends to be with us. Those extra-large portions called for lengthy conversations and pre-mature bonding. Following dinner, the program officially began with an icebreaker of shoe-swap (but thankfully not athlete’s foot) where we bonded over familiarities of family background, upbringing and physical similarities. With the awkwardness set aside, groups were formed, ready to tackle the contentious subjects.
It was very refreshing, assembling together and discussing our opinions on controversial topics which tend to divide the public. We engaged in stimulating discussions and activities that derived from the talks of guest speakers: Chu Huy, Cha Manh and Cha Huy. Under the theme “Voiceless, but not Speech”, matters on “Societal Expectations and Norms” and “The Church’s Teaching VS My Own Beliefs” set a gateway for polemic speech and debate on subjects such as IVF, Abortion, Euthanasia and even, verifying individualistic life paths under Asian parental scrutiny. All topics were initially uncomfortable to speak about as they are a melting pot of opinions, but I’m so grateful to have experienced being in a room of such supportive and respectful individuals. Furthermore, in the debate, many of us were vying for an outlook which did not reflect on our personal standpoint, which subconsciously helped to embrace other perspectives even more.
There were many fun activities such as an Amazing Race, Minute To Win It, Religious Charades and the infamous ‘UnHoly Trinity’ midnight games – but my favourite activity of all was on the last night, the reflection time. In such an intimate setting, seated round a river of candles and in the presence of Christ – within the monstrance, group members and participants became family as we empathised in each other’s story of suffering, listening intently and praying silently. And as a reminder that we were not alone, no better embodiment of suffering was depicted than through the 14 stations of the cross in which we journeyed through that night. Huddling together in each other’s warmth, members took turns in bearing the cross, reminiscent of Jesus’ sacrifice and the burdens we were specifically chosen to carry.
The journey did not end when the retreat did. Going home, I carried with me an envelope of affirmations from my soul sisters and brothers, a reminder of how invaluable the weekend spent together was.
I highly recommend you all to attend the retreat! There aren’t any pressures, it’s just a way to help cultivate and figure out one’s spirituality amidst life’s chaos in three meditative days. What can go wrong?!
By Ann Pham – 2019