The Carcoar Camino – an Ignatian Walking Retreat

The Carcoar Camino – an Ignatian Walking Retreat

The autumn weather made for a beautiful Carcoar Camino retreat last weekend. The retreatants were taken on both an inner journey using the Ignatian First Spiritual Exercises and an outer journey, walking the Shalom labyrinth as well as tracks along the beautiful Carcoar valley.

John and Bernadette began the retreat on Friday night, setting the scene for the weekend with some interesting slides and short videos on the history of pilgrimage and Labyrinths.

The next morning our first walk focused on our life’s journey as we walked the labyrinth, and on our second labyrinth walk, we found Jesus on the road to Emmaus.


After a scrumptious lunch (cooked by our chefs for the weekend Nick and Fran), we headed down through the village of Carcoar. In the dark of the old railway tunnel we experienced coming alive with our contemplative meditation on the raising of Lazarus.

The highlight of the weekend was definitely our night labyrinth walk. With fire pits to warm us and hundreds of candles to light the path, we sat with Jesus in the Mary and Martha story.

Sunday morning we woke to another glorious day and headed off, following the ridge above the village.



There were plenty of photo opportunities along the walk, with the mist burning off Mount Macquarie and the views across Carcoar valley. The hills were dotted with kangaroos and a swamp wallaby hopped along the track beside us.



At the end of the walk we sat on logs beside the beautiful Belabulah River. Ignatius says that we should “pause wherever fruit is found” – a very useful suggestion for there was much to be found, as we listened to the gentle babbling of the water, it was easy to contemplate the joy in our lives as we went with Mary to visit Elizabeth and experience the joy of the new.

Over Sunday lunch, we overheard comments from the retreatants such as “depths of richness in happiness”, “feeling gratitude”, “joy in the scenery” and “joy of renewal“. 


It was lovely to see that taking this journey away from their busy lives helped them find the fruits of joy and peace; And with their souls nourished, the retreat came to an end. 

By Bernadette Collins

Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO speaks at Shalom

Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO speaks at Shalom

Father Frank Brennan’s credentials as priest, politician and advocate of human rights were in full evidence as he spoke at the long lunch at Shalom House of Prayer on Tuesday May 24th on the topic of ‘Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Australia Today’. 

A fluent speaker, whose depth and expanse of knowledge and insight across the terrain of human, religious and legal activity in Australia in relationship with the rest of the world today, Father Brennan explained and expressed the need for further necessary conversations and legislation that shape protection of individuals and groups working within the environment of religious establishments. 

Also included is the need for protection of the rights of these establishments to retain their traditional, specific ethos in Australian society. There was a vigorous question time that followed regarding the topic as well as questions surrounding the perceived inadequate address of refugees by the Australian government. 

A superb lunch prepared by Shalom Community member and cook, John Hansen ably assisted by friends of Shalom Julian Carsens, Gareth Pickett, Kay Fowler and Cathy Griffiths, was served afterwards.



If you were not able to attend but would like to hear Fr Brennan’s talk you can listen on Soundcloud at:

By Frannie Hansen

Bread of Life Retreat and the First Spiritual Exercises

Bread of Life Retreat and the First Spiritual Exercises

Shalom House of Prayer facilitates a rather beautiful retreat called the Bread of Life that focuses on the metaphor and method of learning the ancient craft of sourdough bread baking.

The metaphor of course is how we are stretched, moulded and transformed in our life’s journey towards God. 



Although this very practical retreat begins in the Shalom Kitchen under the tutelage of master bread craftsman John Hansen, its flexibility and metaphor makes it very compatible with the  giving of the First Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.

Recently, from Monday April 30 to Thursday May 3, The Shalom Community gave several exercises from the retreats of Inner Peace and Divine Love and Inner Peace in Service of God to 15 Anglican Ministers and workers from the Bathurst Diocese as they discern where and how the Holy Spirit is leading them at this point in their lives through their work for the Lord in the Diocese.


An interesting feature of this retreat is the use of the Shalom Labyrinth combined with the metaphor of the Parable of the Leaven. As the retreatants walk – they reflect upon their life’s story so far with the gifts they have received from God as the leaven in life. This was a lovely exercise before the First Spiritual Exercise of Fruits of the Spirit (Inner Peace in Service of God: Week 4).


At Shalom House of Prayer, we notice that each retreat group brings their own spiritual personality that permeates the house. The attitude of the Anglicans was one of deep quiet and prayerful enthusiasm as they entered into and participated in the exercises.

An outward joy was observable as they discussed, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company over the 3 days in the peaceful atmosphere of slow paced, country environment, beautiful food and deep rest in the Lord.

As givers of the First Spiritual Exercises, we are always encouraged and amazed at the power of the Holy Spirit at work through the giving to people who come with open hearts and minds to experience them.

Apart from reflections and gratitudes expressed, discussed and shared by retreatants – we, as givers of the First Spiritual Exercises, find great consolation in our own faith journey in the giving of the exercises to help others in theirs.

Frannie Hansen

Bread of Life Retreat

Bread of Life Retreat

On the last weekend of February, at Shalom we had a small but enthusiastic group of retreatants enjoying some great weather and wonderful food, while they learnt how to make ‘Pane Shalom’ our signature sourdough bread as well as some meditative prayer styles using the Ignatian spiritual exercises and our Shalom stone labyrinth.

For me this retreat was special because I had the opportunity to come out of the kitchen and help Nick & Fran rewrite and present the retreat into what the weekend proved, is a much better format and experience for retreatants.

We began Friday night after a nice dinner, with a brief introduction and film on bread making which really set the scene well, by looking at the history of bread and how it has become such an important symbol for life and the presence of God in the world. The benefits of the slow fermentation method of sourdough bread making was also highlighted as well as the transformational/spiritual aspects of the processes involved in turning the potential in wheat grains into this amazing food that has become known worldwide as ‘the staff of life

The evening was finished off with a very relaxing breathing  meditation that helped everyone begin to practice mindfulness, before we went to the kitchen to refresh our ‘sourdough starter’, sometimes called the ‘mother’ to prepare for mixing up our bread dough in the morning.

Saturday after breakfast we mixed up our dough with our starter (leaven) and put it away in the fridge to rest. The theme of our retreat was transformation, as bread is a transformational food.

The morning was spent considering the parable of the leaven as we moved from the method of bread making into the metaphor of the leaven working in our dough… as we are ‘enlivened’ by the spirit of God.

During this session we watched a film clip about bread from Peter Reinhart’s fabulous 2008 Ted Talk where he talks about the symbolism occurring during the bread-making processes and explains that,

“all things can be understood on four levels: the literal, the metaphoric or poetic level, the political or ethical level…. and ultimately, the mystical or sometimes called the ‘anagogical’ level.” 

After morning tea we returned to our parable of the leaven and considered it’s meaning while undertaking a meditative walk along the beautiful path of the Shalom medieval christian labyrinth.

During our walk we remembered our life’s journey, our own story and the gifts we have received; the leaven of our lives. Prior to lunch we learnt about other aspects of Ignatian prayer techniques to build upon the prayer experience and to recognise the fact that the Spirit is within me and can talk to me directly and that the Spirit is in those around me and can talk to me through them as well. We are all part of the same vine.

The practice of using our listening books for journaling was explained as well as sacred listening and the art of spiritual conversation that we will be practicing later in the day. Just before lunch we pulled our dough out of the fridge and began the first in a series of hourly gentle stretching and folding…., to build character and strengthen the dough.

Lunch was a lovely meal which we ate in the shade, under the apple trees. After lunch we again folded our bread dough before undertaking an Ignatian exercise called ‘Gifts of the Spirit’. This exercise was about remembering how we are loved by God and reflecting on the gifts that we have received. The gifts we focused upon were love, patience and generosity…so that, as we were putting our love, patience and generosity into our bread dough; Transforming it, … by gentle folding and stretching, ….we were also using this exercise to consider and reflect upon in prayer, how we are blessed with many gifts that we can slowly discover, respectfully nurture and gently stretch to transform us into something greater.  

We finished the day with more folding and then dividing our bread dough, before shaping it into loaves. The shaped loaves were placed into cane bannetons and put into the fridge overnight, ready to bake first thing in the morning.





On the last day we all practiced slashing the top of our loaves before placing them into the oven,  onto the hot baking stone. The slashes make sure the bread rises evenly in the oven and don’t burst open while baking.





Before morning tea, while waiting for our bread to bake and cool we undertook another Ignatian Spiritual Exercise where we considered how God works in creation as well as within each of us. This was followed with time for journaling, sacred listening and spiritual conversation.





After morning tea the final session was conducted with a lovely imaginative contemplation exercise where we use our imaginations to re-create the scene of the last supper and entered the scene to take our place at the table to share the breaking of bread with Jesus.




This was a great way to finish our weekend as we then moved outside and broke our freshly baked bread together under the trees and enjoyed each others company over a long lunch.

John Hansen