Ampleforth Day of Renewal – Origin

The first day of Renwl was in January 1977.  The school prayer group was present in the Easter wing (the Newly built geography department was chosen because it had ladies lavatories). We took over the classrooms, one for assembly and food and the other for meeting in.  We had Mass there too. Some of the regulars were Msgr. Bickerstaffe, John Lafferty (who impressed by a long sharing on mystical prayer) and Robert and Edith Hegerty.  Jean Fletcher joined us at this time (she had written to Fr. leo worried about tongues when her deaf son Paul was a member of hte prayer group.  Fr. Leo had been rather worried about the effects of these things on teenage boys.  She became one of the Renewal Days strongest supporters, organised prayer groups in Bridlington and remained a firm friend. Paul went on to join the Jesuits.) .  Somehow this format attracted attention, and as numbers grew we moved to use the crypt for the main part of the day.  In the early 1980s the old house became available with a mediation room, lavatory, and water so we had he food on tables outside the mediation room and went down to the crypt.  The crypt proved to be an excellent place for us.  It had a main chapel fr prayer, talks and Mass, and we used the side chape;s as prayer rooms, group rooms and confession  points. From very early on we had own bookshop specialising in Renewal literature. Books has ben a central feature of the Renewal and its spread – an irony in the Catholic community where it is quite heard to get Catholics to read, and there has bee n a tendency to reject renewal because of an anti intellectualism and a musical culture which is foreign and debased musically. However the slum conditions up stairs were an increasing disgrace ad so when the demolition began we went to the big passage for our food and used the classroom on the lower gallery for t he talks and groups.   (One of  the brethren’s remarks which bit deep in me at the time was comparing the folk to rabbits – they got everywhere, made a mess and ate green things.  )  We did has some trouble in this area because some of the young were very casual i dress and behaviour, smoking and sitting on steps which proved rather unappetising to headmasters who may be showing round guests so everyone breathed a sigh of relief when finally the Postgate room was opened in the New centre and our regular place of refreshment and assembly was  begun.  his had urns, a proper  washup area and very adequate lavatories. 

            By now the day of renewal in the late  1980s was attracting some 70 at the start of the day occasionally coming in coaches – all from over an  hour away. And rising to 120 for Mass.    The day began when the school Mass finished at 1115 with prayer and praise.  This was an important start of the whole time as it focused on the praise of God which was one f hte renewal’s insights  on which the rest of hte day was based   I usually  had a little slot of input, and the texts for the Mass were then read and commented on so that they formed the Scriptural basis of hte day.  We then wen into groups with Junior groups and newcomers groups.  In hte past under a fine young leader  Brendan Walls there was a music group mostly of young who came from all quarters to be an important part of the day.  A certain coolness came upon this group with a division within the organising community. Some said that the young should be encouraged to share and pray, others that they should be instructed in the gospel and brought firmly into the organisation of the day.  Brendan rather too the first line and was a Pied Piper with them but his terrible car accident from which he recovered in a remarkable way lost him to the North and from having a house for young i Toxteth, Liverpool with is teaching job he wen to the south coast where he family came from. He played an important part i the day and was a great supporter of the young and the Conference.

            At the heights of the days popularity we sometimes had up to 150 people.  These were days when Fr. Ian spoke but especially when Fr. Michael Buckley brought in his friends from the area when he was in Thornton Dale or Somerset.  He would always do things rasher differently from ourselves but we let him have his head because his style was sui generis and the effects of his healing ministry were sometimes spectacular.  Fr.James Deadman came on two occasions, and his friends poured in too.  He was a cistercian from Mount St. Bernard.  Fr. Sean Conaty was a good draw and he celebrated Mass and spoke on our 150 days and my Silver Jubilee celebration in 1991.