In January the Fifth Form went to the Ammerdown Centre for a welcome post-mocks retreat. The speaker for the day was Dr Maureen Glackin BA, PGCE, MA, PhD, SFHEA (aka Dr Mo), General Secretary for the Catholic Independent Schools’ Conference.

One of the Fifth Form retreatants writes: ‘After we had finished our mock GCSE exams, the Fifth ForSomerset Retreatm were fortunate enough to be given a relaxing and reflective day on retreat at the beautiful Ammerdown estate. During the day we heard a trilogy of engaging and interactive talks by Dr Mo. In between these three talks, titled ‘Who Am I?’, ‘Who Do Others Think I Am?’ and ‘Who Does God Want Me to Be?’ respectively, we split into smaller groups and had time to reflect on what had been said. For example, after one of the talks, each group was presented with a bowl of clementines. An odd sight at first, we were instructed to pick a clementine and study all of its defining features. We then put our clementines back into the bowl, to be mixed with the others, and were asked to locate our clementines. All of us managed to find them. In addition to this rather fun activity to demonstrate the idea of authenticity which had been discussed by Dr Mo, there were more reflective activities too, such as writing on a sheet of paper what significant moments in our lives we thought had defined us. This mix of activities requiring more pensive thought combined with rather more light-hearted ones, and Dr Mo’s passionate and interesting talks, made for an excellent day of reflection.

I think that the most important things that I took away with me from the talks and our group activities were the concept of authenticity and being oneself. It was said that we should each stay faithful to our rudimentary moral principles and act accordingly but be able to adapt our characters to certain situations. This is something I occasionally grapple with, being a bit of a people-pleaser, rather than sticking to what I believe is right at all times. The day really gave me a full insight into the importance of ‘knowing thyself’, and I thank all of the people who made this wonderful day possible!’

Throughout their time at Downside, all pupils have the opportunity to go on retreat each year with the Chaplains and St Scholastica Community. These events give pupils an opportunity to pause and reflect, to connect with their inner thoughts, and to explore some of the deeper questions they may have about life.