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During the year all pupils step out of busy school life to take part in their year group retreat. Retreats for pupils and staff are occasions that enable the participants to pray together, to listen to one another and to be challenged about the practice of their faith, as well as to learn about the problems that beset many in today’s world.

For some it’s the first time they have experienced a retreat or Lectio (a special way of reading the Bible). For everyone it’s an opportunity to forge new friendships, strengthen existing ones, connect with faith, and discover more about oneself.


  • In the first form, pupils spend their retreat day reflecting on their friendship with Christ and each other. This involves a day visit to Witham Friary with Lectio, games and activities.
  • This foundation is developed in the second form, where pupils travel to Lamyatt Village Hall to discover that there are many voices in the marketplace of their lives. God’s voice may be heard even when storms come.
  • Our third form think about living in community with one another, and with Christ at the centre. They receive input from the Head Boy and Head Girl. St Benedict’s teaching on the good zeal of monks is unpacked. We celebrate Mass and make a pilgrimage walk to the local Holcombe plague church.
  • Fourth form pupils enjoy a day off site in their house groups with a member of house staff and a chaplain. Each group focuses on the spirituality of their house patron. Some of the themes could be hospitality, welcoming, and prayer.
  • Pupils in the fifth form usually participate in a residential retreat, staying overnight in a retreat centre in house groups. The retreat focus on mission, and draw inspiration from St Henry Newman.
  • Lower sixth form spends a day visiting Christian charities and parishes that serve the homeless and needy in Bristol. The focus of the day is reaching out to others, and hear testmonies shared by those who have undertaken the 12-step programme.
  • In their final year, during the Michaelmas term, members of the upper sixth form look at the virtue of courage with an inspiring speaker. Each half of the upper sixth form spends a day at Ammerdown Retreat centre.


A group of Sixth Form pupils and young Old Gregorians take part in the OMV – Order of Malta Volunteers – pilgrimage to Lourdes every summer.   The OMV was founded in the mid 1970s by Downside, Worth and Ascot schools.   Its aim is to take hospital pilgrims to Lourdes, one of the great Marian pilgrimage centres in the world.

The young volunteers, all in their late teens and twenties, look after and attend to the needs of the hospital pilgrims for the week. The volunteers work in equipes – teams – and are responsible for getting them up in the morning, putting them to bed at night, feeding them, taking them to all the activities – Mass, the processions, shopping. It is an action-packed week but at the same time very fulfilling. All learn much from the hospital pilgrims who have a great sense of humour and a spirit of fun. Volunteers are called to bring the Light of Christ in their hearts to others, and at the same time to allow others to share their friendship and love with them.

There are three components to the pilgrimage:

The first is prayer, centred on the pilgrimage Masses and the processions – The Blessed Sacrament Procession and the Evening Torchlight Procession. Lourdes is centred around the Grotto, where Our Lady appeared to the young Bernadette Soubirous eighteen times between February 1858 to July of that year. Our Lady’s message was that a church should be built there and that pilgrims should come in procession and drink the water from the spring.
The second component is service – looking after the hospital pilgrims. The HPs as they’re known, are at the centre of the pilgrimage: volunteers, nurses and chaplains are there to reach out to them and bring the Light of Christ to them.
The pilgrimage’s third component centres around friendship. At Lourdes all the work is done with others and for others. When off duty, volunteers can relax and form strong friendships.

'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.'
Fifth Form retreatant
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