“Enjoy basking in the sunshine of God’s love,” says the website of LifeSprings Canossian Spirituality Centre.
As a retreatant steps into the expansive, serene and carefully tended space that is LifeSprings, he or she would find it difficult to ignore such an invitation.
Perched on a hilltop between Bukit Batok and Bukit Timah and flanked by a nature reserve on one side, the retreat centre offers ample opportunities to encounter God in nature. In the compound itself are quiet corners where one can spend hours in prayer.
LifeSprings has been run by the Canossian congregation since 1999. Sr Louisa Lim, who heads the centre as well as the community of Sisters in Jalan Merbok, notes that most of the retreatants in the place, as much as 80 percent, are non-Catholic.
“Perhaps because Catholics know other retreat centres while non-Catholics get to know this place through word of mouth,” she clarifies. “Those who come are very surprised and happy to see this place,” she adds with a chuckle.
Those who come to LifeSprings are young working adults, the oldest being below 40 years, says Sr Louisa. “It has always been like this. I think young people are searching deeply, they really want a deep experience with God.”
In addition to those who want to deepen their prayer life, there are those who would like to discern about career, those who would like to have clarity about what is happening inside of them, and those who are suffering from depression.
Usually, they describe a feeling of “something stirring in them, such as restlessness or unresolved issues,” says Sr Louisa.
One who would like to make an individually directed retreat puts aside routine work in order to create a space for God, states Sr Louisa.
“A silent retreat is an invitation by God… It is only in silence that we can hear Him,” Sr Louisa says. However, there are people who are not used to silent retreats and need the environment of sharing, songs and inputs to pray, she adds.
“There have been some [retreatants] who left after two days of silence because they couldn’t take it,” she revealed.
For beginners who would like a taste of an individually directed retreat, Sr Louisa recommends a two-day stay-in programme.
Spiritual direction vs counselling
A member of Life Direction Singapore, Sr Louisa is also a trained counsellor. To make her role clear to a retreatant, she spends time to find out the person’s needs, having observed that some retreatants think that spiritual direction is the same as counselling.
“Spiritual directors don’t give solutions,” she emphasised, adding that some individuals ask for advice for their concerns or problems instead of they themselves coming up with one that suits their particular circumstances.
Retreatants are accompanied “based on where they are with God”, Sr Louisa clarifies.
For this reason, there is no particular prayer style used in LifeSprings. “It usually depends on the need and level of comfort of retreatants.” she adds.
When a retreatant is deemed open and ready to use his or her imagination, a form of Ignatian Spiritual Exercise is introduced. Sometimes other simple methods of prayer are provided.
One prayer tool that is offered at LifeSprings is the “labyrinth”, an ancient form of meditation, which involves walking, and through which many people have experienced inner healing, said Sr Louisa.
LifeSprings also conducts short workshops to promote healing of the inner self.
To find out more about LifeSprings Canossian Spirituality Centre, visit http://www.lifespringscanossian.com/Default.aspx
By Mel Diamse-Lee