Malvern All-Age Week 2019: A Family Experience

Malvern All-Age Summer Week 2019: Participant’s Report

‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’

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This wasn’t our first taste of CPW, having attending a CPW taster weekend a few years previously, but this was to be our first summer adventure. My husband and three children (15, 13 and 8), weren’t sure they were going to be able to manage a whole week and so we booked just a few days.

On a beautiful Friday we headed to Malvern. I’ll be honest, the teenagers had to be dragged into the car and the 8-year-old categorically said he wouldn’t be “…going to any of those ‘Session’ things”. That, together with a husband who hadn’t been previously and who was muttering about not wanting to do anything ‘”…too deep”, it wasn’t a happy car that arrived at the most idyllic location in the heart of the Malvern Hills! But we were greeted enthusiastically and the fabulous facilities and beautiful extra touches thoughtfully left by the Team made for a good start.

Our first few days were a whirl of everything CPW can offer; fun, friendship, prayer, love, joy and a little bit of craziness! As one day rolled into two the change in the whole family was nothing less than miraculous. Our youngest child arrived back from their first Session saying, “That was brilliant, can I go again?” The two teenagers found their own group of friends with whom they spent all their time; chatting and socialising with each other in a way that parents can normally only dream of.  We got an occasional wave from their table at meal times and they rolled into bed about 1:00am only to knock on our door at 7:30 asking why we weren’t up yet as they were going to breakfast.

Far too quickly we started to approach the time when we had arranged to leave and the children staged a revolt! They were absolutely not leaving under any circumstances; they were enjoying themselves far too much. After a family pow-wow we all agreed that we wanted to stay. Aileen and Tom, the Week’s Organisers, were fabulous; nothing was too much trouble and everything was sorted in minutes.

In the days that followed we all took part in Mass, discussions, talks and reflections thoughtfully organised and led by Mary and Hannah as the Co-Chairs. The strap line for the Week was with ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’. Each day was focused on a member of the family: Mother, Father, Children. I know I speak for many when I say that the day dedicated to the Father was the stand out day. A simple and very moving Lecto Divina gave me an opportunity to deeply reflect on God’s Word; something which I very rarely get the opportunity to do. This was followed by a session where two members of the community powerfully shared their experiences and journey of parenthood giving us, as parents, an amazing opportunity to grow together; reflecting on our vocations and drawing support and knowledge from one other. The children then joined us for a Penitential Service when each member of the family blessed another. I stood up with my youngest but my teenager was on the opposite side of the room. I was genuinely concerned that she wouldn’t step up to the front with us, such is her normal reluctance, but she joined us smiling and was the first to dip her hand into the water to give me a blessing, I nearly cried (I am not one to cry easily!)

Alongside the enjoyable and uplifting Sessions, there was also plenty of opportunity to rest, appreciate the local area, swim in the outdoor pool or read a book. All activities made more possible on this holiday than any other I have been on, as the children happily played with their friends. Young and older children played together; 15 years olds showing 7 year olds how play rugby whilst 15-year-old girls sat 3 year olds on their knees to show them cartoons on their mobile phones. Evenings were opportunities for families to socialise together through games, quizzes and celebrations (and things could get very competitive)

Over the week I had more hugs from my teenagers than I have had all year, all the children showed an enthusiasm for everything they did and not once did they use the word ‘bored’. As a parent I felt rested, refuelled, and genuinely as if I had been given a new lease of life. Every session we attended was relevant to our family and designed in a way to include everyone. Prayer Stations were interactive and a joy for children. It was clear the week was very carefully designed to ensure that it would be relevant; covering a wide range of areas from Mental Health to Women in the Church; Languages of Love to creating a Family Icon. Mary and Hannah, having young families themselves, knew exactly what was needed and delivered it sensitively and engagingly. We were surrounded by like-minded families who were open and supportive and we immediately felt that we were part of an extended family; something I still feel to this day.

It was a sad day when we left and the children have made me promise that next summer we will go again, stating this as their preference over skiing and all-inclusive holidays to Turkey! I couldn’t be happier. In an age where family time is so precious and children seem less and less communicative in a family environment, I felt that this week drew us closer in a way we had never been before. To my delight this has lasted long past the week itself. We have taken valuable lessons from our time at Malvern and have added these into our daily lives. Just this week, following Mass, my 8-year-old turned around and asked if we could go back to CPW Mass because it was always fun!

We are lucky to worship in a parish with a family who are life-long enthusiastic members of CPW and I will be forever grateful to them for encouraging us to join the community. I hope that anyone who read this will also take this leap of faith. I assure you it will only bring you joy.

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