Date of Submission



Senior school live-in retreats, which could be described as intensive personal/spiritual development seminars, are a distinctive feature of the religious programs of Australian Catholic secondary schools. While research on the views of young people has confirmed the popularity of retreats with students (Flynn, 1993; Maroney, 2008), there has been no systematic study of how teachers understood the nature, purposes and conduct of retreats, and of what they regarded as 'successful' retreat work. This thesis reports a two part research program on live-in retreats. The first, documentary/historical phase of the study examined the spirituality background to retreats within Catholicism which informed the conduct of school retreats. While not attempting an exhaustive or comprehensive analysis of spirituality, this section identified the roots of 'retreat spirituality' in developments within early Christianity such as 'desert spirituality', in the spirituality of mediaeval monasticism, and in the 'religious exercises' of the active religious orders that emerged since the founding of the Jesuits in the early 16th century. Elements such as 'going away' to an isolated place, solitude, silence, reflection and prayer, review of one's life, physical and mental renewal, and spiritual guidance became prominent in the development of retreats for religious personnel and clergy; and this served as the model that informed 'silent' retreats in Catholic schools up to and including the 1960s.


School of Religious Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


317 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education