Last weekend, the Catholic club at my University headed on a road trip to Timaru, where we would be joined by our sister club from Dunedin for a weekend of laid back prayer and fellowship in the hope of getting to know one another better and building up the relationship between our clubs.

After playing some Tetris to fit all our luggage in the boot, we piled into a seven-seater and headed south along State Highway 1. I quickly realised that this was the very same road I took to work weekly, keenly pointing out the large dairy factory as we buzzed past. We eventually arrived at the Sacred Heart Basilica in Timaru and waited for our Otago friends to arrive. While we took in the sights and sounds of the town, I was struck by the similarity between the Basilica and our old Catholic Cathedral destroyed by the earthquake. When everyone had arrived, we settled on the lawn to enjoy a picnic under a beautiful sky. We were then taken by our local host through a concealed passage, up a dark flight of stairs and onto the top of the main dome of the church. We drank in the beautiful panoramic views of Timaru, a picturesque town of old colonial batches nestled between the coast and rolling hills. I had in fact never realised how charm this town had, hidden away among the hills of South Canterbury.

Later in the afternoon, we headed out for a walking rosary on our way to the beach, where we spent a short while before heading home. A detour led us through the botanic gardens where we found an aviary and a playground. Being the mature adults that we are, we all rushed onto the swings and climbed all over the various playground equipment. We eventually made our way back to the presbytery and enjoyed a shared meal and night prayer in the Basilica. We then drove down to a more secluded part of the coastline and enjoyed a bonfire. A friend and I made the most of the full moon and light cloud cover to practice some long exposure night photography, promising to organise a night of star gazing at some point in the future.

The next morning we participated in mass at a local parish and lunch, before taking time to share our experience of running catholic clubs and ministering in our respective campuses. This discussion was very interesting and energising for both clubs, where we shared hopes and plans for the Cathsoc “name” across New Zealand in the years to come.

With heavy hearts, we packed back into our vehicles and headed to our respective homes. The weekend had been fantastic, with a very enjoyable balance of prayer, relaxation, building new friendships and reflecting on our experiences during the year. I was personally grateful for the experience of organising this event and for the tight-nit friendship we had formed over the past semester. I wish to extend a heart-felt thank-you to those who hosted and accommodated us in Timaru, to our chaplain for his continued support to the club and this event as well as to all who participated, both from Canterbury and Otago!