Laurence Freeman in South Africa – September 2019

Laurence addressing teachers in Johannesburg


Twelve events – in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg – were held over the 10 days of the visit with attendance totaling just over 800. The events, including seminars, lectures and a retreat, were jointly managed by WCCM (SA), the Catholic Institute of Education and the Jesuit Institute of South Africa.

In addition to these public events three Catholic bishops were visited. Archbishop Stephen Brislin (Cape Town), Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (Durban) and Auxiliary Bishop Duncan Tsoke (Johannesburg) were all supportive and recognised the value of meditation and the contemplative way.

Laurence meditating with children at Holy Family College, Durban

Three schools were also visited. In two of them – Holy Family College, Durban & Loreto Convent School, Queenswood, Pretoria – staff members were addressed and Laurence meditated with Grade 5 and 6 students in Holy Family College and St Henry’s Marist College, both in Durban.

Laurence also had the opportunity of addressing a forum of principals from the Pretoria Catholic schools.



The visit was well-planned and well-balanced exposing a number of different constituencies to Christian meditation. While the schedule was quite tight at times, Laurence was happy to use all the time available.

The collaboration with the Catholic Institute of Education and the Jesuit Institute – with their school and public networks respectively – made the success of the visit possible.

Midday prayer at the Origins Retreat Centre in the Cradle of Humankind

An ecumenical element was provided by having hosts from the Anglican and Dutch Reformed communions assuming responsibility for particular events. There was also support from inHarmonie, a retreat centre in Franschhoek near Cape Town, and from Mosaïek, a post-denominational Christian church in Johannesburg, who invited Laurence to be the speaker at their annual event called Conversations.

The episcopal blessing for the visit and support shown by all three bishops interviewed was a positive sign of meditation growing as a practice in South Africa.

The interest shown by teachers and catechists in all three centres augurs well for meditation being introduced more widely to children and young people.

Collaboration with Contemplative Outreach, particularly in Cape Town where the seminar was a joint venture, dispelled any notion of competition between the two communities.


The small number of groups, many of which do not respond to newsletters or receipt of CDs, and the few committed individuals do not contribute to a sense of community in South Africa.

The flyers which advertised the events had contact numbers but no mention of the actual venues.

The distances between events held on the same day, particularly in Cape Town, made for a tight schedule.

The lack of books for sale at events was discouraging. (Bookshops are not keen to import reasonable quantities of books given the high price that has to be put on them because of exchange rate and import tax.)



A national council should be established to include representatives from the three regions visited – Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.


Participants at the events were invited to leave contact details should they be interested in receiving further information or finding out how they might participate in the work of the community. 129 forms were returned and the contacts have been recorded in a database.


Through the contact details collected at events, people will be contacted in the near future to keep them informed of developments subsequent to the visit. In addition, an invitation to start a group will be sent with the assurance of formation on how to run a group, provision of basic resources, and a connection to the wider community.

An indication of other ways in which a person can be involved in the life of the community will be included in the invitation.


Laurence encouraged the idea of a pilot project in schools. The details of the project will need to be worked out, though some ideas were floated:

  • Introductory sessions with follow-ups
  • The need of a champion in each school to assist in the incorporation of meditation into the school’s daily practice
  • Journalling the school’s experience
  • A research project
  • School reports to inspire other schools


An annual programme of events should be established. This could include:

  • Annual retreat (regionally)
  • Essential teaching weekend
  • National Conference (for group leaders, connecting with another national community)


An agreement has been reached between Medio Media, the publishing arm of WCCM and the Jesuit Institute of South Africa to publish local editions of key resources, such as Christian Meditation: Your Daily Practice, Word into Silence, Pearl of Great Price and Light Within.


The possibility of a Meditation Seminar on “A Contemplative Approach to the Crisis of Youth” in 2021 was discussed.



Bonnevaux: A Contemplative and Meditation Retreat Centre for The World Community for Christian Meditation

Contemplative centres through history have always served as places of peace and reconciliation. A thousand years ago a Benedictine monastery was built in Bonnevaux, near Poitiers in France. On these ancient foundations we would like to develop a contemplative centre for the 21st century.

Bonnevaux will contribute to the peace-building and mutual understanding so much needed in our world now. As a meditation centre with its roots deep in the Christian tradition and yet open to all in an inclusive spirit, it will show the potential of meditation for people of all ages, beliefs and backgrounds to unify minds and heal divided hearts. With its focus on a simple and universal teaching Bonnevaux will deepen the contemplative dimension of Christian life and also bring the fruits of meditation to people of other religious or secular beliefs.

Bonnevaux is a beautiful site.  It is an ideal space with a spirit of deep peace and beauty for a contemplative retreat centre attuned to the needs of our time.  It will provide a home for The World Community for Christian Meditation and bring together meditators from around the globe in friendship. There will be a resident core community who will manage the centre and welcome participants for retreats and courses. A programme of retreats, courses and events will be offered here to continue the work and mission of our community.

Please share this good news with your friends and colleagues and visit the website for more details   Or go to for a programme of events at Bonnevaux.

International Seminar Report : Teaching Meditation to Children



At the suggestion of Fr Laurence Freeman, current leader of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM), Dr Cathy Day and Mr Ernie Christie of Catholic Education, Townsville, Australia, were invited to South Africa to share their story and experience with teachers in Catholic schools. Both have been intimately involved in a 10-year project in their home diocese, introducing and supporting meditation in 31 schools. On the basis of their experience they have been invited to run seminars far and wide – in the USA, Ireland, UK, Poland, Singapore, Indonesia and at home across Australia.


The 9 seminars which took place in Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and cape Town were attended by some 550 teachers and other interested parties. The seminars comprised the following elements:

  1. The Townsville story: A brief explanation as to how Christian Meditation has been developed and embedded into Catholic school prayer practice across a system of Catholic schools
  2. What is Christian Meditation? A video, Learning to Be with testimonies from teachers and students in the Townsville diocese
  3. Experience of the practice
  4. Exploration of key concepts
  5. A second video, Teaching Children to Meditate, illustrating ways of implementing the practice in schools
  6. A look to the future – what shall I do?


The following email messages were received subsequent to the seminars.

Fri 2015/10/02 11:38 AM

Thank you for the Teaching Meditation Seminar on Tuesday.  The experience has stayed with us all week and my niece who came with us and who is suffering from a breakdown with panic attacks and has not been able to sleep for weeks had a full night’s sleep with no sleeping pills on Tuesday night.  Alleluia!

Yours sincerely… Johannesburg

Wed 2015/09/30 07:49 AM

Thank you so much for putting together the exciting course yesterday on Christian Meditation. I am looking forward to adding it to the RE programme I cover with my Grade 4 – 6s at St Teresa’s and eventually introducing it next year as whole school meditation as part of our assembly time. Please could I order a chime from you, and could you let me know what the most suitable form of payment would be.

Many thanks…SS, LO and RE Teacher, Grades 4 – 6

Sat 2015/09/26 12:35 PM

Many of you may have not even noticed this event or meant to enquire and then forgot…

Last night we attended “A WAY TO PEACE: TEACHING MEDITATION TO CHILDREN” (& Contemplative Prayer) presented by Dr Cathy Day & Ernie Christie of Catholic Education, Townsville (Australia) in our Parish Hall. (The CWL served an amazing finger food supper and refreshments – most appreciated!)

Well we were quite blown away and wish everyone could have had attended and had this knowledge imparted to them; the focus is on children but we are all in need of this (His) way to balance our lives and find the true peace that Christ intends – not only for ourselves personally but also for shining His Light & Peace in this frenetic world. The testimonies from the children and adults alike were so encouraging and insightful as well. So heart-warming to see them and the results in action.

A 2½ hr life changing event. Very easy to understand and absorb, presented so interestingly! We cannot emphasise enough how valuable this teaching is. Take off work/arrange a babysitter – just do whatever you have to – to get there!!


If only all the teachers, psychologists and other ‘professionals’ would also learn and do this;  then impart these God given ways to deal with our collective stress and ADD and many other dysfunctions of our day. (You’ll see why if you go along!)

Additional helping literature/resources and pamphlets are given, plus a valuable booklet “Christian Meditation YOUR DAILY PRACTICE” is available for R20.

Thu 2015/09/24 03:33 PM

Thank you for bringing Ernie and Cathy to Durban on 21 September. I managed to encourage all the Pre-Primary and Junior Prep teachers to attend and booked long in advance. They all embraced the experience and have been enjoying trying out Christian Meditation in their classes over the last two days. The children have responded positively already and have been asking the teachers each day to give them time for this.

Kind regards… HOD: Junior Prep

What of the Future?

Participants were invited at the conclusion of the seminar to indicate on a form which of the following services from CIE they might be interested in:

  • o Introductory workshops for teachers and/or parents
  • o Supporting materials for the implementation of meditation
  • o Regular printed materials and newsletters for enrichment
  • o Courses for teachers of meditation

143 replies were received and these are being processed with a view to devising a follow-up strategy for 2016 and beyond.