History

For over forty years Emmaus House, from its former home on Clifton Hill, has run very successful retreats and internationally-known programmes in human and spiritual development, and offered hospitality to various charities and non-profit organisations both in the city and further afield. However the Sisters of La Retraite, the Religious Congregation who owns Emmaus House, are continuing their work in a venue more suited to their reality and resources in personnel and finance, as well as the changing context and needs of the Church.

The Sisters have been adapting to changing needs and times since their foundation in 17th Century Brittany in 1674. “Adapting to the life and times of the places in which we live and work is part of our life”. ‘Emmaus House’ has done some great and innovative work on Clifton Hill with retreats and spiritual guidance in all its forms as well as training courses, and these can all be pursued in a smaller, more modern and manageable setting in Whitchurch.

The Sisters of La Retraite can be seen to have been ‘on the move’ since they first arrived in 1924. Then, when education was the need of so many young women, it was to take over the running of the former St Joseph’s Academy for Young Ladies in Bristol. The school was successful and very popular with generations of Bristolians who were educated there but in the 1970s the school took a key role in moves to develop Catholic education as a whole in the City, something which led to the school’s closure in 1982. One door closes, another opens. Whilst part of the school became the newly established Cancer Help Society a community of Sisters moved across the road to live and work on the site of the former Prep school and Sixth Form House on Clifton Hill. This became Emmaus House.

The story of Emmaus comes from St Luke’s Gospel where Jesus accompanies two of his disciples along the road and gradually enables them to recognise him in the heart of all they are living. Our La Retraite communities are also places where we accompany people on their spiritual and human journeys. The spirit of Emmaus is behind everything we have been doing in Clifton over the years and is behind all that we hope to continue in various ways as we settle in to our new location in Whitchurch.