Writing as Chairman of NEA's trustees how could I not but remember two great events in the period of this review, namely the 50th Anniversary of Netherhall House and the canonisation of the Founder of Opus Dei. Both are covered later in this review. These extraordinary events however should not obscure the proliferation of ordinary activities that have taken place during the same period in and from NEA's centres in Britain.
In 2003, NEA set up the Thomas More Institute, a forum for civil discourse, to offer opportunities for principled engagement with intellectual and public issues, seeking ultimately to make a positive impact on public debate and decision-making.
NEA is about personal development. Many who have come to know the centres through studies, through their own children, and through friends have come to give their time as volunteers running activities.
Everyone who becomes involved with the activities of NEA sooner or later comes to appreciate that their inspiration derives from Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei. It was therefore an occasion of great joy when Pope John Paul II declared him a saint on October 6 before a crowd overflowing St Peter's Square in Rome.
Netherhall House teamed up with ReachOut! For Youth to launch a mentoring programme in a primary school in Hackney, in East London. Students from Netherhall House work as mentors for boys in the last year of primary school, travelling weekly to the school and spending Wednesday afternoons with children in a variety of academic and sporting activities.
ReachOut! London is funded by the Children's Fund at the Learning Trust in Hackney.
In August 2003 ten students from Netherhall House joined volunteer groups from Italy, Spain, Germany and Costa Rica for a work camp in Nicaragua. A local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that promotes the spread of farming technology and the advancement of women in rural areas sponsored the project. Under the direction of engineers and construction workers from the area, the university students helped build a school, dug a well and installed sanitary facilities.
Netherhall House reached the half-century mark in April 2002. Friends, patrons and about 200 alumni from around the globe joined its 100 residents for a weekend celebration which took place in June. Students and ex-residents watched videos of some of the more important moments in Netherhall's history, including the day the Queen Mother came to visit. But more than the historical highlights, the abiding pleasure for the former residents was coming back to their home in London and exchanging reminiscences.