Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fr Benedict Groeschel

Last November Fr Benedict Groeschel came to the parish to speak on the theology of Pope Benedict VVI. We had a Holy Hour and Vespers and enjoyed his very inspiring talk - which even got a mention in the Daily Telegraph.

Most impressive was the fact that there were so many young people there. There were also lots of seminarians from a number of different seminaries. Fr Benedict commented on this himself reffering to them as the John Paul Generation. Afterwards we had refreshments in the school hall and everyone had an opportunity to meet Fr Benedict personally.

If you missed the talk you'll be pleased to hear that Fr Benedict will be back in the parish for a similar event in July. He'll be here on Monday 9th July. The format will be very similar to last time which worked so well. Do please make a note of it in your diary today and mention it to your friends.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Europe for Christ

A Westminster seminarian recently sent me a link to Europe for Christ an ecumenical movement which was founded in 2005. Among other initiatives it promotes the praying of a daily 'Our Father' for the people of Europe. As an NGO it monitors the situation of Christians in Europe and draws attention to potential hostility towards Christianity.
It's worth taking a look at their website.
The Europe for Christ team is looking for an intern to work in their Vienna Office. It may be of interest to readers of this Blog, so I post the details below:

Dear friends,
'Europe for Christ!', based in Vienna (, is looking for interns to support its European-wide outreach.
The intern should be between 21 and 30, actively Christian, linguistically skilled English OR German is a must; Polish, Spanish, or Croatian a plus), and IT knowledgeable. The intern will receive housing and a small stipend and work on the promotion and further development of the initiative 'Europe for Christ!'. There are openings for the months of June and July 07 and from September 07 onwards.
If interested, please contact Ms. Monika Haas at

For a Europe built upon Christian values,

the 'Europe for Christ!' Team

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Primary School Vocations Day

Blogging has been difficult lately - more problems with the internet connection. Hopefully all resolved now (is there a 'fingers crossed' emoticon?).

Good news last week - we had a vocations day at our parish primary school, building on an initial experiment last year. This time we finished the theme of vocations by having special presentations to years five and six. I took two morning classes on priesthood and Sr Jacinthe OP took two classes on religious life. We then spent the lunch break in the playground meeting as many children as possible. With year five I focused on priesthood more in the sense of what a priest does. For year six the emphasis was more on the sense of vocations. I knew our head teacher would be interested to know what was going on, so I tried to make sure that my sessions reflected Ofsted good practice (lesson plan, differentiation, pace, vocabulary enrichment, intelligent use of props etc). It was a good day and we both had very intelligent questions from the children.

Looking after schools can be a major part of a priest's life. Eleven years ago our parish school was deemed by Ofsted to have 'serious weaknesses'. Now, after a lot of work, it is a fantastic school where each child has an opportunity to flourish. It has certainly been well worth the effort.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

St Columba's Catholic Boys' School

Today I was at St Columba's Catholic Boys' School in Bexley. I'd been invited over by the school's lay chaplain for a meeting to bring together the Head Teacher, Chaplaincy, RE Department and Southwark Vocations.
The school was very keen to find ways in which they could promote vocations amongst the boys and I was very keen to be able to offer them any assistance we can. We discussed the importance of fostering an encounter with Christ in each person - that encounter will eventually lead to a vocations discernment. We spoke about the great value of the prayer group at the school and also about the importance of encouraging service projects: contact with the less privileged can bring out great generosity in young people. We also spoke about the possibility of taking some of the youngsters to our 'Discovering Priesthood' days and about organising a day retreat for one of the year groups.

It was great for me to visit the school and meet the staff. I was impressed by the calm and orderly atmosphere, the courtesy of the boys and most especially by the fact that a large space had been made available for a Chapel at the heart of one of the new buildings.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Holy Father in Brazil

During his opening address at the fifth General Conference on Latin America and the Caribbean, the Holy Father made reference both to young people and the pastoral care of vocations and also to priestly life and ministry.

This is what he said about young people:

In Latin America the majority of the population is made up of young people. In this regard, we must remind them that their vocation is to be Christ’s friends, his disciples. Young people are not afraid of sacrifice, but of a meaningless life. They are sensitive to Christ’s call inviting them to follow him. They can respond to that call as priests, as consecrated men and women, or as fathers and mothers of families, totally dedicated to serving their brothers and sisters with all their time and capacity for dedication: with their whole lives. Young people must treat life as a continual discovery, never allowing themselves to be ensnared by current fashions or mentalities, but proceeding with a profound curiosity over the meaning of life and the mystery of God, the Creator and Father, and his Son, our Redeemer, within the human family. They must also commit themselves to a constant renewal of the world in the light of the Gospel. More still, they must oppose the facile illusions of instant happiness and the deceptive paradise offered by drugs, pleasure, and alcohol, and they must oppose every form of violence.

Here is what he said about priests:

The first promoters of discipleship and mission are those who have been called "to be with Jesus and to be sent out to preach" (cf. Mark 3:14), that is, the priests. They must receive preferential attention and paternal care from their bishops, because they are the primary instigators of authentic renewal of Christian life among the People of God. I should like to offer them a word of paternal affection, hoping that "the Lord will be their portion and cup" (cf. Psalm 16:5). If the priest has God as the foundation and centre of his life, he will experience the joy and the fruitfulness of his vocation. The priest must be above all a "man of God" (1 Timothy 6:11) who knows God directly, who has a profound personal friendship with Jesus, who shares with others the same sentiments that Christ has (cf. Philippians 2:5). Only in this way will the priest be capable of leading men to God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, and of being the representative of his love. In order to accomplish his lofty task, the
priest must have a solid spiritual formation, and the whole of his life must be imbued with faith, hope and charity. Like Jesus, he must be one who seeks, through prayer, the face and the will of God, and he must be attentive to his cultural and intellectual preparation.

Dear priests of this Continent, and those of you who have come here to work as missionaries, the Pope accompanies you in your pastoral work and wants you to be full of joy and hope; above all he prays for you.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Friday's Seekers' Meeting

I got back on Friday evening with literally just a few minutes to spare before the start of the Seekers' Meeting - which is much better than being a few minutes late! We had a good crowd including a number of 'first-timers'. In all, nine of us sat down for the meal afterwards. Over the meal we were able to hear an impression of the seminary and the selection process from one of this year's candidates. It was particularly good to hear that the Southwark seminarians who helped out over the weekend had only good things to say about the seminary :0)
The Seekers' Meetings take place on the third Friday of each month. I need to know who's coming in order to make sure there's enough food. I can be emailed by clicking this link.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Seekers' Meeting

Tomorrow (Friday) evening we have our monthly Seekers' Meeting. I've had a few telephone calls from people who've read the post about me being in Menorca and who were wondering if the meeting was cancelled. It's not! I fly into Heathrow tomorrow afternoon and will have plenty of time to get back to the parish for the meeting. It nearly wasn't so: an email from Iberia told me that my flight from Menorca to Barcelona had been changed for one that would leave me only ten minutes to change planes for Heathrow. Yesterday I had to go to airport in Mahon in order to book an earlier flight from here leaving me plenty of time for the change. Hopefully this time my luggage will make it too!
See you at the Seekers' Meeting.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Every Child´s a Blessing

I saw this video over at Fr Tim Finigan´s blog and decided to post it on our parish blogspot to encourage parents who are put under appalling pressure to terminate a pregnancy because someone in a white coat has decided their child shouldn't be allowed to live. Here´s the accompanying article:

In our parish we are blessed with very many births each year - as anyone who has attended the 10am Mass on Sunday morning will have experienced for themselves! Sometimes, sadly, the great joy of parents expecting a new addition to their family can be turned to distress and heartache when they hear that there is a possibility their baby may be unwell. Often great pressure is put upon them to terminate the pregnancy at an early stage even though, as many of our brave parents have discovered the prognosis itself lacks accuracy. We have many healthy children in the parish whose parents were recommended a termination because their child was diagnosed as having Downs Syndrome or some other disorder.
Not every diagnosis however is so shaky and sometimes the child is indeed unwell. The pressure put on parents to end the life of that child can be unbearable. One mother in our parish was accused of being `cruel´ because she refused to agree to an abortion. It is not unusual for parents to be told that the baby will live for such a short time that 'it´s not worth' continuing the pregnancy. I'm grateful to Fr Tim Finigan for drawing my attention to this short video:


On Thursday afternoon I left the parish to catch a flight to Menorca where I´m currently visiting a friend who is parish priest on the island. The plane was late taking off from Heathrow with the unfortunate consequence that while I successfully changed plane in Barcelona my luggage didn´t. On Friday we went to Ciutadela, the old capital of Menorca where the bishop still has his residence. The capital was changed to Mahon by the English when they took over the island in order to diminish the strength of the Menorquin nobility and the Church.
I met the bishop on Saturday when he came to the parish for the confirmations. Here first Communion celebrations and Confirmations usually take place in May. If there´s not sufficient time in May the Confirmations get delayed until October. School finishes in June which means that, although summer is very busy with tourists, nevertheless administratively there is a quiet season of about three months. Now that´s a thought!
I´d heard that parish priests in Menorca have to learn how to ride a horse (a proper one - not a pony!) and yesterday I found out why. Being an island Menorca was subject to constant attacks from Corsairs and, more dangerously, from the Moorish invaders. There are lookout towers all along the coastline and when the ships were seen in the distance fires would be lit to raise the alarm. The men would gather arms and ride to the beaches where the invaders could land in order to defend the island. On the way they would call in on the Church to collect the priest who would carry with him the Holy Oils in order to administer the Sacraments to the injured and fallen. This continues to be commemorated today and at least twice a year Fr Francis, with whom I am staying, has the patio in front of his house invaded by horsemen who bring with them his horse and with whom he rides off to the cheers and acclaim of the people. It´s a pity it won´t take place while I´m here - I´d love to post some photos.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Looking forward to life without Windows

I've not posted for nearly a week now for a simple reason. The Secretary's computer got infected with a virus - or possibly the operating system (Windows XP) got corrupted. Result? Pandemonium! Two trips to PC World late we thought we would be able to enjoy peace of mind thanks to the "Total Protection" offered by McAfee. Instead we've had hours of grief and intermittent internet access. Things only began to return to normal this afternoon.
I'm certainly looking forward to getting my new office up and running. It will be a Windows-free zone! I wonder what my readers think about the great PC/Mac debate? Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New Auxiliary in Melbourne

It is quite a business preparing for ordination. Apart from the canonical requirements there are also lots of practical ones such as who will vest you? Where will the first Mass be? Who will preach at that Mass?
I was ordained in 1989 in the Chapel of the John Fisher School in Purley. The next day I celebrated my first Mass in Folkestone where my old chemistry teacher was (and is) parish priest. The sermon was preached by Fr Peter Elliott (pictured) whom I had gotten to know very well when I was a student in Rome. It was an excellent sermon, engaging, humorous, rooted in the Catholic history of this country, and extolling the importance of the priestly vocation.
I was very pleased to hear on Monday the Mgr Peter Elliott, as he now is, has been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to be one of two new auxiliary bishops in Melbourne. In an email today he tells me that he is to be Titular Bishop of Manaccenser (successor to the recently deceased Bishop James O'Brien of Westminster). Bishop O'Brien was a much loved bishop who served the people of Westminster for many years. Bishop elect Elliott is a great anglophile. I'm sure it is fitting that they should be linked in this way. I'm also sure that the bishop elect would be grateful for any prayers you can spare for him.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Parish Vocations Pages

I meant to publish this a long time ago. The parish in Hythe is dedicated to Our Lady under the title "The Virgin Mother of Good Counsel". It is looked after by a Religious Congregation, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT). Recently they emailed to say that they have a new parish website and have dedicated a page to Vocations. You can see the page by clicking here. I also notice that they have very kindly included a link to the Southwark Vocations site.

Do let me know if you have a Vocations Page on your parish website. I'd be very happy to advertise it here. You can email me at Southwark Vocations.