Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another Barbecue...

The Barbecue on Sunday went very well. It was good because the rain held off although to be on the safe side we ate indoors. It is always enjoyable to have the priests of the deanery round. We all work hard in our different parishes and it's important to be able to step back from rock face and spend time together.

On Monday morning I had an unexpected trip to the airport to pick up two craftsmen from Madrid who were sent over to make some adjustments to our porch doors. They worked from early morning until late at night and only finished by lunchtime on Tuesday. Since they spoke no English I dropped them back at the airport before rushing back to the parish to make sure everything was prepared for yesterday's special Mass. The 26th June is the feast of St Josemaria Escriva - the founder of Opus Dei and consequently also of Kelston Boy's Club here in the parish. It was the first time we had a solemn Mass to celebrate the feast. The principal celebrant was Mgr Nicholas Morrish, the Regional Vicar of Opus Dei, who was himself born and baptised in our parish. I was very pleased to meet his parents who had travelled up for the occasion. I was especially pleased to see the Church filled with people of all ages, races and backgrounds.

Today we had a retreat day for the top year in our school led by two sisters from the Marian Community of Reconciliation who had travelled down from Manchester where they are establishing a novitiate. The educational theme continued in the evening as we hosted a barbecue (in the rain!) for all the staff at our outstanding parish school. Tomorrow we have another celebration this time for our young adult's group.

I'm thinking of becomming a veggie...not!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

It's raining...

More First Holy Communions today, followed by a tasty lunch provided by one of our parishioners, then two separate baptisms. Now it's time to get ready for this evening. We've invited the priests of the deanery over for a barbecue after the evening Mass. It's good to meet up with our local priests and spend time simply socialising with them. Too often we are ploughing through an inconsequential agenda at deanery meetings and there can be little time to relax and simply learn from each other informally. A number of parishes have tried to remedy this by hosting social events most years. The summer barbecue has become a speciality here at the Holy Ghost.
This afternoon, of course, I'm keeping an eye on the weather. It's been pretty awful so far and I'm beginning to wonder what we shall do if it rains. Perhaps we should go over to the parish room for a film. Anyone fancy "Going my way?" Personally I'm more inclined towards "The Usual Suspects" which my dad has just recommended (and lent) to me....

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Discovering Priesthood Day

Today I was in the parish of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Blackfen, for our termly Discovering Priesthood Day. Our numbers were lower than usual partly because many youngsters are still in exam mode, and partly perhaps because the parish is a little more difficult to reach than some. We try to hold these days in different parts of the diocese in order to reach as many young people as possible and I was very pleased today to meet a young lad from a parish near Blackfen whom we might not otherwise have met.

Our host for the day was Fr Tim Finigan who is parish priest in Blackfen. Fr Tim is also a part time lecturer in theology at the diocesan seminary so it was good for him to meet the youngsters. He gave an excellent talk on the building blocks of Christian life and provided a very welcome lunch.

Bishop Pat Lynch was our host bishop. Bishop Lynch preached a very warm and encouraging sermon on devotion to Our Lady. He spoke of his experience working with people from Ecuador who, unable to go to their earthly mothers in times of hardship, had a great and manifest devotion to the Mother of God. In the course of the day he took questions on all sorts of subjects from liturgy to moral theology, so much so that we spared him the 'bishop on the hotseat' slot - since he had effectively been on the hotseat all day!

The photo shows a picture of the group with Bishop Pat on the left and Fr Tim on the right. I'm very grateful to Bishop Pat and Fr Tim for their support and also to all the priests who advertised the event or mentioned it to their youngsters. Our numbers may have been down but it was nonetheless a very fruitful day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Universe promotes Vocations

I had a very welcome telephone call the other day from one of the features editors of "The Universe" one of our weekly Catholic Newspapers. It seems that the editorial board has decided to dedicate a full page spread each month to promoting vocations throughout the dioceses of England and Wales. This week's edition contains a very good article by Fr Robert King, the new Vocations Director in Clifton as well as a trstimony from one of their recently ordained priests. The page also carries adverts from various religious orders.
I think vocations personnel throughout the various dioceses in England and Wales will be very grateful to The Universe to this new initiative. It will help bring to the fore the need for priestly and religious vocations and also facilitiate contact with both the dioceses and religious orders. I'm very happy to support the project.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Summer Get Together

Each year in Southwark we have the inside of a week together for seminarians (old and new) and those who may be considering becoming diocesan priests. This year we are going back to the Sacred Heart School in Woldingham which received us so well in the past. The Archbishop will be joining us and I hope that some of the auxiliary bishops may be able to come over too.

It's not a retreat just a time to relax together and get to know each other better. It is very important to build up bonds of fraternity amongst diocesan clergy and these weeks can help us. They are an encouragement to men thinking about priesthood as they meet the seminarians and can ask all the questions they never dare ask anyone else! It is also a good opportunity for our seminarians to get involved with the work of promoting vocations in the diocese.

If you would like to join us for the week please send me an email by clicking here.

This year the summer get-together runs from the evening of Tuesday 10th July until after lunch on Friday 13th.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

First Holy Communions

Today we had the first of two First Holy Communion Masses in the parish. The next one will take place tomorrow at 11.30am To commemorate today's Mass the children at our parish school have taken to decorating plates which are then glazed and fired and can be kept as a commemoration of the day.

It's an important day for the children and also for their families. One of the nice things about being parish priest here is that I get to meet many generations of families in the course of the year - including the occasional great-great grandparent. First Holy Communion celebrations are an opportunity for everyone to come together and rejoice at the wonderful gift we receive in the Eucharist: Jesus himself.
A number of parents and guests today mentioned that the ceremony was carried out with great reverence and dignity and that tears came to their eyes as they recalled their own First Holy Communion.


Dipping my toe into Facebook has been an interesting experience. I'm already catching up with people who've attended various talks I've given on vocations. It's good to hear from some of them that they've followed up their sense of call and contacted vocations directors or attended vocations retreats.
When I first mentioned Facebook here I mentioned my concern that it appeared to mark a new stage in the de-personalisation of relationships. In reply the following has been posted on my 'wall':
A sobering thought, nevertheless facebook must be judged on its own merits. A thing that lets you check the pulse without touching the body is great thing.
Actually I concede that Facebook is an excellent way to stay in touch with friends and make contact people with similar interests. It is interesting to see who's joined the Vocations Group. However, my qualm remains. At some point we have to touch the body to check the pulse - if only to make sure that the machine is working. Facebook won't replace our Vocations events!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Discovering Priesthood Day

I'd like to enlist your help to give a little publicity to our next 'Discovering Priesthood Day' which will take place on Saturday 23rd June. Bishop Pat Lynch has agreed to be with us for the day and to take questions for the 'Bishop in the Hotseat' slot.

Discovering Priesthood Days are for 14-18 year olds - so they need the support of parents and parish priests both to advertise them and also to get the youngsters to the host parish. This time our host will be Fr Tim Finigan at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Blackfen. We're very much looking forward to the day.
Please let us know if you are coming. You can email me by clicking this link.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


An innocent enough email from a friend of mine recently asked why I wasn't on Facebook. I've been invited in the past to join a variety of internet groups but never really felt the urge. However, when my friend insisted that it would be a good way of meeting people, advertising events and promoting vocations I had to learn more.
So this week, to the horror of some and the delight of others I joined facebook. It is amazing how quickly you become hooked. It's not so much about hearing that this person's going to a party or that one's discovered a pimple on her left nostril - it's just about being aware of what's going on. Of course there's part of me that sees it as the increasing atomisation of human relationships: in the past to keep in touch we met up and chatted; then we started telephoning each other. After that we texted. Finally we emailed. Now we've removed the need for interpersonal communication at all. As one friend put it Facebook is reality - everything else is just a dream. So like Neo in the Matrix I've joined the 'real' world.
I hope it helps me meet more people thinking of priesthood. I'll get a reputation as a cyber-chaplain :o( In the meantime can feel myself getting sucked into the vortex - I need to go to check my inbox for new 'friends'...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Seekers' Meeting

On Friday this week we have our monthly Seekers' Meeting. Please let me know if you are coming. You can email me by clicking here. The meeting is for young men considering a vocation to the priesthood. It starts at 7pm with a talk. After the talk we have a meal together. It's a simple but effective formula.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Soho Square sings Gospel

Tonight a group of us from the parish went over to St Patrick's, Soho Square, to take part in the 'Spirit in the City' festival of prayer and evangelisation. Any of you who have been to that part of London will know that it can be quite a sordid place. There are always a lot of unhappy people about all of them looking for happiness any many thinkings mistakenly that it can be found in a narcotic fix or quick sexual liaison.

Every day the parish priest faces pastoral problems that many of us encounter only occasionally. Every priest has to ask himself how he can best serve the people of his parish. What do they need? How can we provide it? Fr Alexander identified three needs for his transitory and broken flock. The parish needs prayer - so he has established perpetual Adoration. It needs a life-giving view of human sexuality - so he established a centre for Natural Family Planning and organises talks on the Theology of the Body. Finally, it needs to be evangelised and so he started the St Patrick Evangelisation School - SPES - to bring hope to the heart of Soho.

Spirit in the City is part of the annual programme of reaching out to the people who pass through that area each day. It's organised by the local Catholic Churches and organises events in Church and also on the streets. This evening we arrived in time for the Holy Hour led by the Franciscans of the Renewal. After the Holy Hour there was a concert of Gospel Music in the Square. During this young Catholics went round the crowd getting to know the people there, handing out leaflets to those who wanted to know more and inviting them to come back to the Church afterwards for another time of prayer. It was very effective. There were of course a few representatives of the culture of death who complained bitterly that their patch was being invaded, but apart from that everyone enjoyed the music and seemed genuinely grateful that it had been laid on.

Soho Square is a place that is always full of people. The paradox is that it is a very lonely place. Tonight they were offered a focus that brought them together and directed them towards Christ. From what I saw there were very many who were grateful for that opportunity.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thanks for the Prayers

The Team with some of the Pupils

In the last post I asked for prayers for our Vocations day at the Sacred Heart School. Thanks for those prayers. We had a great day at the school today. We arrived there just before 8am where me met the enthusiastic head of RE, Gerry Foley (who is an 'old boy' of my parish) and had a chance to see where we would be meeting the young people. The Headteacher invited us to meet the Staff at the pre-school briefing. The school is in a Novena to the Sacred Heart and today the religious sister who leads the chaplaincy team led us in a reflection which was followed by a prayer led by Mr Foley. There was a lot of laughter in the staff room and it was a good atmosphere. We were able to introduce ourselves which was also very good.
Apart from the individual presentations (mentioned in the last post) we had a thoroughly enjoyable Q&A session in the afternoon. We were also blessed by the presence of Br John Bosco who led us in a music session in preparation for the Mass which followed.

Later we had Tea with Fr David the parish priest

I'm really grateful for the invitation to go into the school and for the opportunity of spending the day with the youngsters. I'm particularly grateful to the Friars for joining us (and to Fr Sylvester who preached at the Mass) as well as to the Little Sisters of the Poor and to Declan who took a day off work to be part of our mission team today.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Secondary School Vocation Day

This post is simply to ask your prayers for the forthcoming Vocations Day at one of our diocesan secondary schools. It's an important occasion for us as it's the first time we've put together a Vocations Day for this age group. In the past we've attended and given presentations at Careers Events but this will be more like a retreat day for the children of Year 10.
The team consists of some Friars of the Renewal who will speak on recognising God's love. One of the Friars used to be a layman in the local parish so it will be good for the youngsters to meet him. There will also be two sisters from the Little Sisters of the Poor who will speak about love in action. A married couple will talk about the commitment needed to follow Christ. I'll be with one of our seminarians for a presentation on discerning the call and, of course, a viewing of 'Fishers of Men.

In the afternoon we will have an open forum when the young people can fire questions at a panel. We will finish the day with the celebration of Holy Mass.

I'm looking forward to it - but its success will depend on how much we pray, so please keep it in your prayers.

Priest and three deacons killed in Iraq

Please pray for the repose of the souls of the priest and three deacons murdered on Sunday in Iraq. Today's Zenit carries an article on their murder:

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a telegram of condolence in Benedict XVI's name, remembering the priest and three deacons murdered Sunday in Iraq.

The priest was killed in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit after saying Sunday Mass. According to Reuters, police said that gunmen stopped the priest's car, dragged him and the deacons out and shot them. Iraqi sources said militants related to al-Qaida are responsible for the increasing persecution of Christians in Mosul.

The papal telegram was sent to Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul.

The telegram said: "The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the senseless killing of Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Daoud, Ghasan Bidawid and Wadid Hanna, and he asks you kindly to convey to their families his heartfelt condolences."
It continued: "He willingly joins the Christian community in Mosul in commending their souls to the infinite mercy of God, our loving Father, and in giving thanks for their selfless witness to the Gospel.
"At the same time he prays that their costly sacrifice will inspire in the hearts of all men and women of good will a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence, to conquer evil with good and to cooperate in hastening the dawn of reconciliation, justice and peace in Iraq."
The telegram concluded: "To the families and to all who mourn their dead in faith and in the hope which draws its certainty from the resurrection, His Holiness cordially imparts his apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the Lord."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Parish Confirmations

Today we welcomed Bishop Paul Hendricks to the parish for our annual Confirmation ceremony.Our Confirmation programme begins in September and consists of weekly sessions during term time. We have lots of guest speakers as well as a systematic catechesis looked after by our youth minister and team of catechists. There mis also a time of prayer each week as well as opportunities for the young people to get back into the habit of regular confession if they've fallen out of it. There are also great excursions and days out.
It is always worth putting a lot of effort into the Confirmation programme. This is a transition period in the lives of our youngsters and it is important that they get to realise not just that it's good to ask questions about their faith but also that it matters where they go for the answers. By building up a rapport with the priests and catechists - and with the grace of the Holy Spirit - we hope that they will be empowered to resist empty promises of our secular society.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

What Can I do to promote Vocations?

Browsing the internet I found a diocesan webiste that has a useful ideas for individuals, schools and parishes to do to promote vocations. Here's the list for individuals:

Participate in days of prayer and Holy Hours for Vocations.
As a family pray for vocations.
Pray the Rosary and/or recite the Vocation prayer daily for the intention of Vocations.

Education and Discernment
Invite clergy and religious to visit your home and talk about Vocations.
Include specific catechesis on Vocation Awareness and Discernment during your catechetical instruction.

Promoting Vocations Be actively involved in your Parish Vocation Committee.

Directly ask/invite individuals to consider priesthood and consecrated life.

Support those in formation by letters of encouragement.

Spirit in the City

If you're in London this week do try to take part in some of the events being organised by Spirit in the City. Click on the link to see the details. Spirit in the City is a festival of Christian Faith in the heart of London. It involves times of prayer and praise in the West End Churches and also an exciting street programme to celebrate, reach out and give witness.
During the day on Saturday don't miss the Christian Festival in Leicester Square and in the evening wander over the Soho Square where, after the evening Mass and Adoration in St Patrick's there will be a concert of Gospel music from 8pm until 9pm with street evangelisation. The evening will conclude with a candlelit procession to the Church.

For more information contact Anne Marie.