Monday, September 29, 2008

Young Adults Group

We've just been finalising the term card for our young adults' group, known as Forum Christi. We are going to start with the Film "Bella" by the Metanoia Production Company. One of the Friars of the Renewal will give us some background to the film and its profound pro-life message before we see it. Matanoia, like Grassroots, is one of those companies producing excellent quality films with Christian values without being overtly 'religious'. A mark of Metanoia's professionalism is that Bella won the Toronto Film Festival - a prestigious film award made all the more remarkable by the fact that the film was produced by a 'rookie' company.
If you can join us please do so. Meanwhile, here's a trailer:

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Perhaps it's something in the waters but we have an unusually high number of baptisms this year at the Holy Ghost parish. Balham has long been known as Nappy Valley because it has a high birthrate and, I'm told, the highest density of under tens in western Europe. By the end of the week we will have baptised the largest number of children at this point in the year since 1972 - more than a quarter of a century ago. It's great although I wonder what will happen in four years time. Our parish school is oversubscribed and even combined with our new independent Catholic school there won't be enough places for practising Catholic children.
This is one of the reasons it is so important for us to offer classes for children not attending Catholic schools - what in the parish we have come to call catechesis from the cradle to the grave.
It's good. And it sure keeps us on our toes!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Quo Vadis Group

A few weeks ago I posted about the new Quo Vadis Group being established on my behalf by Fr Dominic Allain. The initiative is a direct result of our experience at World Youth Day in Sydney this year. By the end of the trip so many of our young people were seriously considering the possibility of a vocation to priesthood or religious life that we wanted to provide some forum where they would have space to continue their discernment.
The Quo Vadis Group is for those still at school or starting university - male and female - and it offers a chance to come together for prayer, friendship and formation. Joining the group does not mean that the boys will become priests and the girls nuns. Far from it! The idea is simply to create an environment which encourages young people to think about their future in terms of God's call.
Our first meeting will take place in Fr Dominic's new parish on Friday 3rd October. We begin with Holy Mass at 6.30pm. If you are between 16 & 20 years old and would like to join us please send me an email (click here) and I will send you more details. For catering purposes we need to know numbers in advance.
Meanwhile, we ask the rest of you please to keep this new venture in your prayers. Thanks.

Franciscan "Come and See" Weekend

I am very pleased to respond to a request from Sr Marianne who involved with vocations promotion for the Franciscan Sisters Minoress. She asks that I give some publicity to their forthcoming Come and See weekend.
The weekend will take place at their convent in Derbyshire from Friday 17th to Sunday 19th October. It is open to women who are at least sixteen years old. Sister Marianne tells me it is a weekend to explore the possibility of a vocation to the Franciscan Religous Life, and consider ways of discerning one's call.

The address of the convent is:
St Clare's Convent,
Stretton Road,
Clay Cross,
S45 9AQ

You can also contact Sr Marianne through one of the following websites: Franciscan Vocations or St Clare's Convent.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Youth 2000

We had a good Seekers' Meeting last night. Numbers were down because many of our regulars are now at seminary but it was nice to have two students from Wonersh join us for the first part of the evening. I already have five applicants for next year and am hoping to pick up a few more before Christmas.

Today I had a meeting in central London and hadn't yet printed or indeed finished the newsletter. The only way to fit my prayer and Office in was to get up early. As happens when you're pressed for time things got complicated. When I started printing the newsletter the machine stopped working. Usually I can fix things when they go wrong but this seemed to be a pretty substantial mechanical fault. In parishes there are always those who adopt the 'kick it 'til it breaks' approach in such cases but I'm not one of them. There is a mechanic we can call on Monday. So having left the parish thinking that I'd wasted two hours preparing a newsletter the people would never see, I was pleasantly surprised to find when I got back that our parish Sister had taken the draft up to Archbishop's House and run it off there!

The meeting took place in the crypt of St Charles Borromeo, Ogle Street and was a follow up to the Youth 2000 retreat at Walsingham. It was the first such meeting I'd attended and, having found my name on a handout, was glad I attended. It was good to catch up with old friends and also to understand better some of the internal workings of Y2K - the premier Catholic evangelisers of young people in England today. Fr Stephen Wang proudly held up a very nice article about Allen Hall from the Universe and pointed out that four of the current seminarians had contact with Youth 2000. Charlie O'Connor, the National Director, had also been doing his homework and was able to tell us that there are currently 69 men and women who had discovered their vocation to priesthood or religious life through Youth 2000 in addition to over thirty marriages.

I was particularly pleased to meet up again with some youngsters thinking of priesthood. This year I met at Walsingham at least six young men thinking about their vocation. I am sure there were many others. It shows that there are plenty of vocations out there. As it says in a well-known vocations video, we have to go out and fish! It takes time and it's hard to balance with a busy parish but it is nevertheless worthwhile.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Seekers Meeting

Tomorrow we have our first Seekers Meeting of the new term. Our numbers will be down because a lot of our regulars have now started at seminary. We have three men starting at the Beda, one each at the Venerabile and Valladolid, and five men starting at St John's, Wonersh. Please keep them in your prayers.
Tomorrow I will be handing out a number of application forms. It is certainly beginning to look as if we will have a number of applicants fo next year as well. I am sure we will if we pray hard enough.
The Seekers Meetings give us a chance to meet together once a month. There is generally some input - often a talk on a spiritual subject. We also have a meal together. In this way we try to fulfil the objective of encouraging friendship amongst those called by God to serve him in the priesthood.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Curate

Yesterday our new curate arrived in the parish. He is the second Nigerian priest to work with me here but the first member of a Religious Congregation. He was brought to the parish by the Provincial who spoke about the work of his order in England and our conversation gave me much food for thought.
While many dioceses are coming to terms with a reduced number of priests and in some places the trauma of closing or amalgamating parishes, in Southwark we have been relatively unscathed. London has always been a popular place for priests to study and over the years we have benefitted from a growing number of visitors who help out in parishes, particularly at weekends, in return for a place to stay while they study. This has developed and there is also now a good number of priests from abroad getting full-time pastoral experience over here before they return to their home dioceses. This has meant that it has been possible to spread our 'home-grown' clergy more thinly. Indeed, in our deanery all our assistant priests have come from abroad.
What I hadn't really appreciated is that we have now gone a stage further and that a significant number of our parishes have now passed from the hands of diocesan clergy to religious congregations from abroad.
I, for one, hadn't realised the full extent to which we have been cushioned and have now become dependent upon the help we are receiving from outside these shores. What it means is that the shortage of ordinations for our diocese is more serious than we are perhaps aware and that, without the assistance of foreign clergy, we too would be faced with closing and amalgamating parishes.
So what should our response be? I think in part it has to be simply one of recognising the urgency of the situation: when the chips are down people act. Some readers of this Blog may have been toying with the idea of a vocation for some time, waiting for a sign, or putting the question off. Apart from the theological aspect of resisting God's will, dithering is no longer a luxury we can afford!
When I get a moment I will try to play with some statistics to see how many ordinations we need a year. It would provide us with an interesting target.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Fashion Rebels

Someone recently added a comment to a video we had on this blog of Advent Vesters at St John's. When you look at a Youtube video it suggests others of related interest and I was amused to see this one promoting the Fashion Rebels:

Let me follow it by this amusing commercial for text-messaging:

Sunday, September 07, 2008

New Seminarians

I've given up on trying to post the collection of photos from Flickr and deleted the past. They say that to err is human but to really foul things up you need a computer and I certainly couldn't get through all the funny codes to work out why they didn't show up. I'm looking forward to converting the parish office to a Mac environment - we won't have any more glitches like that then!
It's a bit late to be posting now but I just wanted to mention that St John's Seminary has now resumed and to ask your prayers for the five new men we have starting there. We already have one new man in Rome on the language course. That leaves only two more to go to the Beda and one to go to the English College in Valladolid.
Please keep them all in your prayers.