Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pastoral Guidelines for the Promotion of Vocations to the Priestly Minitry

I have mentioned this new document before and you can read a copy of it yourself by simply clicking the relevant page at the top of this blog. It is important that it not be a document once published and then forgotten and we shall certainly be considering it during our forthcoming Vocation Directors' Conference. Today I would like to give something of the background to the document. The easiest, and most authoritative, way of doing this is simply to translate for you some paragraphs of a talk given by Mgr Diego Coletti.

In January 2005, the Plenary Congregation of the Dicastery for Catholic Education, declared itself in favour of an elaboration and publication of a new document for the promotion of a pastoral ministry for vocations to the ministerial priesthood. It indicated five characteristics the new document would have to try to meet:
  • to invite the whole ecclesial community, and not just one or other of its components, to a renewed awareness of its responsibility to promote vocations in both its educative and in its pastoral roles;
  • to offer a clear and unified idea of the spiritual nature of ministerial priesthood, of its necessity and of its role in the Church;
  • to encourage all the members of the Church, and particularly those groups and movements that are trying to foster and sustain vocations;
  • to make available a practical vademecum which would be as concrete, clear and effective as possible;
  • to produce a document which would be both brief and incisive.
The Plenary Congregation of January 2008 put into motion an initiative to carry out a wide consultation which would involve the offices of the national Episcopal Conferences dedicated to vocations ministry. It gave its support once again, as well as some updated ideas, for the elaboration of the document.

Finally in February 2011 the Plenary meeting of the Congregation, having carried out a wide-ranging reflection on the synthesised results of that consultation, put together in thirty propositions of the material it had received, and encouraged the redaction of the new document following the classical threefold structure: analysis of the situation; re-statement of the priestly identity; and practical suggestions for promoting vocations.

A Cautionary Tale...

I have been going through some old papers which I had managed to accumulate after nearly seventeen years in a parish. I've managed to shred or bin quite a lot but every now and then I come across a gem that deserves wider recognition. I don't recall who sent me the following Memorandum, but I though it worth publishing here. I imagine it probably first appeared in Not The Church Times or some such publication...

MEMORANDUMTo: Jesus, Son of Joseph, Nazareth.
From: The Advisory Board for the Church's Ministry.
Subject: Selection of Candidates for Ministry
Thank you for submitting details of the 12 men you think suitable for Ministry. All of them have now attended a Selection Conference.
It is the board's opinion that most of the Candidates are lacking in the background, education and vocational aptitude necessary for full-time ministry.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above vocational commitment. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude and he needs to be more sure of his own faith before being involved in Ministry to others. A bad business reference has been forwarded for Matthew. James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus have unhelpful political opinions and they both appear to be manic-depressives. One of the Candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen financial mind (so necessary in today's Church), and has good contacts in government. He is highly motivated and innovative. We can recommend Judas Iscariot without hesitation as being an outstanding and successful Candidate.
We have written to all the Candidates accordingly.

Makes yer think, dunnit?

Monday, October 29, 2012

When parallel lines create triangles...

A number of people have asked me to comment on the Holy Father's announcement towards the end of the Synod on Evangelisation concerning some adjustments to responsibilities within the various Vatican dicasteries. In particular, responsibility for seminaries is to be moved from the Congregation for Education to the Congregation for Clergy. It is an interesting move and not an altogether straightforward one. For example, in addition to having charge of seminaries, the Congregation for Education for more than seventy years has also been home to the "Pontificia Opera per le Vocazioni Sacerdotali", known by its acronym POVS: an organisation dedicated to the promotion of priestly vocations. Presumably this organisation and its dedicated staff may also find themselves moving to the other side of the Via Conciliazione.

Should we read anything into the move, other than a desire to make space at the Congregation for Education for the impetus given by the Synod to the New Evangelisation. I am sure conspiracies will abound but I don't think we should read to much into the reorganisation. That is not to say, however, that I don't regard it as a significant move. I think it is a very important one with potentially far reaching consequences. It could open up the question of priestly formation in many new and important ways.

Already under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II the Congregation for Education published a series of important instructions concerning various aspects of formation in seminaries. Although not exclusively so, they were mostly concerned with academic subjects. Sadly in some places many of them have yet to be implemented but there is no point re-writing them. The Congregation has given us these documents and so, in some sense, has done its job.

Although there are four aspects of seminary formation (spiritual, human, academic and pastoral), it is often the case that a disproportionate emphasis is placed on the academic side. It is not just seminary lecturers who do this: seminarians themselves can often give the impression that they are moving from one round of examinations to another. I have known theology graduates (not UK students) ordained after a couple of years studying for an STL in Rome simply because they had "completed their studies". Every Vocations Director gets regular emails from African and Indian students proudly announcing the completion of their theological formation and requesting to be ordained into their dioceses. The great strength of intellectual formation is also its great weakness: the fact that it is quantifiable means that it can easily fall prey to a 'tick box' mentality. Intellectual formation should be more than passing exams. And it is only one element of formation.

To understand how the four aspects of formation fit together think of a triangle. The base of the triangle, which supports the other two sides, represents human formation. Those who think human formation is unimportant forget that grace perfects nature. Grace will have a far greater effect on a virtuous person than on a 'vicious' (= given over to vice) one. A solid human formation is the bedrock for everything else.

The other two sides of the triangle represent intellectual and pastoral formation. They lean towards each other and hold each other up. The intellectual informs the pastoral and the pastoral feeds the desire to know and understand more deeply. Without one the other would fall flat on its face. It would be unsupported and aimless.

The spiritual dimension of formation is represented by the space inside the triangle: it touches everything and is touched by everything. Questions to do with human maturity, studies and pastoral experiences feed into the individual's life of prayer and that prayer has its consequences for each of the other areas of formation.

To my mind this is the only model that makes sense of the four areas of formation. It is important to have a clear understanding of it in order to ensure the four areas are not like flags or streamers flapping in the wind. Personally I think we still have some way to go to ensure this coherence becomes a shared vision on the part of formators in seminaries across the world.

This leads me back to the move to the Congregation for Clergy. One of the things about that Congregation is that it has published a number of documents on priestly life and ministry. These documents betray an understanding of human formation that goes beyond the pop-psychology approach that some people mean when they use the expression. Human formation begins above all with a schooling in virtue rather than a sharing of feelings. 

I think the move means we can expect a new clarification and impetus to be given to the other aspects of formation. I also think a lot of bishops, rectors and seminary staff will welcome that sense of direction.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

University Chaplaincies Day

I had the privilege of spending the day with the CathSoc from Canterbury where Fr Peter Geldard is doing great work as the Catholic Chaplain. We were picked up by coach from outside St John Stone House, the chaplaincy building, and taken to Aylesford where we were able to join chaplaincy groups from all over the south of England and from as far away as Cambridge and Manchester. 
The day began by praying the Rosary as we walked along the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary Way behind the main shrine. I was leading the Mysteries and found it a bit hard combining Rosary, booklet and microphone in my good hand - but fortunately one of the students came to my rescue! I was very impressed to see that almost all the students had a Rosary.
We then gathered in the Relic Chapel where Fr Brendan welcomed us before one of the Chaplains gave us a reflection on the Year of Faith. This was followed by discussion groups up until lunch time. I took the opportunity to catch up with Sam Burke who recently joined the Dominicans - he is second from the left in the photograph above - you can easily make out the elegant Dominican habit.
In the afternoon Archbishop Peter Smith was the main celebrant at Mass which was had been carefully prepared. The music included a sung Kyrie, using the traditional Greek, with most other parts in sung in English. The Archbishop preached an encouraging sermon to the young people present and, at the end, I was asked to say a few words about vocation.
I was very pleased to meet familiar and new chaplains. One of the themes of our Vocations Centre is "Discipleship Discerns Vocation". It is important for us to foster good relations with our university chaplains: we are not in competition with each other. Without good chaplaincies our work is harder and Christian discipleship would be impoverished. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

No Ordinary Calling - Reprinted

Our book of stories of priestly vocations has just been reprinted by St Paul's. Because the second edition is the same as the first one - which sold out - it has been possible to republish it at a much reduced cost. You can order your copy from Southwark Vocations at £5.50 (excluding postage and packing). Just send me an email.
The book has been mentioned a number of times by Bishop Mark Davies in his homilies and I know a number of Vocations Directors have used it with their discernment groups.
No Ordinary Calling tries to answer the question about what sort of man Jesus calls to become priests by looking at the call as experienced by priests themselves. In it we meet, among others, a Communist Party activist; a lapsed student; an agnostic graduate and a scientist working on the Hadron Collider in Switzerland. None of them fits a neat profile. They are ordinary men who have happened to have received an extraordinary call. 
To choose to become a priest is indeed no ordinary calling: it requires faith, trust and confidence in response to God's call. Yet today more than ever the Catholic Church needs holy men to be priests to her people. In this book priests tell their own stories of how they were able joyfully to answer that call. It shows that young men are still becoming priests today, and will be helpful to anyone interested in knowing more about the priesthood.
As Archbishop Vincent Nichols says in the introduction: "The ordained priesthood is 'no ordinary calling'. It is not an easy way of life. But it is immensely enriching and rewarding. How else could it be for it is indeed a call from the Lord who wants for each of us only what is truly best".

Bye Bye Dusty Peach - Hello Bengal Tiger

Bengal Tiger White & Dusty Peach as seen in nature....

This last week has been half-term for the seminarians at St John's Seminary, Wonersh, and I am immensely grateful to three of them who came down to help paint some of the corridors at the Vocations Centre. We inherited a "dusty peach" labyrinth with a glossy finish which presumably was to make the walls easier to clean but actually simply accentuated every blemish.
The main corridors have now been repainted in Bengal Tiger. Did you know some Bengal Tigers have a gene that gives their coats an off-white colour? Well now you don't have to go to Bengal to see it - you can come to Whitstable instead. 
The paint was bought by a very generous benefactor. We have had so many benefactors for the Vocations Centre project that I will be celebrating a regular Mass for all your intentions.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Helping the Vocations Centre

Lots of people have been incredibly generous in helping us establish the new Vocations Centre. We have been able to re-carpet all the bedrooms and to buy new beds, duvets and pillows for them as well. The Conference Room has been totally transformed and now has a comfortable, yet modern and snazzy feel. This week we hope to decorate the corridors (bye-bye 'dusty peach'!) and before long I hope to have a volunteer who will paint the bedrooms.
Many more people have asked how they can help and someone suggested I should establish an "Amazon wish list". The idea is that I list the sort of things we need (like bedside tables and lamps) so that anyone wanting to support our work to promote vocations can do so through their Amazon account. I've taken up the idea and will be interested to see how it works.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Young Apostles Visit the Vocations Centre

Evangelical, vocational, and missionary - three words which aptly describe my visitors today. After a Holy Hour in the chapel with Br Angelo from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal we celebrated Mass together and then had a good look round the new centre before a delightful lunch of pasta and Spanish meatballs. After lunch we spent some time moving furniture, unpacking the new luxury duvets and pillows bought by a benefactor, and tidying the bedrooms before going for a leisurely walk through the harbour and along the seafront. We got back to the Vocations Centre in time for a cup of tea and some prayer together in the chapel before lighting a great bonfire. During the day we spoke of forthcoming events at the Centre, including the catechists' week towards the end of this month (we still have a couple of places because two people have had to drop out -  let me know if you're interested). We also discussed the possibility of a weekend Frassati retreat for young adults.

Not everyone is called to priesthood or religious life. Indeed not everyone is called marriage either because some people are called to apostolic celibacy, that is to live unmarried in the middle of the world. Everyone however is called to be an apostle. We cannot be indifferent to the spiritual needs of our friends and colleagues. We cannot allow ourselves to treat the faith as if it were a sort of spiritual “comfort blanket". The church has a great need of committed young men and women, married and single, who take seriously their call to be saints in the middle of the world. There they are called to be apostles and there they will encourage others to value priestly and religious vocations and in that way help support young men and women to whom the Lord has entrusted a special call.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Handing on the Faith - A Course for Young Catechists

The Vatican Guidelines for Promoting Priestly Vocations speak of the importance of living and passing on the faith in order to promote vocations:

In particular, [the Church] tries to set before boys and young men the life-challenging faith that responds to the thirst for happiness residing in the human heart. This means offering the experience of faith as a personal, profound relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who reveals the Mystery of God. The discovery of a vocation is born from a response of faith, especially when it is lived within Christian communities where the beauty of the Gospel is lived and where leaders and educators are capable of perceiving the signs of a vocation. In order to make real what the Christian faith proposes, which then leads to a response in terms of a vocation, genuine human relationships need to be encouraged. This should be done by educators and adult mentors in the faith, in the context of communities that have an attractive and exciting Christian life. It is advisable to be open in offering the possibility of priestly life to boys and young men and, at the same time, it is necessary to invite Christian communities to pray more intensely to ‘the Lord of the harvest’ (Mt 9:38) that he may raise up new ministers and new consecrated people. To do this, it is useful to support a general pastoral ministry in the local Churches, which is characterized by evangelical, vocational and missionary enthusiasm. 

I very much like that phrase: "evangelical, vocational and missionary enthusiasm"!

In order to support 'a general pastoral ministry in the local Churches', the Vocations Centre is offering a special training week to young Catholics who would like to get involved in parish based catechesis. The idea is to spend some time together in prayer and reflecting on the essential content of the faith and its transmission in a parish context.
The course begins on the evening of Sunday 28th October and finishes on Friday 2nd November. If you would like to join us for this young catechists' study week, and you fit the description of having 'evangelical, vocational and missionary enthusiasm' please contact us for more details.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'Calm the Soul: A Book of Simple Wisdom and Prayer'

The Poor Clare Sisters in Galway have a book of simple meditations to lead people from the business of ordinary life to an inner dialogue with God in prayer. It has been recommended to me and I am happy to pass the information on to you. What's more WH Smith is doing a special discounted offer for those who place the orders. You can see the full details here. What follows are a few lines from the introduction:

'Prayer is the life of the soul. Just as our bodies need nourishment so too, do our souls' The Poor Clare, Galway. We spend our lives searching for happiness and fulfilment from external sources: work, material wealth, status, appearance. We can forget that to find peace and contentment we also need to focus on our souls and our spiritual well-being. In Calm the Soul The Poor Clares, an enclosed order of nuns based on Nuns' Island Galway, draw on the fruit of their monastic lives to show us simple prayer ideas and meditations to help nourish our souls and find a sense of calm in today's world. With practical advice in preparing for prayer, the Poor Clares look at ways we can incorporate prayer into our day-to-day lives, slowly building up the amount of time spent in prayer and meditation to achieve a sense of peace and well-being. They combine reflections on familiar prayers such as the Our Father and Hail Mary with meditations on Scripture and prayers for specific needs such as depression, self-esteem, and sickness to bring us an inspiring spiritual book which offers faith and hope to anyone seeking solace in today's world. 'Prayer and holiness is for everyone in every situation. It is having our whole being in harmony with God's plan for us. We will never achieve true happiness if we continue to search for it outside the very source of love, which we know is God Himself.' 

Monday, October 15, 2012 - Oscott Seminary Hosts Vocation Weekend in UK - Oscott Seminary Hosts Vocation Weekend in UK

Two Young People Report on their Experience of Invocation 2012

The Lancaster Group

I was sent the following two testimonies from Lancaster Diocese after Invocation 2012. Although they were published in the diocesan newspaper I've changed the names to respect their privacy on the web.

I should know by now that nervousness before a Catholic weekend away is a sure sign that I am going to have a brilliant time. I was nervous as I arrived at the 'Invocation2012' event at St Mary's College Oscott. Invocation2012 is a National Festival for discernment for vocations to the priesthood or religious life. I was looking forward to going Catholic camping, but apprehensive of what the weekend might bring up; what I might find myself called to be. According to the organisers of Invocation2012, we were not exactly on a retreat, nor at a conference; we were at a festival. It certainly had all of the hallmarks of a festival; a threatening forecast, lots of mud, some portaloos and plenty of tents!

This however, was a festival with a difference. Held in the grounds of St Mary's College, Oscott, (a seminary) it was a wonderfully varied weekend, going from the basic (but fun) conditions of the sleeping in a field, through the mud, to the plush conference marquee complete with comfy wicker chairs and white cushions. Beyond there were large tepee tents for socialising and, crowning it all of course, was the beautiful house and Chapel of Pugin design. Getting up at 4am to pray in the beautiful Chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament, queuing up for the excellent food whilst chatting to a nun and having a late night due to a candlelight procession were just some of the special moments that made the festival so good.

Discerning, for me, has been at times very daunting and I was relieved to see that Invocation understood that. Through workshops and talks we were given invaluable advice but best of all, found ourselves encouraged and enthused. It was not a recruitment or careers fair. There were many different orders of religious but not overwhelmingly so. They were all kind and understanding, chatting with us at mealtimes or sitting themselves down with us on the steps to ask us how we were doing. The focus of the weekend was on prayer and a sense of enjoyment. Fr Stephen Langridge wrote in his welcome that “we want you to go away from here with the distinct impression that you experienced joy and enthusiasm over the weekend, that you made new friends and were encouraged in your faith.” This was certainly the case for me. It was a joy to meet new people who were at the same stage as me, to be able to talk about our fears and longings and know that the other understood. There was plenty of time just to chat and relax. It was often in these informal conversations with both religious sisters and discerners that I was helped the most.
Invocation2012 was extremely well organised and was professional without losing its heart. Indeed, 'heart' was a theme that ran through the weekend as we welcomed the Heart of St John Mary Vianney on the Saturday night. The Liturgy and Veneration that followed the next day was a highlight for many.
My highlight came at the end of the Solemn Mass on Sunday. To the sound of the most beautiful, glorious organ music the clergy filed slowly off the sanctuary and down the Chapel. Amongst them were two Archbishops and at least two Bishops, plus many priests, deacons and the seminarians. Due to the numbers this took some time and the organ continued, music that, as a friend put it, “lifted us to heaven”. I was overwhelmed with a sense of love for the Catholic Church, my Church, and for my friends around me who had helped get me here. As at the end of every Mass, once all the clergy had left the sanctuary they turned as one towards the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle and genuflected. I knew in those moments that no matter where or what God was calling me to, whatever the challenges or struggles that I would have to overcome, everything would be fine, because I couldn’t help but love our Catholic faith and ultimately, Jesus.
When Oscott College was rebuilt in 1838 the man behind the project, Thomas Walsh, had the aim that “Oscott would symbolise the renewal of Catholic life in England.” What was the intent then seemed renewed again at Invocation2012. You could not help but feel heartened by seeing at least 200 young people who all turned up, despite bad weather, worries and natural apprehension, because we felt called to respond to something in our hearts from God. Surely there is indeed a renewal of Catholic life in England, and we are part of it. Thank you to Invocation 2012 for helping me to make the next step.

The journey to invocation started months ago. I saw advertised: "Any young man or woman between the ages of 16 and 35 who is serious about their relationship with God and is open to discerning his will for their lives is welcome to come along". I read between the lines and automatically thought this was being called be a monk or a priest (how wrong I was by the end). Checking the website and thinking should I go, I booked on and crazily signed up to sleep in a marquee. The less courageous of us in the group bought their own tent. The worries rushed through our minds: what was this weekend about? What is God going to do with us? Still a little worried of what to expect, we battled on through the weather on Friday and settled in. All these worries went to the back of our mind and we just jumped into listening to the talks, varying from Bishops, sisters and our very own Canon Luiz. There were different workshops on different subjects: Franciscans, Apostolic lay work, the Carmelite order, what is prayer, called to be a priest and so many others.  In my eyes, I didn't know what to expect about this weekend, but I was pleasantly surprised at the peaceful and prayerful atmosphere that filled the place, it really helped to understand what God calls us to be.  I learnt that I must open my heart to the Lord and get to know him. I know relationships take time to develop but if I allow it and get to know God and allow him to help, that is the greatest relationship we can ever have. The outcome of the weekend for me? Well time will tell..

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Special Offer for the Year of Faith

The Catholic Printing Company of Farnworth have recently sent me an email with news of a very generous offer. To mark the Year of Faith and the centenary of their service to the Church they are offering to print up to 250 copies of the Order of Service and 500 commemorative cards free of charge for anyone being ordained in England, Scotland and Wales this year. Further copies can be purchased at a discounted rate. I saw the Order of Service they prepared for Bishop Philip Egan and it is excellent! The Catholic Printing Company of Farnworth also printed for me earlier this year the Transitions book that has proved so popular with Confirmation groups.

The email announcing this offer is impressive in its own way as it speaks of service to the Church and a desire to support vocations. It also asks for prayers for the new Bishop of Portsmouth. I get the feeling this is no publicity stunt but a genuine act of goodwill from a company that deserves the description "Catholic". Here's the text of the email for you to judge for yourself:

In welcoming the Year of Faith and celebrating our own Centenary of service to the Church in the publication of liturgical documents, The Catholic Printing Company of Farnworth has decided to offer to print, without charge,* Ordination Cards and Services of Ordination to the Diaconate and Priesthood of any candidates in England, Scotland and Wales. We are also making the same offer to Religious who make their Final Profession. We look upon this as our way of playing a part in encouraging and welcoming those who respond to their vocation at a time which is perhaps more challenging than ever before. If you think this initiative would be welcomed by ordinands in your diocese, then we would ask that you let them know that we would be pleased to hear from them to discuss how we may be of help in the preparation and celebration of these special occasions. We were pleased to be able to print the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth in September and ask that he be remembered in your prayers. If you think The Catholic Printing Company of Farnworth can be of help in any other way in nurturing and encouraging vocations, then we would be pleased to hear from you. Yours sincerely,James C Edwards

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Discipleship Discerns Vocation

A Bony Bankart :-(  [not mine!]

Some of you have probably heard I had an accident which has knocked out my writing arm for at least six weeks. In theory there are four more to go but I heard today that I will have an MRI scan in a month's time to determine whether it is healing of its own accord or needs an operation. Please say a prayer I don't need an operation because the last thing I need is an operation - or to be precise another period of convalescence that would follow!
Currently dependent on one finger of one hand to type, it's not easy to dash off a quick blog post although I'm not doing too badly with correspondence. But there are a couple of articles I want to put out there sooner rather than later. Watch out for some reflections from me on "Discipleship Discerns Vocation". I still hear stories from my fellow vocations directors - and have experienced it myself - of an uncooperative spirit (to avoid the word 'hostility') from some people engaged in youth ministry in some schools and colleges who persist in the false belief that Vocation Directors are (and I quote) "only interested in getting the boys to become priests". It is a pity because not only are they not up to date with current practice in vocations ministry (the shift from recruitment to discernment) but they are missing out on the fact that what we can offer them is precisely the theological framework for their own ministry.
The second article I want to write is about discernment. Talking to someone the other day it became very obvious that we were using the word discernment in two quite different ways. He understood discernment to be a period of passive waiting until the next move became clear. For me that is not discernment but procrastination. Bartimaeus didn't wait passively. Despite the protests of the crowds, he called out as loudly as he could until Jesus called him forward. Discernment is not something passive. It is an active time of growth and maturing in various aspects of Christian life. I plan to explore some of them in future posts.

Give Priests a Break!

It is good for priests to get away from parish ministry sometimes to spend some time together in friendship and support. This week the Vocations Centre was able to offer hospitality to four priests for just such an experience. Topics for conversation ranged from prayer, to parish life, to supporting fellow priests. Some reflection was also given to the Year of Faith and to ways of promoting and supporting vocations. There were times of prayer in the chapel and the opportunity to celebrate the Church's Liturgy together. During the day there was a chance to explore Whitstable and (since there is an 'r' in the month) to sample its famous oysters.
The Vocations Centre exists to support and to promote vocations. Giving those on the front-line a chance to get away and to exchange ideas seems an ideal way of increasing our awareness of our shared role in vocations ministry.

Start of Year Retreat

Last week we had our first retreat here at the Vocations Centre as we welcomed the new team who will form this year's SPES group in Soho. Pictured here in the garden at the end of the retreat, the participants spent four days getting to know each other and spending extended times in prayer in our remarkable chapel. Each morning there was a meditation followed by Holy Mass. A time of manual work followed breakfast (thanks guys: the windows look great!). At midday the Rosary followed the Angelus. After lunch there was time to rest or explore the town, followed by an extended period of Eucharistic Adoration with another spiritual conference.
After supper we watched The Human Experience; The Calling; and Promises (a short documentary about life in the Holy Land).
During the retreat we were kept amused by Ambrose who, when he wasn't snoring, would get distracted during my conferences and who seemed more interested in rooting through rubbish than helping out at manual labour. His table manners were such that we decided he couldn't eat with us and was banished to the kitchen. I hope he doesn't get embarrassed by me mentioning his somewhat singular behaviour although, given he is a King Charles spaniel, he probably won't be reading this post.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Vocations Centre

After many weeks of imposed silence I am finally able to start posting again. I moved to the new diocesan Vocations Centre on 17th August but it wasn't until today that BT was finally able to give me a landline and with it broadband access. It has been a long wait but there has been plenty to be getting on with. The Vocations Centre needs a lot of work to get it up to speed. The diocese paid for the installation of three new showers and for the redecoration of three rooms on the ground floor. This means we now have a conference room with state of the art audio-visual facilities. We also have a good sized room to act as the Vocations Office and a small but comfortable lounge. The diocesan budget did not cover refurbishment for which I have been reliant on the generosity of friends and benefactors. One former parishioner, for example, has paid for all the bedrooms to be re-carpeted (they are being laid this week) and another has bought nine comfortable new beds.
I have also been very lucky to have experienced the generosity of groups of young people who have given up their time to help clear the place, move furniture and generally turn it into a suitable venue for a variety of vocations activities we are planning over the next few months. The first such group is pictured above after two days of assembling bookcases.
There is a lot of work still to be done. We have to get the plumbing sorted (the boiler doesn't work and we have a number of leaks!) but even so the vocations work has already begun. Last week we had our first young adults' retreat, tomorrow a group of priests will be staying overnight and later this month there will be a course for university graduates wanting to get involved with parish catechesis. 
One specific job I would like to get done as soon as possible will be the repainting of the corridors. Currently these have been described as 'dusty peach'. Apart from being a very ugly colour they are also looking very shabby. This project will cost an estimated £3,000. If anyone is willing to sponsor it please get in contact. Any donation is welcome and all donations by UK tax payers are eligible for Gift Aid which increases their value by 25%.

Over the next few days I will post more about the Vocations Centre and its contribution to vocations work in the diocese and beyond.