Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Melchisidek Project

The UK edition of To Save a Thousand Souls has incorporated into the text the guide for running "The Melchisidek Project" - a vocation discernment group for young men. A recent article in the National Catholic Register mentions the effectiveness of the Melchisidek Project at the George Washington University in the United States. Here's an extract from the article (you can read the whole thing here):

WASHINGTON — Father Greg Shaffer, the Catholic chaplain at George Washington University, learned early that a good pastor can defy the odds and lead the young to embrace a priestly vocation.
Growing up in Bethesda, Md., Father Shaffer was inspired by the example of Msgr. Thomas Wells, a charismatic figure in the archdiocese who possessed a deep and infectious love for the Eucharist.
Msgr. Wells brought many young men to the priesthood before he was murdered during a 2000 robbery at his Maryland parish; he was 56 years old.
Now, 13 years later, that beloved pastor remains a source of inspiration for Father Shaffer, who has revealed a knack for fostering vocations at a secular university better known for jump-starting careers in government.
Since the priest’s arrival four years ago, Sunday Mass attendance at the campus Newman Center has increased from 100 to about 400 people — and, this year, four men will enter the seminary.
Ask the chaplain what he remembers best about his pastor, and he’ll recall that every time Msgr. Wells consecrated the Host, his demeanor fully conveyed the presence of Christ. And during all of his interactions with parishioners, he radiated joy and thus attracted others eager to investigate the vocation that made this man so happy.
“When Msgr. Wells consecrated the Host, he spoke directly to me, ‘Greg, this is my body.’ That really changed my life. I dedicated my priesthood to the Eucharist,” said Father Shaffer, who lost his own father when he was young and turned to the pastor for guidance.
Now, as a new generation of young men ponders their future path in the world, Father Shaffer shares that same palpable sense of joy and mystery. And, so far, his service is bearing fruit: Besides the four men who will enter the seminary this year, including a Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionary, another 10 students have joined a Melchizedek Project group designed to help them begin the discernment process. Father Shaffer established the new program at the chaplaincy, which uses Father Brett Brannen’s To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood, to provide a framework for group reflection and formation.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Renovating the Chapel - the Final Touch

The renovation of our Chapel began with Gregory Treloar who was resident here last year and is now at seminary. He redecorated the apse and applied the inscription. He also modified an altar we were given to make it the right size for our use and varnished the new Ambo and the new plinth for the statue of Our Lady. He took up the sanctuary carpet and sanded and sealed the floor. Since then others have finished the work which was necessarily left undone as he headed off for seminary. The final touch has been the arrival of a new altar cloth made specially for our altar. It picks up the inscription "Duc in altum" ("Put out into the deep") and has a ship representing the barque of Peter. The gold thread matches the gold lettering round the sanctuary.

Portsmouth Cathedral

Last Thursday we were at Portsmouth Cathedral to help out at an adult formation evening organised by Hannah Vaughan Spruce. The occasion was a talk given by Jeff Cavin, an American Scripture scholar, who has been touring England recently. Hannah wanted to ensure the evening had a "new evangelisation" dimension and so she asked us to help by leading the people in prayer and song. We were impressed so see over two hundred people, many of them young adults, turn out for a great evening in which Jeff spoke about his journey away from the Catholic faith into evangelical Christianity and then his gradual reversion to the Church through scholarship.
Jeff, who was once an evangelical minister, has developed a really useful study guide to the scriptures called "The Bible Timeline", as well as a shorter introductory one called "A Quick Journey through the Bible". We will be using some of his materials for our own formation next term.

Introduction to Scripture

Another course at the Vocations Centre is the introduction to sacred scripture given by Fr Joe Evans. Fr Joe has covered questions such as the nature of revelation, the historicity of the bible and questions raised by modern exegesis. Like all our teachers he has proved very popular with the team. Fr Joe is also a university chaplain and, in our get-togethers after lunch, has been able to give us some great insights into that rewarding  - and important - ministry.

An Introduction to Church History

We are very lucky to have a variety of experts willing to give their time to help us with the formation here at the Vocations Centre. Being close to Canterbury we are very much at the heart of Christianity in these isles and some of our excursions have reflected this. We have been to Richborough where the Romans landed and where a Christian Church was built soon after. We've also visited Canterbury and prayed at sites associated with both Thomas a Becket and Thomas More.
In the photograph above Fr Tom Herbst OFM Conv is giving the first in a series of classes on Church history. Our courses are really little more than whistle-stop tours which actually demands a lot of the the teachers so we are very grateful to them.

A Week of Repairs and Maintenance at the Vocations Centre

A couple of weeks ago I was away in Rome for the Vocation Directors' Conference. It was a very good week with lots of opportunities to share experiences and to learn from each other. We also had a chance to visit the Italian National Vocations Service where we received a warm welcome. It was interesting to see how things are done differently over there where the approach to vocations work is much more 'top down' with the central office producing materials that are then filtered down to regional, diocesan and local vocation centres. 
While I was away the team here at the Vocations Centre made use of a bit of extra time to get on with some maintenance work. One task was to finish painting the ceiling of the Chapel. We have now totally redecorated the Chapel and the transformation is amazing. The ceiling was white before but is now an attractive sky-blue with the beading picked out in gold. The photo below shows the work in progress.

While one team was working on the Chapel another was outside. The dining room had a leaking roof which one lad was able to fix by replacing the roofing felt. Meanwhile Tony got to work on the statue of Our Lady which had come to Whitstable when the Marcy Convent in Guernsey closed down. It is a lovely terracotta statue which at some stage had been whitewashed. Over the years other coats of paint were applied to it so that the details were now pretty well lost. The paint was flaking and something needed to be done so we decided the first thing would be to strip off all the layers of whitewash and bring it back to its original state. It is still a work in progress but once it is complete we will decide whether to keep it as a terracotta statue or apply a single coat of whitewash to it.

These maintenance projects take time but they are important for us to do partly because we have no budget for someone else to do them but also because they are a good way for us all to take responsibility for the house and to enjoy some manual labour together.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nightfever - Check this out...

Having just posted about Nightfever I came across this video at Hannah Vaughan Spruce's excellent blog, Transformed in Christ:

Classes in Christian Fellowship

Fr Sam Medley

An important part of the formation here at the Vocations Centre includes classes in Christian Fellowship. I don't like the term "human formation" because it sounds so secular. Our fellowship classes are rooted in a Christian anthropology and the fundamental truth that as sons of God we are called to be brothers to one another. We need to learn to overcome difficulties and to treat each other with respect. If we are to be disciples who are able to respond to God's call we need to develop the virtues and to open ourselves to God's grace. These fellowship classes were begun for us by fr Richard Aladics and are being continued by Fr Sam Medley.

Excursion Day

At the Vocations Centre we live quite a tight daily schedule. Tuesday is a "house day" when we take on very few external commitments and can dedicate more time to ourselves. Once a fortnight Fr Terry Martin comes over to give a spiritual input to the students and also to hear confessions and offer spiritual direction to those who would like to speak with him. Apart from that the other days are available for apostolic activities and / or formation classes. So it is quite important that we build in some 'down time' together which we do by scheduling in excursion days. One such day took us to the beautiful town of Rye where we had an enjoyable lunch and then took the opportunity to explore the town, looking out for the homes of its famous inhabitants. We also called in on the local Catholic Church to visit the Blessed Sacrament and where - to my surprise - I discovered that Rye is not actually in Southwark at all. It was annexed in the great divide by Arundel & Brighton. Even Nemo was left growling when he was told by a local canine.

The Vocations Centre hosts the Archbishop's Council

On Thursday and Friday last week we were able to welcome Archbishop Peter to the Vocations Centre. He was accompanied by Bishop John Hine, Bishop Pat Lynch and Bishop Paul Hendricks, the auxiliary bishops of the diocese, and also by Fr Paul Mason the new Episcopal Vicar for Kent, Mgr Matthew Dickens the Vicar General and also the Archbishop's Secretary, Fr Philip Glandfield.

They came for an extended meeting of the Archbishop's Council which discusses all the major issues of the diocese and decides on things like parish moves and diocesan appointments (and many other things besides one imagines). It was a good opportunity for them to see for themselves the work that has been done to renovate the Vocations Centre, both that paid for by the diocese and the rather more extensive renovation carried out thank to the generosity of our benefactors. It was also a great opportunity for them to meet the Vocations Team and to get some insight into the work that goes on here.


Last Saturday the Vocations Team and a group of young adults they have gotten to know from Canterbury hired a minibus and made their way into London to take part in Nightfever at St Patrick's Church, Soho Square. Nightfever began in Cologne after the 2005 World Youth Day and has caught on in various cities across the worls since then. In the United Kingdom there is a national coordinator and it takes place regularly in London and Scotland with the number of venues increasing all the time.

The formula is very simple. As far as possible the Church is illuminated by candles and the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. Priests are available for confessions or simply to talk with whoever might want a conversation with them. Young people go out into the local streets in pairs holding a lantern and with a number of unlit candles. The approach passers by and invite them to light a candle in the Church. If people agree they are led up to the front, before the Blessed Sacrament, shown where to light the candle and invited to stay as long as they like.

It takes courage to approach complete strangers on the streets - and in Soho you never know what you will encounter - but slowly the Church began to fill up. Some people stayed for a few moments while others were there for much longer. By the time Fr Alexander gave benediction at 11pm the Church was filled with young adults who had come to Soho - a symbol of God's absence - looking for buzz and excitement and had found instead a deeper thrill that can only be given by the Lord's Real Presence.


The Vocations Team travelled up to Birmingham for the recent vocations event at St Chad's Cathedral. We were supposed to get there on Friday evening for the reunion of all those who had attended the Invocation Pilgrimage to Rome last July. As things happened the 'advance party' who left here at 11am on Friday morning got to St Mary's College, Oscott in plenty of time. The second car, however, which left the Vocations Centre at 2pm encountered a series of accidents and, after a series of radio announcements presaging more Friday evening difficulties, turned back two hours later having travelled no more that twenty miles and left instead at 6am on Saturday morning. The roles were reversed on the way home when the second car got home by 11pm and the first one - having made the mistake of stopping for a bite to eat - got back at 2.00am!

Catechesis Day with Bishop Patrick Lynch

Recently the Vocations Team helped Bishop Pat with his Year of Faith catechesis for young people of the South Eastern part of the diocese. Planning the event, it was decided that testimonies from some young people would be a very effective way of reaching out to other people of a similar age. Will Vecera spoke about his experience in Afghanistan and what had brought him to begin to explore a vocation to the priesthood. Later in the afternoon John Withers spoke about the experience of being a young Catholic at university. Bishop Patrick split his catechesis into three sessions, engaging the young people present and showing himself keen to answer their various questions.
The day took place at St Saviour's Church in Lewisham where we were made very welcome by the parish priest and parishioners. Music was led by deacon Javier from the parish, who is also chaplain at Christ the King Sixth Form College, and we were also entertained by no less than three Gospel Choirs from the area. The day ended with a period of Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction led by Fr Stephen.
It is never easy to judge these events but the fact that the Church was fairly full and many of those present asked if we could do it again suggests that it was a very successful day.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Welcoming Guests

To understand the Vocations Centre and its work it is really worthwhile visiting us. Yesterday we were able to welcome Bishop Patrick Lynch and the deans of the South East area of the diocese. They used one of the rooms for their meeting and then gathered in the common room for a presentation on recent developments in Vocations Ministry. Afterwards they were able to stay for lunch.

Bishop Pat and his deans enjoy lunch with the Vocations Team

Visiting the Centre not only helps priests understand better what we do here but also, we hope, helps them see the importance of their role as Vocation Promoters throughout the diocese. It is not unusual for a follow-up call from one of our visitors introducing us to a young man from his diocese as a potential candidate for the priesthood.

Fr Michael meets the Holy Father at the Vocations Centre
Today we welcomed Fr Michael Branch, the parish priest of Woolwich, to lunch. Afterwards he spoke to us in a get-together of his own journey towards priesthood and about the joy of being a priest. It was great listening to his moving testimony. The joyful witness of priests is the best way to promote vocations. It is irreplaceable!

Before too long we hope to be able to offer an open day to all our benefactors. Watch this space!

Not the Spanish Inquisition

We have been very blessed at the Vocations Centre to have a wide variety of lecturers give up their time to introduce our students to the fundamentals of philosophy and theology. Apart from seventy classes on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we have had training in apologetics and engaging with the questions people have these days. We will also have introductions to Sacred Scripture, to Christology and Ecclesiology, to epistemology and to Church history.

It must be a bit disconcerting for our lecturers, however, to have to deliver their classes with the Holy Father peering over their shoulders. If Fr Tim Finigan in the photograph above is looking a bit intimidated at first, he soon got into his stride and warmed to his topic with his usual clear delivery and good humour!

For  Anthony and Will, of course, having the Pope hanging around is just part of the experience of life at the Vocations Centre... although we are still waiting for him to wish us "buon pranzo"...

Our Secret Weapon...

Bringing together a load of dedicated young people is a bit like lighting the blue touch-paper and standing back to see what happens. Recently Michael came up with the idea that if the Holy Father wanted us to go out and evangelise then he should come along too. A few days later the doorbell went and a somewhat bemused delivery man stood there with an enormous flat box. With great excitement it was opened to reveal a life-size cut-out of Pope Francis himself. The next day he was hopping on a bus to attend a series of Freshers' Fayres at both the university of Kent and Christchurch university. He certainly proved a hit with students pausing to have their photograph taken with the Pope or give him a "high five". And all the while those manning the CathSoc stalls were able to harvest record numbers of new names. 

Michael and Pope Francis taking on the smell of the sheep...

The labourer deserves his wages and so a few days later members of the team were invited to enjoy a meal with Fr Peter Geldard and the students at the Catholic Chaplaincy for the University of Kent:
The start of term at St John Stone House

Life at The Vocations Centre

September was a busy time at the Vocations Centre as we went through our month-long induction for the new Vocations Team. For four weeks the six team members received an intensive formation to help them as they prepared to embark on a series of evangelisation projects. In addition to formation in the faith - which included training from 'Catholic Voices' - the programme has included a considerable amount of spiritual formation with daily meditations and classes on different aspects of the spiritual life. We have also had 'taster' experiences of the various types of evangelisation projects we will be involved with, including the preparation and delivery of retreat days, speaking at parishes and engaging with university students. 

The Chapel before...
... and after.
Our day begins at 7.30am with half an hour of prayer in our newly decorated chapel. On Thursdays the prayer is done during a period of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Holy Mass follows just after 8.00am.

  After Mass we have a quick breakfast followed by time to tidy up the house and to do some spiritual reading before classes begin at 10.00am. Lunch is at 1.00pm after which we have a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament before meeting in the common room for a get-together. Sometimes there are classes also in the afternoon although more usually it is free for manual labour and study. Whenever suits the individual there is another half-hour of private prayer in the Chapel or elsewhere and the team prays the Rosary each day either individually or in groups. We have supper together at about 7.00pm. The afternoon and the evening periods are also good times for us to prepare the talks and testimonies we gig when we are engaged in evangelisation projects. A get-together after supper helps us share our experiences and reflect on how things have gone. At 10.00pm we meet again in the Church for the Examination of Conscience and Compline.

An Excursion to Richborough - where the Romans landed
During the week Tuesdays is a 'House Day" when we don't have external classes apart from a fortnightly class on spirituality. It is also a day for the team members to meet with their Spiritual Director and confessors. The House Days give us more time to spend in prayer and to rest in the Lord's presence. About once a month we also have a group excursion which helps us grow together in our fellowship as disciples. There is also a monthly day of recollection which is open to any lads considering the priesthood as well as a monthly "Frassati Society" meeting for anyone we meet to join us for a period of Eucharistic Adoration and catechesis followed by a meal.

In the posts that follow I'll try to give a flavour of one or two of the things we have been up to recently. For more up-to-date news Tony, one of the team members, posts regularly to the Southwark Vocations Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Southwark Vocations Blog: Invocation: Face-2-Face

Southwark Vocations Blog: Invocation: Face-2-Face: On Saturday 12th October there will be a one day Invocation event at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham. Guest speakers include Fr G...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Discovering Priesthood Day

On Saturday 2nd November the annual Discovering Priesthood Day will take place at St John's Seminary, Wonersh. It starts at 10.00am and ends at 5.00pm and is a wonderful way of introducing the seminary to men considering a priestly vocation. 
For more information please contact Fr Terry martin, the Vocations Director for the diocese of Arundel & Brighton.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Daniel Brudney - Requiescat in Pace

Today at the Vocations Centre we celebrated a Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of Dr Daniel Brudney, a member of the Youth 2000 Leadership Team, who was known to many of us. Apart from Youth 2000 festivals, I used to see Daniel in Balham when he came for the planning meetings. Most recently three of us here were with him when he arrived at Walsingham to join the set-up team. Fiona Mansford from the Youth 2000 office has sent round the following email:

Dear Youth 2000 Friends,
It is with sad hearts that we share the news of Daniel Brudney's death on Friday night. He died tragically in a car accident, on his way home from work. Daniel had been involved in Youth 2000 for many years, and became a member of the Leadership Team in 2008.

Daniel was a living witness and example of faith and love in action... particularly at the Walsingham Prayer Festivals, where Doctor Daniel, a Consultant Microbiologist, would be seen often with his sleeves rolled up, a smile on his face, and a mop and bucket in hand, ready to serve wherever needed.

Please join us in thanking God for the great gift of Daniel. He was, and remains to be a gift to Youth 2000, and a faithful and fun-loving friend to many. We will always remember the joy, commitment, and care that God brought us and hundreds of others, through him. He was a passionate and generous man, dedicated to the work of Youth 2000 and to the mission of the Church. At this time your prayers are asked in particular for his parents and extended family.

'We want you to be quite certain about those who have fallen asleep, to make sure that you do not grieve for them, as others do who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that in the same way God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus'. 1 Thes 4:13-14

Eternal rest grant unto him Oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Our Lady of Walsingham - pray for us.

Please remember Daniel in your prayers and also his family and friends.

Friday, September 13, 2013

No Comment...

New Team in Whitstable

The Mission Team pictured at St Dunstan's Church, Canterbury, before the tomb of St Thomas More

Since Sunday 1st September the Vocations Centre has been home to our new Vocations Mission Team, photographed above with Gregory Treloar, one of last year's residents.
During September the team is undergoing an induction month before it begins a programme of visiting schools and parishes to speak to other young people about the demands of Christian discipleship. The programme at the Vocations Centre consists of formation form mission at various different levels.. If you would like members of the team to come to speak at your parish or school please email the Vocations Office

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Invocation: Face-2-Face

On Saturday 12th October there will be a one day Invocation event at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham. Guest speakers include Fr Glen Sudano, one of the founders of the Franciscans of the Renewal, and Fr Dermot Donnelly.

The event is open to all young people aged between 16 and 30 - BUT you MUST register beforehand. It will be a great day so don't leave registration to the last minute. You can register online or by text message. The web address is: invocation.org.uk.

The suggested donation for the day is £15 which includes a great lunch.

If you've been to an Invocation event before you will know that it will be a great day and one not to be missed. If you haven't then take my word for it!

For those of you who joined us for the Invocation pilgrimage to Rome in July there will be a special reunion the night before at Oscott College. We will go from there to the Cathedral on the Saturday morning. Do get in touch for more details.

Please help us by putting the word out on the social media: if you can blog, tweet or post to Facebook please do. We need to reach as many young people as possible. Please mention it to anyone you know who went to World Youth Day or Youth 2000 - they will probably need a spiritual shot in the arm by then! Mention it also to your university friends: people start flagging in their faith after "Freshers' Fair" and Face-2-Face might well be just what they need to confirm their Catholic identity.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Altar Servers' Week

Blessed sacrament Procession
 I was very pleased to be able to pop over to the Sacred Heart School in Woldingham for this year's summer camp for altar servers. The camp is a mixture of learning about serving, catechesis and fun. It is organised by Fr Stephen Boyle who is the chaplain to the Guild of St Stephen here in the diocese.

A group photograph in the Chapel.
It was a special pleasure to meet up with some of my servers from my former parish. I noted that one poor fellow had his fingers bandaged and was sorry to hear that he was injured when the group went ice-skating. I said Mass for the servers and had lunch with them but didn't stay the afternoon as they were heading off to Chessington World of Adventures.

Mark Wharton, one of our seminarians, was helping out with the group and kindly sent me the photographs.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Vatican News Agency Carries Article on Invocation

Zenit, the Vatican news agency, recently carried the following article on our Invocation pilgrimage to Rome. The original can be seen here.

UK Initiative Shows Growing Interest in Priesthood, Religious Life

The pilgrimage group was organized by Invocation – an initiative begun three years ago to offer an environment where young people from England and Wales who feel they might be called to the priesthood or religious life can discern their vocation.
One of the organizers of the pilgrimage was Fr. Stephen Langridge, chairman of the vocation directors of England and Wales, and vocations director for the Archdiocese of Southwark. Speaking with ZENIT, he explained how "often, young people are invited to vocations events, and in a sense it's a step too far – sometimes they just need space to think and reflect without any pressure being put on them."
"Invocation exists," he said, "to create that space for young people to give them the context within which they can pray and reflect, to give them the opportunity to meet other young people, to be inspired by other young people, to make friends with other young people, and to have the questions that they might have answered."
Despite decades of lagging vocations, in recent years vocations in England in Wales have been on the rise. Fr. Langridge cites World Youth Day (WYD) as contributing to this increase. "Over recent WYDs, more and more young people have just gone to WYD independently… but it's had a big effect on them. That desire to be better disciples has created within them a desire also to answer the question: What the Lord is asking of them. It becomes safe to ask that question, and they have the courage, then, to answer it."
The pilgrimage from the UK gathered young people in various stages of discernment – ranging from those who are in or are about to enter seminary, to those who simply wanted to participate in a pilgrimage to Rome.
Fr. Langridge said he was most struck by the "number of people who have come [on the pilgrimage] a little bit scared, thinking that perhaps the Lord is calling them: how are they going to tell their parents? And two of them have said to me: 'I've decided. I'm going to respond.'"
One of the participants in the pilgrimage was Chris Stowell, a young man from Sandwich, England, who is currently discerning a religious vocation. Raised in a Catholic family, he told ZENIT: "I'd always been sort of drawn to it, but I'd never seriously thought about being called as a priest."
Stowell had attended various Invocation events, and next year intends to enter a discernment center, run by Fr. Langridge, to determine whether he is prepared to make the next step in his life. Over the course of a year, he and five other young men who are discerning the priesthood will live in community, praying together for three hours a day.
Although it is only as recently as this past Easter that he has taken more definitive steps in his discernment process, he said that the process of "conversion" has been taking place throughout his life. "I don't think it's a 'one big moment' thing: I think it's something that happens your whole life, and you build up, and often the times when God is working most hard is when you don't notice Him."
"I think it's important to think of who you want to be," Stowell said. "Whereas before I had always thought I couldn't be fulfilled without having a family, maybe if this is what God is wanting me to do, maybe He will give me the grace. Then this Easter, I thought: this could be me. I could be a priest. And it's just making that positive choice for Christ."

Zenit can be received by email. Simply subscribe here.

Monday, August 05, 2013

What are you doing later this month?

I will be in Walsingham and I am hoping to see you there! Have you been to the Youth 2000 retreat that takes place there every year? If not why not join us this year. Walsingham is a special place - it is known as England's Nazareth and is an ancient place for Catholics to go on pilgrimage and also more recently for some Anglicans as well.
The annual Youth 2000 retreat is hard to describe to someone who hasn't been there before. It is a time of encounter with Christ where evangelisation gives birth to conversion. It is a time of catechesis and discovery of the faith. It is a time to take stock of one's life and resolution for the future. It is a time of prayer. It is a time also of fellowship and friendship with other young Catholics. 
This year's festival takes place in the wake of Pope Francis' first ever World Youth Day and so it is also a time to re-live those incredible moments and to share them with others as well as to reflect on and allow ourselves to be challenged by the powerful messages he gave in each address in Brazil.
If you haven't booked your place why not do so today. There are coaches going there from most parts of the country. You can get all the details on the Y2K website.

If you are Blog or are on Facebook or Twitter please re-tweet or share this post so that we can reach as many young people as possible. I look forward to seeing you there!

English Martyrs' Parish, Strood

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Church of the English Martyrs in Strood where the parish priest, Fr Bill Keogh, had invited me to preach about vocations. It is always nice to have the chance to celebrate Mass in the parishes of our diocese and I am always very struck and moved by the warm welcome I receive both from the parish clergy and from the parishioners. I have the impression most people are moved to joy at news such as the ordination of five new priests for the diocese and also that they really desire to have more priests. On these visits we try to have whenever possible a second collection for our work here at the Vocations Centre. This is important and is a big help to us - next year we will have eight hungry mouths to feed! - but above all people are willing to commit themselves to praying for our work, asking the Lord to send us more priests here in Southwark.
I very much hope to continue these visits next year but am also pleased that our Vocations Mission team will also be able to go out in pairs to let people know what is happening in Southwark and to ask for more prayers for our work.

Don't forget that you can commit yourself to praying regularly for vocations in Southwark or your own diocese by joining the Invisible Monastery. Click here for more details.

Ordinations for Southwark

Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood for Archdiocese of Southwark

The photograph above shows a very special moment in the life of our diocese: the ordination of five men to serve God's people as priests. At this moment in the rite of ordination they are lying prostrate on the floor while the whole congregation kneels and seeks the intercession of the Saints. Afterwards the Archbishop will stand to face them and pray the prayer of consecration. This ordination brings to a total of seven the number of men ordained at the Cathedral for the Archdiocese this year.

The newly ordained priests are:
          Fr Samuel Davey from the Good Shepherd Parish in NewAddington.
          Fr Valentine Erhahon from the Holy Ghost Parish in Balham.
          Fr Stephen Haines from the Cathedral Parish.
          Fr Thomas Lynch from St Bede's Parish in Clapham Park.
          Fr Leonard Tatt from Christ Church Parish in Eltham.

Please pray for our new priests. When was the last time there was an ordination from your parish? From next term we will have a number of young men ready and willing to speak about the need for vocations in your home parish. Just contact the Vocations Centre for more details.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Forming Young People to be Missionaries

I would ask your prayers please for a new project here at the Vocations Centre. Next year we will have eight young men living here forming our Vocations Mission Team. They will receive formation in the faith, in the spiritual life and in community living. What will set them apart from other similar projects, however, is that they will also go out to evangelise in schools, parishes, universities and on the streets. Pope Francis says it is not enough to open the door in welcome we have to go out through that door in order to take Christ to others. The plan is for the experience of a year with our Mission Team to ensure that evangelisation becomes part of the DNA of our future priests.

Here are the words of Pope Francis to bishops at World Youth Day in Rio. You'll see they match perfectly our project:

Young people want Confession!

Called to proclaim the Gospel – Dear Bishops and priests, many of you, if not all, have accompanied your young people to World Youth Day. They too have heard the mandate of Jesus: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (cf. Mt 28:19). It is our responsibility to help kindle within their hearts the desire to be missionary disciples of Jesus. Certainly, this invitation could cause many to feel somewhat afraid, thinking that to be missionaries requires leaving their own homes and countries, family and friends. God asks us to be missionaries wherewe are, where He puts us! Let us help our young people to realize that the call to be missionary disciples flows from our baptism and is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian. We must also help them to realize that we are called first to evangelize in our own homes and our places of study and work, to evangelize our family and friends. Let us help our young people, let us open our ears to their questions, they need to be listened to when in difficulty; of course patience is needed to listen, in confession and in spiritual direction. We need to know how best to spend time with them. 

Let us spare no effort in the formation of our young people! Saint Paul uses a beautiful expression that he embodied in his own life, when he addressed the Christian community: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you” (Gal 4:19). Let us embody this also in our own ministry! Let us help our young people to discover the courage and joy of faith, the joy of being loved personally by God, who gave his Son Jesus for our salvation. Let us form them in mission, in going out and going forth. Jesus did this with his own disciples: he did not keep them under his wing like a hen with her chicks. He sent them out! We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel! It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people! Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church. They are the V.I.P.s invited to the table of the Lord... go and look for them in the nooks and crannies of the streets. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ordinariate Group

It was very nivce to be able to welcome members of the Ladies' Ordinariate Group and of the Association for Catholic Women to the Vocations Centre last Friday. They joined us for Mass and lunch after which I was able to give them a tour of the Vocations Centre followed by a presentation on the work we do here. They then prayed the Rosary for vocations in front of the image of Our Lady in the garden before visit to the harbour and lifts to the station in time for the train home.
It was a delight to welcome them here and we are all grateful to them for the support of their prayers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

To Save a Thousand Souls - UK Edition

I am very pleased to let you know that Fr Brett Brannen's outstanding "guide for discerning a vocation to diocesan priesthood" is now available in a UK edition. Here in the UK we have been developing the work of Invocation as a sort of executive arm of the Vocation Directors' Conference and when we saw the book we were keen to make it available on this side of the pond. We were therefore very pleased to put Vianney Vocations, the US publisher in contact with the Catholic Truth Society who have produced the UK edition. This new edition contains "The Melchisidek Project", a supplement not found in the original, which structures the book for use in discernment groups. The presence of this supplement makes this edition the perfect tool for use in discernment groups for men considering a priestly vocation. It can be used in parishes and deaneries, as well as in chaplaincies and by diocesan vocation directors. 
Fr Brannen's style is accessible, humorous and engaging making the book a perfect present for any committed Catholic lad from his late teenage years upwards.
The UK edition, published by the CTS, was recently endorsed by Archbishop Charles Brown, the Apsotolic Nuncio to Ireland who wrote: "As our recent Popes have reminded us: the Church needs holy priests. There is perhaps no more important mission in the Church today than that of helping young men to respond generously to the call of Jesus Christ to become holy priests. This book is an invaluable contribution to that mission".

I recommend it to all of you. You can order a copy here at the CTS website.

Invocation Pilgrimage to Rome

To mark the Year of Faith Pope Benedict XVI invited "seminarians, novices and those on a vocational journey" to join him in Rome for a special vocations pilgrimage. When he retired Pope Francis took up the invitation and so it was that we cancelled two of the three Invocation weekend events here in England and instead organised an Invocation pilgrimage to Rome. We had to let Rome know numbers very early for accommodation purposes - they had to house about 6,000 pilgrims from all over the world - and so in the end there were eighty-five of us housed with a religious community in the Monte Mario district. Additionally some Franciscans and some Dominicans came and stayed with their various communities, five seminarians also came from Cardiff and we were joined by a number of students studying at the English College in Rome. Scotland was represented by three seminarians who joined our group. In all we were about a hundred pilgrims from the UK which itself generated some interest in Rome. So much so that we were interviewed by a number of media outlets. The photograph above is of Paloma, the Rome correspondent for COPE, a Spanish national radio station. Paloma interviewed me before the pilgrimage began on the vocations situation in the United Kingdom and I was able to explain to her how Invocation was making a real difference to the face of vocations work among young people. 

Catching Up...

 Sorry the blog has fallen silent for a few weeks. It has been a busy time and I've not gotten round to keeping the blog up to date. For the last ten days of June I was in southern Spain for a priests' course. There were about thirty of us on the course which focused a lot on themes associated with the New Evangelisation, including its relevance to liturgy and to economics. Depending on your perspective the weather was either great or dreadful. For me a nice dry temperature in the mid-thirties was ideal. Others, of course, didn't share the enthusiasm of the Englishman abroad. Fortunately for everyone the rooms were air-conditioned so it was really very agreeable indoors.

 The priests on the course were of all ages but there were quite a few older ones and I was amazed to see how readily they had all taken to the new technologies. I reckon I probably saw three breviaries - everyone else was using their iPhones, iPads or tablets to pray the Office. In the photograph Fr Miguel Ponce is demonstrating the power of his Macbook Air which really was incredibly light. Fr Ponce has just finished his latest book, on the Last Things, which aroused much interest among the older brethren - as one cheeky youngster commented "for them it's closer to home". Words he came to regret on the last morning when a seventy-eight year old had a stroke after morning prayer...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Your Prayers Please...

Tomasz, Mark, John and Gregory outside St Paul's, Dover

This weekend we had a Vocations Appeal at the beautiful St Paul's Church in Dover. It is a lovely old Church on the wonderfully named Maison Dieu Road in that town, nesting just below the famous Castle and not far from the even more famous White Cliffs.
Of your charity please say a prayer for its parish priest, Fr Peter Madden. Fr Peter is supposed to be away on holiday but recently has been recovering from cancer and recently had a relapse. He is suffering the effects of chemotherapy and is both very unwell and in a lot of pain. Fortunately there is a couple in the parish who are helping care for him as much as they can. Please remember Fr Peter in your prayers and all the sick priests out there who have no one to look after them.

Another Update on the Chapel

We are very grateful to all our benefactors who have offered to help with the restoration of the Chapel here at the Vocations Centre. The work is progressing well and the sanctuary is almost complete. The gold paint, which was paid for by a benefactor, has arrived and is really making a difference to the chapel not only because of the lettering but also because we are using it to lift the ceiling by highlighting the decorative bars in the barrelled vault. It breaks up the ceiling and makes it much more attractive.I am especially grateful to those of you who offered to help us get a new Ambo for the Liturgy of the Word. The Ambo is being made at a workshop in Madrid and will be shipped out to us in an unfinished state - not only because this is cheaper but also because it means we can varnish it ourselves to match the Altar. I am also grateful for the gift of a new plinth for the statue of Our Lady which has already arrived and which we have now stained although we don't plan to put it up until the work on the Chapel is nearing completion.
This week we are going to restore the wooden floor on the sanctuary. If anyone wants to help us with the cost of hiring a sanding machine and the materials necessary for this job please email me.

Here is a photograph of the sanctuary now that the lettering has been finished. The inscription reads "Launch out into the deep and pay out your nets for a catch":

Click on the picture for a larger view

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Warm Welcome from St Saviour's, Lewisham

Last weekend we visited St Saviour's parish in Lewisham where the parish priest, Fr Chris Connor, had very kindly invited us to speak about the work of the Vocations Office. I preached at the Mass and took the opportunity of the Gospel passage - the widow of Naim - to encourage the parishioners to take heart because God can bring about extra-ordinary transformations. Above all it was an invitation to them to take seriously the need to pray for vocations. At the end of the Mass one of the residents here spoke about the Vocations Centre and the impact it had on his own journey of discernment.
The photograph above shows some of our helpers at the Masses ready to hand out information sheets and Gift Aid envelopes to those who wanted to support our work in practical ways.
St Saviour's is one of our bigger parishes with a thriving community from all over the world. One thing that was very noticeable was the fact that almost everyone left Mass with great smiles on their faces.

Progress on the Chapel

If you have been following the work on our chapel these photos might interest you. This one is taken from the choir loft and shows Gregory, who has just been accepted by the Archdiocese to train for priesthood, marking out the apse before applying the gold paint. You can see the stencils for the text of the inscription on the floor.

Four coats of gold paint later we have the horizontal 'tramlines' ready to take the text of the inscription. The chapel is already beginning to elicit a few "wows" from people who come to visit - and not only those who saw it before!

This picture gives you some idea of how the inscription is being applied to the apse. First of all we had to settle on a passage that would be both appropriate and also just the right length for our apse. It also had to allow for a break in the middle without detracting from the meaning of the text. Then each letter had to be printed individually and turned into a stencil. Next the stencils had to be put together to form the words with a consistent spacing between the letters. Finally they had to be fixed to the wall with just the right distance between them ready for painting.

The work isn't yet finished and you can see the stencils are still up but this picture gives you an idea of what it will look like eventually. The inscription reads: "Duc in altum et laxate retia vestra in capturam" - launch out into the deep and pay out your nets for a catch! Pope John Paul II used the phrase Duc in altum to encourage us to proclaim the faith boldly at the beginning of this third Christian millennium. The inscription seemed appropriate because it both captures the need to evangelise and to be ready to receive vocations and also ties in with the fact that Whitstable is a fishing town with its own working harbour.

We still have a long way to go so watch out for more updates!

The Investiture of Joanna Bogle into the Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great

A number of people have asked me for the text of my Homily which I am happy to publish here.

Dame Joanna from a photo by Mulier Fortis

When Joanna asked me to preach this evening on the occasion of her investiture into the Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great, I accepted gladly - I’ve known Joanna since I was little more than a child - but as I came to put pen to paper I kept remembering something I heard once after a priest’s funeral: commenting on the homily someone said, “The Bishop said such lovely things about Father in the sermon”. Then there was a pause and another person replied, “Yes. It’s a shame he never got to hear it himself”. So my dilemma is, how to do justice to an occasion such as this without sounding as if I’m preaching Joanna’s funeral oration!

I am sure that, like me, you have been very struck by some of the things our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been saying since his election. He has an ability to speak very simply and yet challenge us profoundly. We have had three remarkable Pontificates in recent years. Pope John Paul II will surely go down in history as the greatest Pope in modern times. I think some people forget - and perhaps others are too young to remember - just how confusing things were when he was elected in 1978. I was sixteen at the time and well-remember the mantra, “Oh, we don’t believe that any more”. The Religious Affairs correspondent of The Times had published an article entitled, “The Runaway Church can she be Caught?” and concluded that the momentum for change was such that there was no stopping her - seemingly oblivious to the irony that runaway vehicles usually end in carnage! I was in Rome for much of Pope John Paul’s Pontificate and for many of his great encyclicals. For me it was as if with each document we were witnessing him going back down into the quarry to hew out the great blocks that he would then use to rebuild the Church. When Pope Benedict was elected that work had already been done. For the most part people were no longer teaching that Confession was unnecessary or denying Christ’s substantial presence in the Eucharist. Pope Benedict dragged out and opened up some of the crates where treasures had been packed away for safe-keeping. He would draw things out and explain their significance to us, things that were perhaps sometimes in danger of being forgotten. He reminded us to take time to value beauty as a way to God. He embellished the Church with things both old and new including the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the other Ordinariates that have been established to facilitate unity while embracing a legitimate diversity within the Church. How fitting it is that Mgr Keith Newton should preside at our Mass today as Joanna’s Ordinary. So now Pope Francis, who comes to the See of Peter with the Church beautifully restored and embellished, reminds us of the need to go out and evangelise because unless we invite people in, she will become a museum or, worse still, a mausoleum. He does this by challenging us all very directly. On the day after his election, speaking to the Cardinals, he cautioned against becoming a “charitable NGO but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord” and he went on to say, “we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord”. The Holy Father is calling each one of us to an examination of conscience. It is so easy to become distracted and divided by external things. We can become Church experts, bureaucrats, politicians and all sorts of other things, but are we really disciples of Jesus Christ? A disciple is more than a follower. A disciple is someone who spends time sitting at the feet of the Master, listening to him, asking him questions, being challenged by him. So the fundamental question Pope Francis puts to each one of us is “What is the quality of my discipleship, of my relationship with Jesus Christ?”

I have to admit that in the last few days I have had to fill a gap in my knowledge of  Pontifical Orders. I hope that doesn’t come as a shock to those of you who can recount their history, explain their privileges and describe their attire - both formal and informal! Even now don’t ask me to explain their various grades. Not having a head for that sort of information I am consoled by the note of caution sounded in the First Reading of today’s Mass. “The Lord”, says the author of Ecclesiastes, “is no respecter of persons”. It is not rank or title that matter to God, but what you have done. The quality of one’s discipleship is manifest in one’s deeds. 

I imagine that in an age that exalts ‘equality’ at the expense - as we see in the current ‘same sex marriage’ debate - of difference and complementarity, some people would question the very notion of conferring honours upon individuals. It is a bit like the ideological imposition that sought to abolish competitive sports in schools because not everyone could win. I find there is something scary, not truly human, about such arguments. In watching the Olympics last year we didn’t grumble that we were excluded. Rather we celebrated the athletes' achievements and all our spirits were greatly lifted. 

An honour is rightly bestowed in gratitude for services rendered. It is also a public recognition of those services and encourages others to follow a similar path. This is particularly true of the Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great which was established by Pope Gregory XVI in 1831 by the Bull Quod Summis. In it he says the honour is to be granted on account of an individual’s “praestantia generis, vel gloria rerum gestarum, vel insignum munerum procuratione, vel demum gravibus alliis ex causis” - the excellence of their background, or the glory of their achievements, or their notable generosity, or indeed any other serious reasons - such that they merit reward with “publico Pontificae dilectionis testimonio” - a public witness of the Holy Father's affection and pleasure. It is an honour which is given in public recognition of an individual’s good work, as a sign of gratitude and as a stimulus to others. In fact, unlike a funeral oration, it is not “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your rest”, but “You’re doing well! Keep it up!” and, “Would that others were doing the same!”

The motto of the Order is Pro Deo et Principe - which a quick consultation with Vinopedia reveals also to be used by a rather nice Chardonnay from 2005! It means, “For God and the Sovereign”. Gregory XVI came to the Papal throne at a time when the very existence of the Papal States were being threatened by revolution and insurrection. He established the Order, in the first place, to recognise those who came to their defence. For us his choice of Pope St Gregory the Great as patron is significant for two reasons. It was Gregory who established the patrimonium Petri, the secular sovereignty of the bishop of Rome with the dedication of the Church's goods to the needs of the poor. Later, of course, in a beautiful text he laments how the affairs of state now distract him from his former life of prayer for which he yearns. But also because St Gregory is the one who spotted the Anglian slaves in the Roman forum and having observed non sunt Angli sed angeli - they are not Angles but angels - determined that St Augustine should be sent to these shores, becoming as he did the first bishop of Canterbury,  whose feast day we celebrated yesterday and whose Catholic successor will invest Joanna into the Order at the end of this Mass.

Pro Deo et Principe. An honour bestowed not only for services pro Deo, to God, but also pro Principe - for a commitment to the reign of Christ in the realities of the secular world. In this Year of Faith, the anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, we can recall that the Conciliar decree on the apostolate of the laity did not envisage an active and engaged laity as a people doing something inside the Church and Church buildings, but rather as making a real difference to the world by transforming its structures from within so that they reflect, respect and promote the dignity of the human person. The Council taught that lay people are called to be saints and that their holiness was to be felt in their family life, in their places of work, and in their commitment to better society. Fifty years on, the questions and challenges facing us in modern Britain suggests that this is possibly the document from whose richness we still have most to learn.

And so Joanna, for all your work and especially for that over the years with Aid to the Church in Need, Pope Benedict decided that you should be honoured by being admitted as a Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great. There are so many ways in which you have defended the faith and the dignity of the human person from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death in the public sphere, and contributed to the life of the Church both locally and internationally, that it is impossible to list them here. I think the Lord himself would have difficulty counting up all the couples you have helped to prepare for marriage! What I would say is that when others have given in to the easy temptation to lament or complain when things haven’t gone well for the Church, your response has been to act, to shine a light, to do something positive: from a fund-raising cake sale for Maryvale - where you will soon complete your degree in theology - , or a Pilgrimage with the Ladies’ Ordinariate Group, to a campaign to support priests and setting up the Towards Advent festivals. You have been able to rely on the support of your family and friends, and of course in a particular way on that of Jamie. You have rallied others to good causes and you have worked with Catholics and non-Catholics alike and it is a great tribute to you that many of the projects (like the Catholic Young Writer Award or the School Bible Project) you have started do not depend on you for them to continue. There is no sense of a “Joanna Bogle Show”. Sometimes perhaps it has seemed a lonely struggle but even without knowing it you have inspired other people. Just before the Papal Visit you had a particularly bruising interview with John Snow on ITV and one of the viewers was so impressed by the need to have more people willing to step forward in that work of defending the faith in the media that Catholic Voices was born and from its fledgling beginning in the UK is rapidly spreading all over the world.

All this is what the Holy Father wants recognised today in making you a Dame of St Gregory as a sign of the gratitude of the Church and as a witness to others. In the Gospel of today's Mass, our Lord promises great blessing to those who leave everything to become his disciples - although not without persecutions. He declares that “Many who are first will be last and the last first”. If it has sometimes seemed a lonely struggle, and you have experienced opposition even from good people, the Church today calls you forward to receive this honour because you have lived the demands of Christian discipleship and because you have encouraged others to do the same.  And, in doing so, she invites each one of us to examine our consciences so that we might rediscover the paramount importance of being first a true disciple of Christ.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


"Down with the Church! Thirty Centuries of religious obscurantism have poisoned the minds of the Spanish people... The priest, the monk and the Jesuit ruled in Spain - it is time to exterminate these people" - the Dictatorship of Relativism has little interest in facts...

In Southwark Archdiocese we have a Convent of "Siervas de Maria", Handmaids of Mary, for whom I would occasionally say Mass, hear confessions or preach a retreat when I was close by in Balham. The Holy Father has recently announced that he will soon beatify four of their number who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War. This Congregation looks after the sick at night to give their family a break. They don't run schools or chaplaincies. They just care for the sick. They were assassinated because hatred towards religion had been fostered in the popular mind. This is what happened:

From 1934 until 18th July 1936, the day the Spanish Civil War broke out, fifty Catholic clergy had been assassinated in Spain. The outbreak of the War coincided with a systematic and wide scale massacre of priests and religious none of whom were combatants. By 14th September that year the authorities had presided over the assassination of 3,400 priests and religious.

On 21st November 1936, the Siervas de Maria in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Madrid, decided to leave their convent, splitting up into smaller groups and take refuge in the homes of friendly families. They were subject to surveillance and were not able to stay in touch with each other. They were not allowed to wear their religious habit. One of them, Sr Aurora, after 62 years as a nun burst into tears at being made to wear lay clothes.

Eventually the militia decided to arrest them and attacked the house where four of the nuns were living. The family reported afterwards that they were terribly insulted and abused by the attackers but that Sr Daria spoke up to them: "Yes, we are indeed religious. You can do what you want with us but we ask you not to harm this family, they saw us homeless and had the authority of the Pozuelo Committee to receive us in their charity".

The youngest nun Sr Agustina wasn't caught with the other three and joined a family that fled to Las Rozas, another district near Madrid, but while she was there someone betrayed her to the authorities and she was arrested. The charge against her was that she was a religious and that she had been seen praying. She was assassinated on 5h December, the day before the martyrdom of her three sisters.

There was no political or military gain to be had in shooting four nuns, tow of whom were elderly and one of whom was paralysed. They were killed because hatred of the faith had been fostered in the hearts of the people. 

The liberal democracy had given way to a dictatorship of relativism in which there was no room for religious faith.