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.