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...