As we take the time to remember the souls of the departed in this month of November, as we take that minute of silence on Remembrance Sunday, I am struck by the life giving force that comes from this simple act of honouring and acknowledging. Far from being a morbid obsession, it really is about the life of the whole Church, the influence that God has on our lives and the life of the Church as a whole.
The act of remembrance spurns us on. What will we be remembered for?
I believe we will be remembered because we endeavoured to build a real community. We were there in times of real need and we were there to celebrate when the gifts that life brings become visible….
On a more mundane note… Read the newsletter – there is a lot of life there, that would be ever more lively if you were to be a part of it. While you are looking at the things you would love to join in – invite someone else along too…
I really don’t know where the time is going. There is a big feast not far away… A lot needs to happen between now and then. Keep an eye on the newsletter over the next weeks – there is a lot going on. We are remembering – not nostalgically looking back – but contemplating the foundations on which our church and our faith are built.
This month we have our Adult Formation sessions on Thursday evening. Believe and Belong is the theme. In a Church after the pandemic – how can we reach out and grow? How can we become more and more a community open to the needs of those around us?
In the build up to Christmas, we will be asking for gifts for our Christmas Raffle. This helps us help others as this money is for our charitable causes. As last year we won’t be having a “Christmas Fayre” where we are crammed into the hall – but will have Advent Sunday – with bacon butties and something a little more than tea and coffee…
During Advent, we will be contemplating the theme of the open door – and will be collecting food and toiletries for Red Door in Bury – one of our Caritas projects….
For the first time in a while, we were able to meet face to face as a Parish Pastoral Council this week. For me, it was one of those moments where you really have to step back and look at the magnitude and shift that has taken place in our lives and our work. It was also a moment where the importance of the community we have shines out as a key to everything we are and do
The gathering was not primarily about looking back but looking forward. Time passes. We really need to listen to the pulse of the times, but the uncertainty that this brings cannot cause us to simply standstill.
There is a lot going on around us. COP26 will be with us shortly (watch out for ways to be involved – CAFOD are inviting to a petition for example – we will be praying during mass for this event too). In the Church the Pope is inviting to a Synodal process, discerning on a wider scale the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is constantly at work. In the Diocese here we have just entered Stage 4 of Hope in the future where we focus on our outreach and Evangelisation.
Interestingly, over the pandemic, we have grown. We have more people in offices and roles than before. There are still many challenges that we need help with – but progress is real.
Challenging is the continued uncertainty that we face. We talked a lot yesterday about our relationship with Church, the Eucharist, Parish. The challenges of busy-ness – all the other institutions are opening up too – parents being full employed taxi drivers to the multitude of programs they are involved in. More important than ever to make conscious choices – and Fatih and Community should belong high up on the list of priorities as you make decisions as to what to actually invest in.
We continue to discern our way. I hope you are doing well as you make the important decisions moving forward.
Keep an eye on the newsletter – there is lots to look forward to in November – our Adult Formation program looks at what this intro is pondering….
The last few days have been full of many great experiences. Firstly the celebration of the silver anniversary of my Ordination, then, starting my course in Clinical Counselling in Chester.
The first event was a chance to look back and remember the many people and experiences that have been a part of my journey over those years. I was so grateful to the incredible effort put in by so many of you to make the feast a great success. For me it was a success not because of the 25 years that have been, but that we have a community that gathers around the Eucharist today that values the presence of a priest and his task of making Christ present in the heart of the community. The guests that came, my community and family were in awe of the great atmosphere we create together at St Vincent’s. So the feast for me was not just about memory, but about mission.
The second part of the week was about the challenge we face as a Church and I do as a priest – what do the next 25 yeas look like. It has been a challenging but fun reality going “back to school”. I have the feeling that I am the oldest… I have to continue, as we all do, to ask the question of how we can be and build Church in the changing wold in which we live….
If the next 25 years are as adventurous as the last – we are in for a ride…
These politically burdened slogans can really get on your nerves. But they are observations about what is in the consciousness of our society at any given moment – and I think this one in particular sums up where we are at this moment. This weekend we will hold our AGM. A simple affair with a simple report from me on the last 18 months. The view is not just to look back – but to learn from what we have experienced – as well as looking ahead.
We are called to build the Kingdom of God here on earth – a little piece of paradise – that is our vocation. We were able to weather the storm of the pandemic because we have a strong and growing community. But that community needs work. The environment is changing (e.g., online), the situation of many people is changing – this needs a response. We are called to do something about the world and community in which we live. Building is an active process that needs the help of all.
This is not about turning the clock back. It looks at the reality of the massive changes we have been forced through over the last 18 months. We look at the fact that our Churches closed for a while – never heard of before. It takes into consideration the experience that we can do things differently without loosing our identity. Another side to this story is that we can be creative and adapt our practice in fundamental ways. It’s wonderful that different people stepped up to make a difference, along with those who had carried things for so long.
This word speaks to me of opportunity. It is a dynamic word, where we quite often choose only to respond passively. There are so many examples of how we can be better. I just keep in mind the fact that volunteers delivered newsletters to those without internet every week of the pandemic…
We need to grab and use the new opportunity. Our Church is no longer closed – but open for business. Choosing to actively “build” once again need not just be a part of living out our vocation, but also a time to strengthen us for any challenges ahead, that, like the pandemic, we could not foresee.
Don’t know about you – but I do have the feeling we are moving toward more normality. There is still some uncertainty in the air as to how things will progress – but on the whole – we seem to be getting there…
The month of September is the month we celebrate the feast of St Vincent – the month to celebrate our Parish life. Traditionally, we have also held our AGM in this month. As we get back to doing more things together I would like to hold our AGM as we did 2 years ago, after Mass on the weekend before the feast of St Vincent on the 27th September…. It will take about 15 minutes…
The AGM will be after Mass on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th September – we will give you a brief report on what has gone on over the last year and a half. We will need to take time to share and catch up with one another after so much has happened, and we have not had the opportunities we have had now… The AGM will be the start of that process…
We are in a fantastic position. We are still here after a long absence, our community strengthened with the experiences that have shaped us the past 18 months.
We have the chance to start again with a blank slate. Not only that, but we have made new and different experiences over the pandemic that can stand us in good stead moving forward.
What do we want to get back to?
What would we like to be different?
What are new ways can we be community from now on?
With the reports, we will be letting you know about a couple of projects that are coming up on the horizon….
You are welcome to share your thoughts and impressions looking forward and looking back. Let’s see where God is guiding us…
These have been very different summer holidays. Even though I, as well as many of you, are not in school any more, a lot of our lives are moulded by the rhythm of the school year. That is always a pointer for me. I don’t remember ever having to live with such prolonged uncertainty on a day to day basis. Good that we have our faith to guide and comfort, to encourage and challenge us.
It is important for me at the moment to use every milestone – like schools starting up – to orientate myself. Through the pandemic time has stood still and accelerated at the same time. Being overwhelmed is an experience that is never too far from the surface.
It is a time where we are not just ploughing forward, but need to come together and listen to one another. Help each other heal and so be healthy for the journey ahead. This is not just true of our schools but for our places of work, our homes, our places of worship and in our dealings with one another in our town.
When the traffic builds in the next week – remember to not only slow down in the car – but in your life too.
It has been a strange few weeks. We have been moving out of the restrictions slowly at Church and I think things have gone reasonably well. There is still some space for those who wish to social distance, but the body of the Church is now back to normal use. Durning the week, numbers have gone down as people become busier with other things. Sundays we are seeing new faces – but still have plenty of space…
It is going to take a while for us to get used to being around one another again – let’s give it some time – and some effort. Will try another experiment next week. We will be celebrating the Requiem for Joan Thomas, and we are going to try singing (with masks) and see if this is an improvement on humming (I love the humming).
September and October will see some more developments. We will have all our weekday Masses both live and online. When I am not around I am re-introducing Eucharistic Services led by our Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist.
As many of you are aware, in October there are two key moments for me. Firstly, I will be celebrating my Silver Jubilee of Ordination. Celebrating in the Parish on Sunday 3rd October, also with a Mass on the day of the Jubilee in the Church I was ordained, Mount Carmel, Blackley. To round things up, there is a celebration at the Shrine on the 16th October. Details will be circulated in due course. Thanks for all the well-wishes and greetings.
Secondly, I am heading back to University. I begin a course in Clinical Counselling in October. It is a part-time course that does not mean I will be leaving St Vincent’s. It does, however, mean I will need to make a few adjustments, one of which is that there will be no services from October on a Wednesday. Keep your eye on the Newsletter and on our Website.
As we move forward, we do so in faith. Let’s keep on asking for guidance from God. I am sure you have got many ideas moving forward – but let’s make sure we take time to stop and listen…
Its easy to know what others must do. The questioon is what is asked of me.
This week has been an important week in the history of our Amateur Dramatics Society. Like many organisations they find themselves in difficult circumstances after 25 great years of entertaining audiences twice a year. As with many other societies, and many parts of our Church, there is a challenge, not to find actors for the stage, but to find people to put out the chairs. This, of course, is a caricature, but it is also a challenge for us as we attempt to define a new normal.
We do live in a culture that provides services. This is a fantastic thing – especially if you are hungry for a Big Mac at three o’clock in the morning. But it does bring with it a culture of passivity and high expectation. As well as catching myself doing it, I attend many gatherings where I am informed in no uncertain terms what I “should” be doing. We love having an opinion on what others ought to be doing.
How will things go with Dramatics?… Well, I am pleased to say that a production is in the pipeline. Beyond that, time will tell. Be on the look-out for info and think whether you would want to get involved.
As we move to a new normal, please consider two things.
Firstly, it is more important than ever that we have to learn to work together. In my experience, people want to know what they are meant to do and then get on with it without any bother. If we don’t learn to work together and spend time not just on the task, but on the community that that task is to serve, we have missed a trick.
Secondly, even if you can only do something small here in the community – that thing is important!
What will the new normal be? Will it be the old repeated or something new and inspired, coming from the many new experiences and lessons of these past months?
I am hopeful for us, and for our Dramatics Society.
We live in a country where the weather changes rapidly and often.
Many years ago I had an experience in India. I was working there in our seminary. I was involved in the organisation of one of the large feast days, where 6-8 thousand people would attend. It was the beginning of the rainy season and the planning meeting was scheduled for 5pm. At 4pm on the dot, the rain came down. Wow. It was torrential. The streets were like free flowing streams – a bit like in the many flooding scenes we have seen over the last months. Un-deterred, I headed of to the house of the Schoenstatt Sisters, where the meeting was to be held. I arrived around 4.55pm. I knocked on the door and a sister opened with a surprised look on her face. “Why are you here?” She asked. “I’ve come for the planning meeting”, I replied. Her answer has stayed with me until today. “But it is raining.”
For us, if we were to cancel meetings every time it rained – we would not get very much done.
There are many storms at the moment. We just need to switch on the news to see wildfires and floods. In the Church and in politics, there are so many cracks and issues, it can become overwhelming. Add on to that the heavy toll of the pandemic, and there is a danger that we will not find the energy to look for God’s plan as we move forward in our life as a community.
I am asking everyone to use a portion of the energy to be creative about our Parish life. To invest in it. To get involved and to bring ideas. So many things have changed and there is a longing to get back to normal. I want us too, long not for the past – but for a better future. Not only long for it, but, make it happen.
As we celebrate the feast of the Assumption – let’s ask Our Lady to raise our eyes to heaven, to raise our eyes to God and to have the courage and conviction to ask him where he wants us to go.
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