As it slowly dawned on us that the COVID crisis was beyond anything that we could have imagined, we found ourselves in a very strong position. For a number of years we had already been streaming our Masses for the sick on Friday and Mass on Sunday. The equipment was in place and we had a certain amount of experience. That setup was to develop over the months to give us a good solid internet connection to the Church and the quality of the live streams were worked on.
I include in this team those who are involved in the technical side of our live transmissions, but also those who look after the sacristy, the flower arranging, the coordinators of the readers and ministers, the publicising and communication of times and events, all those involved in the actual celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments and times of prayer in our Church.
It has been great to be able to reach out through the year and build a parish community that goes way beyond our borders. Not only is the make up of our liturgy important but also the inclusion of others through social media, taking on their prayers and intentions, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and mourning the dead.
There is plenty of discussion at the moment about whether we should cease streaming – get back to the “real” thing. For me the question is how can we improve our worship of God – the style, the music, the decoration, the preaching – all aspects. Eucharist and community belong together. It is my belief that without a strong community celebrating – the Eucharist does not reach its full realisation. I really want to get people back into Church – but there is so much we can learn through this year of distance and streaming as to how we can connect the community at large.
I really thank God for the Tech – but above all thank him for the people who put that tech to good use.
We are in the Easter season- a season of joy and of hope. We are not celebrating Easter alone – we are an Easter People…. I wanted over the next few weeks to express my gratitude to the various groups and officeholders, and point to lessons learned as we come out of the pandemic….
In order for us to safely return to our celebrations in Chruch as a community a lot of work was needed. It was no longer just a case of opening the doors – but now with limits – with the need to protect – much more was demanded. I am really grateful that Tony Griffin was able to assemble a great team to cover this task. The task came with an added extra – not only were stewards responsible for getting people in and out of Chruch safely – they needed to do the sanitising and wiping down of all the areas people came in contact with – doors, handles, benches, baskets and more… It was great to see a new generation becoming involved in this work too…
We are and always have been a welcoming community. For me, the development of the work of the stewards has done a lot to enhance not only the intention of being welcoming but also the experience of this.
I do hope that we will soon not have to be as “protective” of our space, but I do hope that this team of stewards – and others too – will develop the role of welcome in many different ways….
Gratitude is an important attitude. Scientifically it is known to enhance well being if nothing else. In our consumer, throw away age, we can take things for granted. It can become really hairy when we not only take things for granted – but when we take people for granted.
We started our recognition and learning last week with a group of volunteers that is very visible. What is important to note is that there are many groups that work invisibly to make sure that we can come to Church safely week after week. I would like to pick out one of those groups today.
A great team has been working extremely hard in the background. As you can imagine, with COVID there has been a great need for enhanced cleaning in our Churches. In fact we have had to clean after every use. I am so grateful that we have not closed un-necessarily on any days that we were allowed by law to be open. This is due to the fact that we had a great team that covers these extra events and keeps us going. Thanks go especially to Susan Boddy and all those who worked along side her over those weeks and months….
There are many people who do their part to support our parish whom you will never see. From experience, I know that many people volunteer for the great and the grand tasks and offices. But without these important, seemingly menial, tasks being taken up quietly in the background – we would literally grind to a halt. It’s amazing how much needs to happen in order for us to function….
Thank you all!
I would like to encourage everyone who comes to our Church to find. Little “hidden” task that they can help out with. It all adds up to the complete picture of who we are.
There is great need for listening at this time as we come out of Lockdown. When we listen we learn. But things should not stop there. When we learn things, when we find truth, there is an imperative to now make necessary changes, there is a challenge to grow.
Let’s look at growth…
I have always subscribed to the description of growth by the author Robin Sharma. He repeats again and again: Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. It is not an easy process and we are bound to get things wrong. There is a need for flexibility and experimentation. If we want to bring about change there must be an openness and willingness. Things will go against the grain, things will go wrong. Some things will have to go back to how they were before change started, but some things will be new and exciting.
This growth is not an abstract theory or dream, it is something real, but the “we” will only change if the ”I” can make the changes first. Changing my life and ways is the only way to help others to change too. One thing is certain, although it often does not seem this way, change in one person changes the whole of a community.
Soon we will celebrate Good Friday. That day we remember the sacrifice that God is prepared to make to bring about change in a world he created.
This pandemic has show how capable we are of change in our society. We can work from home, we can school from home, we can deliver food to a neighbour, we can make sacrifices for the good of others, we can volunteer, we can get the help we need from a food bank started by someone from another faith… I could go on…
Let’s not let things go back to “normal”, let’s keep and develop the good changes that we have learnt to live with as we help each other up and out of lockdown.
I don’t know about you – but life has been very different for me over the last year. Drastically different. This has meant that there were many new lessons, challenges and opportunities to learn from. Everyone is going through things and it has been apparent how challenging this has been for all.
We live in a world that judges quickly, in binary terms and despite our diversity we shield ourselves from one another by keeping “ourselves to ourselves”. This pandemic and its isolation has highlighted how much we need each other. Also look and see how many examples there are in our community of how help and support has come from some unexpected places. It came because some people can “really” listen.
In order to learn we must listen. Listen to our own hearts and to each other. I am talking here about real listening. Not the background noise of Social Media, TV and radio, but the real listening one person to another, of one community to another. We need to come out from behind our phones, screens, and homes, look each other in the eyes and really listen.
We will soon be in Holy Week – Easter. In this week we celebrate a Triduum – three major feasts. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It was at the first of these feasts that we are challenged by Jesus to lead lives of service. He washed his Disciples feet. An important example as we move out of this pandemic. Can we break a cycle of selfishness and self-centredness that plagues our world.
For many the goal is to move on from the turmoil and tragedy and put it behind them. For me there is a need to identify and understand the lessons of this pandemic. One lesson being that we need to learn to really listen to one another if we want a blessed world for all.
We have started off on our journey through Lent. Not sure how you are getting on – there is so much out there to try and to do – it can be a bit daunting.
If you are wondering want you can do – or if you just want a little suggestion you don’t have to think about and search for – take time to look at our Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/stvincentsbolton) – there are plenty of insights and impulses to keep you going through these days of Lent.
We’ve also had the “Roadmap” from the Prime Minister which will see us moving forward out of lockdown. Despite the announcements there is still much uncertainty.
That’s the way of progress – a map – but a certain amount of uncertainty.
This is where faith comes in. We have to journey – we have to follow the path that is laid out before us. The goal is not in question – what we experience on the way is.
Like on our faith journey, so too on this way out of the pandemic, we need to step out in faith and learn the lessons God is placing in our path. Use the time to think about yourself and your priorities. Where does Church, and, where does God fit into the picture of your life? What are you going to focus on as the restrictions are eased? What has this past year taught you that means certain things from the past have no place in your life any more….
One of the things I always associate with the beginning of Lent is the coming of Spring. There is a real move from darkness to light. The daffodils and snowdrops appear all around the Church grounds and there is a sense of optimism for the weeks and months ahead. Hopefully, another sign of hope and optimism will come on Monday 22nd, when the Prime Minister lays out his plan for us to come out of lockdown.
As with all looking forward a great deal of effort is needed. There is a promise made – but to reach its fulfilment each one of us has to put the effort in and apply ourselves, so that the opportunities that arise from this new life don’t just pass us by.
I think Lent is a time not to be harsh and bullish, but to live out the gentleness that comes from the Good Shepherd. Step back, think, relax, pray. We have been through so much this last year – bring that before God. Cry for those whom we have lost and have been badly affected by all that has been going on. Acknowledge how things have been difficult for you and for me and place everything into Gods hands…
Then… Ask God to guide you to the new life he wishes to give you in the weeks and months ahead. Does he want you to take time to heal, or pick up on a new challenge. After a long time of being “Church at Home”, is it time to visit our holy places again?
Respond to God challenging you to grow.
Fr Andrew Pastore SI St Vincent de Paul 40 Newbrook Road Over Hulton, Bolton BL5 1ER
It is time to get ready. Lent could be a new beginning more than ever before…
I don’t know how you are doing under the recent set of restrictions, I personally am finding this time a kind of stalemate – we are not at the beginning – but not quite at the end either. But I do think there is something to be said for starting to prepare for the end…. That is what Lent and Easter are all about…. There are many things we really want to put behind us. There are also many lessons to be learned and ground to be re-conquered. We have a chance… Lent.
Let’s do something positive We will be doing our bit from Church to bring Lent and Easter to you as best we can.
Tuesdays, we will have our **Adult Formation Zooms**. I think the theme will be around St Joseph, (we are celebrating the year of Joseph and March is the month of his feast day).
As always in Lent we will pray the Stations of the Cross on Thursdays. That celebration will also be online – so you can watch from the comfort of your home.
Our Sunday and daily Masses will take on the theme of St Joseph.
Our children should watch out for the Children’s Liturgy Zoom and the Children’s Stations that are coming up.
A Lent to remember The above is what we are offering. Be conscious in your own preparations for this time of the year, it could be the best preparation for coming out of restrictions – and into a new life for our Church – that you could make. – Do something daily Mass is available online as well as there being many prayer and meditation programs in books and apps and online. Choose something to do – even if it revolves around simply making the Sign of the Cross. – Do something Weekly Go to Sunday Mass or make a little pilgrimage on foot. There are lots of offerings online for conferences and inspiration – why not hook up with a Lenten Buddy and have a time sharing your Lenten experiences. – One off Look for an opportunity to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If your Churches are closed – or you are not going out as you are being careful – visit the Blessed Sacrament for a time of Adoration.
Do share what you are doing yourself and in your family. What you share might inspire others!
God spoke to Joseph in dreams… Do we dare to dream today…
I don’t know whether you have heard already, but the Pope has called on us to celebrate a year of St Joseph. The Church often calls these years to focus on a particular attribute of God – we had the year of the Word for example – or on a Saint or other aspect of our life of faith that can help us, through our focus, to take steps of faith.
Pope Francis has a great devotion to St Joseph. Soon into his pontificate he made sure the name of Joseph was spoken after the naming of Mary in our Eucharistic prayers. We have heard the story many times now of the little statue of Sleeping Joseph that he puts prayers underneath for safe keeping.
But why call on Joseph now…. – We are experiencing a time of great danger (not just in terms of a pandemic), our faith is challenged and our Church questioned. God entrusted his Son into Joseph’s care and they fled to Egypt. Joseph is the protecter of the Church.
– Pope Francis wants to encourage us to dream. We can get so lost in the difficulties of life it is hard to look beyond the horizon. God spoke to Joseph in dreams 5 times. Joseph can help us listen to the voice of God, but above all to act on what we hear.
– Joseph was known as the worker. There is dignity in work. Many of the social and economic models that exist today do not reflect the dignity of human life and work. St Joseph stands not as a theoretical argument, but as a shining example of how a life of family and work can form the basis of great happiness…
– We could go on…
We are lucky at St Vincent’s to have a beautiful statue of St Joseph given to us by the Sisters of Marcy, Werneth Convent. In this year let us look to Joseph to help us build our community from the experiences and challenges that this last year has brought. We can dream… We can take action… We can help one another through the uncertainties going on in the world….
It is so refreshing that the narrative around us is beginning to change. Of course, the high number of deaths is and remains shocking, but, the perspective is shifting to a time where there is no threat from COVID – this will take time – but the prospect is visible and tangible.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself in a certain sense of limbo. We are not at the thrilling beginning, the Christmas rush is over, and we are poised for something new. I certainly experience a sense of tiredness. Everything has been so “different” and that has been challenging.
Openness to what is new – what the Holy Spirit will guide us through this experience is key. It could be that we want things to “just go back to how they were”, but what can be “new?”
We will soon begin the season of Lent, a season of conversion that leads to the mystery of new life in the Risen Christ. I pray that this time of conversion will not only be key to us as individuals but also to us as a community as we are “lifted up” out of the experiences of the last year, to a newness of life only God can offer. (It will also be nice to get out for a coffee!!!)
How can we prepare for the newness God always wants to give: 1. Get a vaccine. Until it is safe we need to persevere with all the things that need to be done to protect each one of us and our communities. 2. Take time to think and pray. Don’t forget to dream. Ask God to show you what he wants you to give and to receive. 3. Share your thoughts and your prayer with others. 4. Smile. Where there is life there is hope….
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