“A moment of exceptional joy” as two new Bishops ordained

We offer prayerful congratulations to our new Auxiliary Bishops, Timothy Menezes and Richard Walker, ordained today.

It was a sight to behold at St Chad’s Cathedral as a full capacity congregation, the Cathedral Choir and CJM music joined the Mass of Ordination for two new Bishops.

Hundreds of people witnessed the Episcopal Ordination of Rev Mgr Timothy Menezes and Rev Canon Richard Walker, with many more joining via the live stream, on Tuesday 16 July, the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. 

The Mass booklet, with prayers and readings an be downloaded here: Mass Booklet Episcopal Ordinations 2024

Family, friends, supporters and fellow clergy filled the pews as Archbishop Bernard Longley celebrated the Mass, with concelebrating Bishops David Evans and Stephen Wright.

Mgr Timothy was supported by Canon Jonathan Veasey and Monsignor Mark Crisp.

Canon Richard was supported by Canon Paul Fitzpatrick and Canon Paul McNally.

The Mass of Ordination was also attended by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, who was the previous Archbishop of Birmingham.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, His Excellency Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía presented the mandates, issued by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Arthur Roche Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary (Relations with States) to the Holy See’s Secretariat of the State both came from Rome to attend.

Bishop Ken Howell from the Diocese of Toowoomba in Australia was also in attendance.

A number of ecumenical guests were in the congregation including Bishop Michael Volland, the Bishop of Birmingham, Bishop Michael Ipgrave, the Bishop of Lichfield, and Bishop Anne Hollinghurst, the Bishop of Aston.

Pastoral Areas

Bishop Timothy (also Titular Bishop* of Dougga) will have responsibility for the Diocesan Pastoral Area of North Staffordshire, Stafford, Lichfield and Walsall and Dudley and Wolverhampton.

Bishop Richard (also Titular Bishop of Mortlach) will have responsibility for the Pastoral Area of Coventry, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure.

In his homily, Archbishop Bernard compared the two to ‘episcopal twins’: “Today’s celebration is truly notable on several counts.  

“It is a moment of exceptional joy for the life of our Archdiocese to receive from the Holy Father the gift of two new bishops who will serve our parishes and school communities and be available to support their brother priests and deacons. 

“For bishops-elect Timothy and Richard their vocations have arisen and been nurtured within the diocesan presbyterate to which they have each belonged for twenty-nine years and twenty-four years respectively.  

“They know that they can rely upon the prayers of the clergy whom each of them has served as Vicar General and who have just presented them for ordination here in the Cathedral.

“Timothy and Richard, you will also appreciate that today you are being welcomed into the College of Bishops by Bishop William and Bishop David, alongside Bishop Stephen and your brother bishops from within and beyond England and Wales who are present here in the Cathedral, as well as Bishop Philip Pargeter who is following the ceremony online from Grove House.

“The ordination of two bishops together – like episcopal twins – in the mother church of our Archdiocese serves to emphasise the ecclesial nature of what is taking place.  

“While the grace of this sacrament will build upon the natural gifts of these two priests and shape their lives and ministry, its primary and lasting purpose is for the service, sanctification and guidance of the faithful of Christ, lay and ordained together.”

Prayer

We ask Our Lady of Mount Carmel to pray for our new bishops:

Flower of Carmel,

Vine blossom laden,

Splendour of heaven, 

Child bearing, yet maiden,

None equals thee.

Mother so tender,

Whom no man didst know, 

On all Carmel’s children 

Thy favours bestow. 

Star of the sea.

Photo Gallery

‘What will be, will be’ rings true as three new Permanent Deacons are ordained at St Chad’s Cathedral

“What will be, will be. If it’s God call…give it your best shot and leave it in His hands,” and that’s exactly what Andrew Foster did.

On Sunday 14 July Andrew was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate alongside Andrej Rusnak and Antony Hartley in front of family, friends and parishioners at St Chad’s Cathedral.

The trio have formed a strong friendship having gone through formation together and are now the latest Deacons to serve the Kidderminster and Worcester Deanery.

Andrew, 64, is a probation officer and part of the faith family at St George’s, Worcester, along with Antony, 58, a prison chaplain. 

Andrej is a 50-year-old graphic designer and worships at St Mary & St Egwin’s, Evesham.

Their individual calling to the permanent diaconate could not have been more different but all three are in agreement – listen to God’s call and see where it takes you.

By the age of 26 Andrew had spent time in junior seminary and a Franciscan order, convinced he was going to be a priest. But he left and joined the probation service, met Susanna, fell in love and got married – now celebrating their 36th year.

“My vocation to ministry – I thought that ship had sailed,” said Andrew. “Then seven years ago I was asked if I would consider the permanent diaconate. 

“I didn’t give it much consideration at first, then was asked again. I prayed the Rosary, asking Mary for guidance.  I thought I’ll give it my best shot, if it happens, it happens.

“It was not in my thinking and definitely not in Susanna’s thinking! Her initial reaction was one of shock, and disbelief. But she has been fully supportive on this whole journey. Susanna is a caring and compassionate woman who gives my life meaning.”

Antony too has found much support in his wife Linda. They too have been married for 36 years and have five children, and two foster children. All were there on their Dad’s big day.

“I was invited to apply for the permanent diaconate,” said Antony. “My name had been put forward and it led to various conversations. As those conversations flowed I released this was my calling.

“From the moment I was invited to apply my family all thought it was the right thing to do. They weren’t overly surprised.

“I feel very appreciative of the process of discernment and formation I’ve undertaken at St Mary’s College, Oscott. Appreciative of all the staff, the staff in our Archdiocese, people in our parish. People have been so gracious and kind. So giving. It is a wonderful process.”

Andrej came to England from Slovakia to join a monastery. But six months in he left “God showed me that the biggest desire in my heart is to have a family”.

He joined The House of the Open Door Community where he later met his wife, Henrietta. They settled in Evesham and had two children.

It was in the community during their 40th anniversary celebrations Andrej heard a Deacon proclaiming the Gospel, where he heard the call. So, he reached out, spoke to people and made an application.

“My wife was not surprised by my calling and was very supportive from the beginning. I appreciate her and my family’s support on this journey very much,” said Andrej. 

“I am also very grateful to God that after ordination – we (three deacons) are not going to be like lonely islands walking with God on our own. We are brothers, we are part of a bigger family, we can call on each other’s help.”

All three will now support fellow clergy as all serve the Deanery through preaching, providing pastoral support and much more.

Andrew and Antony’s ordination takes the number of deacons at St George’s to seven, a wonderful testament to the faith community in Worcester!

And what would they say to other men considering the permanent diaconate?

Andrew: “I’d advise them to pray about it, then go for it. What will be, will be. If it’s God call…give it your best shot and leave it in His hands.”

Antony: “To love God and to love their neighbour. Be patient. Discern a genuine call.”

Andrej: “Be open to the Holy Spirit and ask for the right time for the next step. Even when we are called, God’s timing is perfect, not ours. It can be challenging during formation but trust God. If he opens the door there is a reason behind it. Don’t be scared to step into the unknown, don’t be afraid to walk on the water. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.”

Sunday’s Mass of Ordination was celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Longley, who opened his Homily with:

Today’s ordination of Andrew Foster, Antony Hartley and Andrej Rusnak as deacons for our Archdiocese strengthens the mission of the Church during this Year of Prayer and as we prepare for the Jubilee Year 2025.  

It is a great joy to ordain three deacons for the service of the Church and this joy is shared by the wives, families and friends of our deacons-elect, and especially by the parish communities that you are being called to serve with new commitment and a new direction from today.  

Read Homily in full

Photo Gallery by Con McHugh

Weekend of Faith and Culture celebrated at St Chad’s Cathedral

For the second year running a weekend celebration of faith and culture has taken place for the people of the parish of St Chad’s Cathedral.

All three weekend Masses focused on music, cultural dress and the ‘Our Father’ prayed in a variety of languages including Konkani, Italian, Spanish, Igbo, Swahili, Boulou, Mina, Hindi, Irish, French, Nigerian. This was particularly special as we continue to celebrate the Year of Prayer.

The two-day event (Sat 22 and Sun 23 June) was hosted as a joyous expression of the life of the parish as it is today.

Over the last 20 years there has been a huge change of demographic in the parish as more and more people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures come to worship at St Chad’s.

The aim of the weekend was to celebrate the parish’s life together and give people a greater sense of belonging.

The Saturday 4.30pm Mass was led by St Chad’s Catholic Primary School.

The Sunday 9.30am Mass was led by the Gambian Christian Association and the 11.30am Mass was led by the Cathedral Choir.

Tours of the Cathedral Crypt followed on Sunday afternoon, plus a short concert by the Cathedral Choir.

Photo Gallery, 9.30am Mass, Sunday 23 June

Watch! The Our Father prayed in various languages

Mass of Renewal and Promises

Deacons from across the Archdiocese gathered on Saturday 8 June – the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary – for their annual Mass, which was celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Longley.

He was supported during the Mass by Deacon Phil Bracken, who was ordained last year, and Deacon Gary O’Brien. The Servers were drawn from the 15 men who are in Formation for the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese.

His Grace opened his Homily with: “It is very fitting that we come together to celebrate this Mass of thanksgiving and re-commitment on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  The heart of Mary in her loving concern for others is a reflection of the Sacred Heart of her son in its capacity to pour out mercy and forgiveness on the world. So also the heart of the deacon is invited to reflect the compassion of Christ for those he sends us to serve.” 

Read Homily in full or watch below

This special Mass brings together Permanent Deacons, their wives and families, to celebrate their ministry and renew the promises of faithful service they made at ordination.

As part of the service Archbishop Bernard led the Renewal of Commitment to Diaconal Service – inviting the deacons to renew their own dedication.

There are approximately 90 Permanent Deacons across the Archdiocese, with around 60 active in ministry, and they all play a vital role within the Diocesan family and the communities they serve.

Permanent deacons are mature men, aged 35 or over, married or celibate, who by virtue of their ordination are members of the clergy. The word ‘deacon’ means servant. Their ministry is one of service to the Church, and with the Church to the world, with a special concern of the poor and marginalised. The majority are in secular employment or retired.

Deacons are ordained to the ministry of service, which from the early days of the Church has been characteristically associated with the service of those in need in society. The diaconate as a permanent Order in the Church was restored following the Second Vatican Council, and the ministry of the deacon must always respond to the needs of his time and place.

Find out more about becoming a Deacon

Photo Album by Con McHugh

Head of the Maronite Church visits the Archdiocese of Birmingham whilst in the UK

The head of the Maronite Church and Patriarch of Antioch and All of the East, His Beatitude Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, has been welcomed in Birmingham.

On Friday 13 January, as part of his first ever pastoral visit to the UK, Patriarch Al-Rahi presided over a Mass in the Maronite Rite at Birmingham Oratory.

The Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Bernard Longley, and other Diocesan clergy, at the Shrine of St John Henry Newman, in celebration of the communion that exists between the Holy See and the Maronite Patriarchate.

The Maronite Church, whose origins date back to the early 4th century, is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome as a sui iuris particular church. Maronites number approximately 4 million in the world, of which roughly a quarter live in Lebanon, where they constitute up to 30% of the national population, and three-quarters live outside the Middle East, mostly in Canada, Australia, USA, UK, France, Argentina and Brazil.

After his visit to Birmingham Oratory the Patriarch later participated in Ecumenical Vespers at St Chad’s Cathedral. This was attended by Church leaders from across all denominations in the Midlands with Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, Patron of Fellowship and Aid to the Christians of the East (FACE), preaching.

Archbishop Bernard gave the following words of welcome at the celebration of Vespers:

As we gather this afternoon in St Chad’s Cathedral to celebrate this time of prayer together, I would like to extend a very warm welcome and fraternal greetings to His Beatitude Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, and Archbishop Paul El-Sayah, together with those accompanying you – and alongside Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald and John Adam Fox from Fellowship and Aid to the Christians of the East who I know have been supporting and facilitating your visit over these days.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to all our ecumenical friends from other Christian communities within the City – and in particular Bishop Anne Hollinghurst, the Bishop of Aston, Dean Matt Thompson, the Dean of Birmingham, and Dean Adrian Dorber, the Dean of Lichfield. I welcome Fr Peter El-Sibky, Fr David Zi-Counie and Dr Faye Youssef from the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St a Mary and Archangel Michael in Solihull.

A grateful welcome to our Faith Leaders and to the civic representatives who have joined us. Thank you for being with us today and for the mutual support and friendship which we enjoy through our work together.

As I was preparing for the Patriarch’s visit and reading the very helpful and informative biography about St Charbel Makhlouf which you have in our booklet for this service of Vespers, I was struck by what Pope St Paul VI said on the occasion of the beatification of St Charbel Makhlouf in 1965, describing this “new and eminent member of monastic sanctity” who “through his example and his intercession is enriching the entire Christian people.”

This sentiment called to mind the very joyful occasion that our own Archdiocese and City of Birmingham witnessed in 2010 when at Cofton Park the late Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal Newman – whom we venerate as Saint John Henry Newman since 2019. We remember Pope Benedict’s visit to Birmingham – we give prayerful thanks for his pontificate and and we commend his soul to the Lord.

In his homily, Pope Benedict recalled that St John Henry Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, “Heart speaks unto heart”, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God.

Your Beatitude, your visit to the United Kingdom over these days and here with us this afternoon is an important reminder of the rich tradition and faithful witness that Christians in the East have given from the very earliest days of the Church and we thank you for your continued witness in the most difficult and challenging of circumstances. Your presence is also a witness of the faith and mission that we share as we seek to be faithful to Christ, to follow the example of the saints and to enrich the lives of all God’s people through our prayer and in our desire always to serve the Lord.

May he preserve Your Beatitude in your apostolate always guide you in your service of his holy people.

St Charbel Makhlouf…pray for us
St John Henry Newman…pray for us

During his week-long visit – organised by the FACE charity which supports and serves Eastern Christians – the Patriarch has taken part in pastoral, ecclesial, ecumenical and patriarchal engagements.

He has met with Church leaders, representatives of various Lebanese parties at the Maronite Parish in London and politicians.

His visit comes at a time of unprecedented political, economical and social turmoil in Lebanon. During his talks the Patriarch has given an overview of the situation in Lebanon, explaining the country needs help from the United Nations and calling for a resolution to address the situation in Palestine.

At a press conference his statement focused on three points: Lebanon’s identity and political system; the difficulties facing Lebanon; and solutions.

In all his meetings the Patriarch has stressed the need to preserve the diversity and pluralism of Lebanon which distinguish it from other countries in the region and which make its society such a unique model of Christian-Islamic coexistence and dialogue between cultures and religions.

In recent years the Archdiocese of Birmingham has started to build a relationship with the FACE charity and supports its annual Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians.

Find out more about FACE’s work

Photograph: His Beatitude Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi and and Archbishop Bernard Longley at St Chad’s Cathedral

Photo Gallery by Con McHugh

Fond farewell to the Relics of St Bernadette from St Chad’s Cathedral

The beautiful words ‘Ave, ave, ave Maria! Ave, ave, ave, Maria!’ could be heard in the Birmingham night sky as St Chad’s Cathedral bid a fond farewell to the relics of St Bernadette.

Clergy and congregation followed the relics procession outside after a farewell Mass on Saturday 8 October.

Celebrated by Bishop David Evans, the Mass featured the musical talents of some of the Kenelm Youth Trust (KYT) team who led the congregation in joyous singing.

The relics had been in situ at St Chad’s Cathedral since Friday evening, attracting visitors from across the Archdiocese to venerate or join in the special services.

After being waved off from St Chad’s the relics travelled to Our Lady of Lourdes in Hednesford, home of the Diocesan Shrine.

They then move onto the Immaculate Conception in Bicester on Sunday night.

There is still a chance for people to visit the relics whilst they remain in our Archdiocese. Please see the full timetable for information.

St Bernadette, Pray for Us

Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray for Us.

The Anointing of the Sick and Veneration in the presence of the relics of St Bernadette

The Anointing of the Sick was central to Mass at St Chad’s Cathedral this lunchtime (Saturday 8 October) and it felt very much like Lourdes was here.

Many people took the opportunity to receive the Sacrament in the presence of the relics of St Bernadette.

The cathedral was full, with the relics continuing to attract hundreds of people who wish to visit and venerate Bernadette of Lourdes.

Bishop Stephen Wright was the Principal Celebrant at the Mass, which was concelebrated by several other clergy, including retired Bishop David McGough.

The Oil of the Sick was blessed and used during the Mass, with members of the Birmingham Lourdes Hospitalite assisting clergy.

It was wonderful to see our Diocesan Mother Church pretty much full to capacity after two very difficult years where gatherings have been subject to restriction.

The atmosphere may have been prayerful and respectful, but the sense of great joy and devotion was evident.

Many have travelled from across the Archdiocese to see the relics and participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and many more will do so over the next few days. A large number are also accepting the invitation to take the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

To have the relics of St Bernadette here in the Archdiocese of Birmingham is a great honour and all are encouraged to visit them if they can.

Veneration continues at the cathedral this afternoon (Sat) before Mass and farewell at 6pm.

The relics then travel to Our Lady of Lourdes in Hednesford, home of the Diocesan Shrine, on Saturday night for veneration and prayers. On Sunday, in the Grotto, there will be veneration and Mass at 4pm.

The relics then move onto the Immaculate Conception in Bicester on Sunday night for veneration, a candlelight procession and Mass.

On Monday there is a live streamed Rosary to all Catholic schools with Archbishop Bernard Longley and a Mass at 1pm.

Full timetable

Hundreds welcome the Relics of St Bernadette to the Archdiocese

On the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Friday 7 October 2022, the Archdiocese of Birmingham welcomed the Relics of St Bernadette.

From Friday evening through to Monday afternoon (10th) the relics have been entrusted to our care.

Hundreds of people gathered at St Chad’s Cathedral for a Liturgy of Welcome and Evening Prayer, followed by veneration until midnight.

Archbishop Bernard Longley spoke Words of Welcome to the ‘great numbers’ who had come to welcome St Bernadette and described it as a ‘very special moment indeed’.

We ‘call upon her to pray for us’.

Canon Fitzpatrick gave the Homily

Earlier, during a closed afternoon visit, the residents, staff and friends of St Joseph’s Home, Harborne (Little Sisters of the Poor) had the opportunity to venerate.

Archbishop Longley celebrated Mass at the home and in his Homily said:

‘It is a great blessing for us that the relics have arrived on today’s feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, recalling the importance of the prayer of the Rosary for St Bernadette herself and for every pilgrim to Lourdes. As you know, the Rosary Procession takes place every evening in Lourdes at the close of the pilgrim’s day. There is a special place in this torchlight procession for those pilgrims who are sick – for they are always at the heart of every pilgrimage to Lourdes.’

Read Homily in full

The Relics remain at St Chad’s Cathedral on Saturday with veneration, a Mass with Anointing of the Sick at 12noon, and Mass and farewell to the Relics at 6pm.

They then travel to Our Lady of Lourdes in Hednesford, home of the Diocesan Shrine, on Saturday night for veneration and prayers. On Sunday, in the Grotto, there will be veneration and Mass at 4pm.

The relics then move onto the Immaculate Conception in Bicester on Sunday night for veneration, a candlelight procession and Mass.

On Monday there is a live streamed Rosary to all Catholic schools with Archbishop Bernard and a Mass at 1pm.

All are encouraged to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As people process to see the relics they will have chance to learn about St Bernadette’s life and Lourdes, and the opportunity to light a candle.

The visiting of the relics is a moment of joy and grace for all.

View full timetable

St Bernadette, Pray for Us

Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray for Us

SVP BIRMINGHAM ANNUAL FESTIVAL MASS 24 SEPTEMBER 2022

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages…proclaiming the Good News.

I am delighted to join you today for the Annual Festival Mass for the Birmingham Central Council of the St Vincent de Paul Society – most familiar to all of us as the SVP. We offer this Mass in thanksgiving for the witness of holiness offered by St Vincent de Paul, whose feastday is next Tuesday, and for the work and legacy of Blessed Frederic Ozanam. I welcome all the national and diocesan officers and the members of the SVP from across our Archdiocese, together with those who support you in your work.

One central element of our discipleship is its capacity for outreach to others. In our own lives, and especially in these uncertain times, we value the things that guarantee our personal safety, health and well-being and we would feel lost if these were not in place. But Christ asks us to be self-forgetful and to be concerned for those individuals and families for whom this kind of support and security are missing, for many different reasons.

When he beatified Blessed Frederic, Pope John Paul 11 said: Frederic Ozanam believed in love, the love of God for every individual. He felt himself called to love, giving the example of a great love for God and others. He went to all those who needed to be loved more than others, those to whom the love of God could not be revealed effectively except through the love of another person. There Ozanam discovered his vocation, the path to which Christ called him. He found his road to sanctity.

As disciples we are called to find practical ways of helping and encouraging each other in the support we can give, especially as the Church, to the homeless or those experiencing housing problems, to those lacking shelter, clothing and food – but also to reflect on why these circumstances are even tolerated today. Blessed Frederic emphasised this when he said: It is too little to help the poor day by day; we must begin from the root of the evil and through wise reform reduce the causes of the people’s poverty.

In our discipleship, what is it that underpins our commitment to the poor and inspires the vision that draws us to come to their help? Disciples draw encouragement and fresh energy from the example and teaching of Jesus himself.

In his own ministry our Lord feels for those who are unsettled because they are experiencing some kind of poverty. When he saw the crowd he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. The experience of being homeless, uprooted from what is familiar, or lacking in lasting security can undermine a person’s inner peace. At the same time a lack of personal stability can lead to the loss of job, home and family ties, income, health and even personal identity.

Alongside his own experience, our Lord’s stories and teaching and many of his actions are inspirational for us – they give us a definitive steer. The parables flow from his own personality and experience and many of them, like the parable of the Good Samaritan, show his basic concern for those who are by the wayside.

Today’s Gospel underlines our Lord’s invitation for others to come and share his concern for those who are most in need: the harvest is rich…ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. The Christian motive for standing beside people in their need is not only natural human compassion (although that often leads people to great selflessness and heroic virtue). Rather, we are moved by our belief that everyone is made in God’s image and likeness, restored in Christ.

As you walk with Christ through all the towns and villages – across the Archdiocese and beyond – feel the compassion of our Lord for those who are today like sheep without a shepherd and reveal his presence to them through your own dedication as members of the SVP and your wish to befriend them in the Lord. May he in turn bless and strengthen you as you now re-dedicate yourself to be a servant after the example of the Master.

WELCOME

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: together with Mgr Timothy Menezes, the Cathedral Dean, I welcome you to St Chad’s Cathedral as we come together to offer this Annual Festival Mass for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

I welcome the incoming National President of the SVP for England and Wales, Elaine Heyworth, as you prepare to take up your new responsibilities in November. Our patron St Chad, whose relics are above the altar, was the brother of St Cedd who established his see at Bradwell on the Essex coast – so we have a link with your home diocese of Brentwood.

I also welcome Andy Gudge, President of the SVP Birmingham Central Council, and I thank you for your faithful leadership throughout a difficult and demanding year. I am grateful to Deacon David Fairbotham, assisting at today’s Mass, to Mike Weaver, and to all the Honorary Officers and the Presidents of our diocesan SVP District Councils who are members of the Birmingham Central Council.

I welcome on their home territory the members of the St Chad’s SVP Conference which was recently established and I thank Alicia O’Brien with her team of helpers for all their preparations for today’s gathering.

Finally, I welcome all the SVP members together with your guests, and all those who have been unable to travel to St Chad’s today but who are joining us in prayer via the live-streaming of this Mass.

The recent funeral of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth has reminded us of the lasting and widespread impact that loving and faithful service of God and of our neighbour can have. With the prayers of St Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederic Ozanam to support us, we now turn to God our loving Father and ask for his gifts of forgiveness and peace.

Prayer of Consecration in Union with Pope Francis and the Universal Church

Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Basilica of Saint Peter 25 March 2022

O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. As our Mother, you love us and know us: no concern of our hearts is hidden from you. Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence! You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Yet we have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns. We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons. We stopped being our neighbour’s keepers and stewards of our common home. We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!

Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life. He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity. By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.

We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart. We are your beloved children. In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion. At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort. Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times. In you we place our trust. We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.

That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs. To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded. We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace. We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness. How greatly we need your maternal help!

Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer. Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war. Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation. Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world. Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness. Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons. Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love. Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity. Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.

O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts. May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew. Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace. May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs. May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land. May your Sorrowful Heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.

Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26). In this way he entrusted each of us to you. To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (v. 27). Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history. At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ. The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty.

Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The “Fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace. We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.

Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days. Our Lady of the “Fiat”, on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God. May you, our “living fountain of hope”, water the dryness of our hearts. In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion. You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace. Amen.

Peace Prayer for Ukraine

Lord Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Saviour of the World:

Our world is in need of your peace at this time,
as we see the effects of evil deeds.

We hold before you our brothers and sisters in Ukraine:
those who are living through the trauma of staying,
under threat of their lives and homes,
and those who have left all they know in search of safety.

We are seeing too the best of humanity
in those who are welcoming others into their countries and
communities: new friendships which are emerging from the ashes of destruction; death leading to resurrection.

As the Season of Lent began with prayer
for the people of Ukraine,
may it continue to be our prayer each day,
that darkness will be transformed into light,
hatred into love,
and a deep respect for common humanity
be expressed between nations.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place all our trust in you.
Amen.

Mgr Timothy Menezes

Synodality

For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission – Catholic Bishops’ Conference (cbcew.org.uk)

In his short and beautiful book Let us Dream, Pope Francis explains himself very well as to what the whole idea of Synod and Synodality means.

Although they are terms that we might not use very much, there is an important understanding of the way in which Church works in the setting of the modern world.

Synods of Bishops have been restored in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s and some of them have led to very significant teaching documents which influence the Church today:

1974 On Evangelisation 

Evangelii Nuntiandi (December 8, 1975) | Paul VI (vatican.va)

1977 On Catechesis

Catechesi Tradendae (October 16, 1979) | John Paul II (vatican.va)

1980 On the Family

Familiaris Consortio (November 22, 1981) | John Paul II (vatican.va)

1987 On the Role of the Laity

Christifideles Laici (December 30, 1988) | John Paul II (vatican.va)

1990 On Priestly Formation

Pastores Dabo Vobis (March 15, 1992) | John Paul II (vatican.va)

(Note that the Church’s custom is to name its documents by the Latin words which begin the document, eg. Pastores Dabo Vobis, in the last of that list of documents is the Latin for the biblical quote ‘I will give you Shepherds’).

So, it is well established in the Church that every three years or so, Bishops from around the world gather with the Pope to discuss matters of importance to the life of the Church. Usually, one or two bishops from each country attend the Synod so that there is a gathering of some 300-400 people. Of the nature of this gathering, the main group of participants is Bishops, not in their own right but as Shepherds of the People of God speaking on behalf of the situation in their own country.

For this reason, Pope Francis wishes to know that before the Bishops arrive in Rome, they are bringing the real sense of the Church in any given country to this ‘conversation’.

One of the biggest points that Pope Francis makes is that when the Synod takes place, as long as people come with an open mind: prepared to speak honestly from their own experience but also to listen generously to the views of others, then the dialogue can be most fruitful.

He says that the one who comes to the conversation with no interest in being challenged or seeing the world through the eyes of others will go away failing to be enriched by the experience.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis is used to debating the issues and recognising that the questioning and the challenging is not, of itself, a problem.

He says that in the world of today, there is a political atmosphere in places where not only do I not see eye to eye with my opponent, I have no intention of seeking common ground. This, he says, is a real problem.

He recognises that as members of the Church we cannot see ourselves as on different sides of any issues: as members of the same Church, we are always on the same side, even if we express different views or even disagree with each other.

The timetable which will lead to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023 is as follows:

Diocesan Phase (Local)

October 2021 – April 2022

During which each individual faithful can participate in the diocesan consultation. This phase will end locally with a pre-synodal assembly: the culminating moment of diocesan discernment.

National Phase (England & Wales)

A period of discernment will begin for bishops gathered in an assembly (Episcopal – Bishops’ – Conference). They will listen to what the Spirit has inspired in the churches entrusted to them. A ‘synthesis’ will be drafted and in due course sent to the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops along with the contributions of each of the local churches (before April 2022).

Continental Phase (Europe)

September 2022 – March 2023

Which will have the task of discussing the text of the first Instrumentum Laboris. (working document prepared in due course outlining the structure of the Synod meeting)

Synod of Bishops (Rome)

October 2023

Finally, the synodal journey will culminate with the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”. #Synod2023

Questions and Answers – Catholic Bishops’ Conference (cbcew.org.uk)

The three main areas of focus for the Synod Process will be:

Communion                          Participation                         Mission

The Preparatory Document for the Universal Church: Preparatory Document for the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (vatican.va)

The Handbook for the Diocesan Phase of the Synodal Process beginning on 17th October 2021: Vademecum-EN-A4.pdf (synod.va)

The Roadmap for the Diocesan Phase of the Process: Roadmap for the diocesan phase (synod.va)

The Website for the whole Synod Process: Synod 2021 – 2023

Permanent Deacons ordained at St Chad’s Cathedral

Fr Harry Curtis, Director for the Permanent Diaconate:

Despite the counter-attractions of sporting events at Lords, Silverstone and Wimbledon on Sunday (14 July) afternoon a large congregation gathered at St Chad’s Cathedral.

Permanent Deacons from across the Archdiocese, along with parishioners from St Marie’s parish in Rugby and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, gathered together in unity.

The occasion? To celebrate Mass with Archbishop Bernard Longley during which he ordained two men from those parishes, Lionel Pelloquin and Paul Bradley, as Permanent Deacons.

The celebration of the Sacrament of Ordination of a Deacon is similar in form to that of a Priest – by prayer and the laying on of hands, as described from the earliest days of the Church – but the beautiful Prayer of Consecration emphasises the essential nature of the Diaconate, a call to service.

“Lord, send forth upon them the Holy Spirit, that they may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace to carry out faithfully the work of the ministry. May they excel in every virtue: in love that is sincere, in concern for the sick and the poor, in unassuming authority, in self-discipline and in holiness of life. May their conduct exemplify your commandments and lead your people to imitate their purity of life. May they remain strong and steadfast in Christ, giving to the world the witness of a pure conscience. May they in this life imitate your Son, who came, not to be served but to serve, and one day reign with Him in heaven.”

In his homily Archbishop Bernard spoke about the Gospel of the Good Samaritan and the personal call to service that it held for each of the Ordinandi and for their families.

The whole service was a joyful and prayerful celebration, and if anyone was observed checking their smart phones His Grace was able to assure us that it was merely to follow the Order of Service!

May God bless Lionel and Paul, their families and their parish communities. Ad Multos Annos.

If anyone would like to find out more about the Permanent Diaconate please contact Fr Harry Curtis, Director for the Permanent Diaconate, via sjtwcov@gmail.com

C19031-0001

Chrism Mass 2019

Hundreds gathered for the annual Chrism Mass at St Chad’s Cathedral yesterday (Wednesday 17th April).

Archbishop Bernard Longley was joined by the Bishops, and many of the priests and deacons of the Archdiocese, at the Holy Week service.

His Grace opened the Mass with special prayers to the clergy and people of Notre Dame, following the devastating fire earlier this week. He hoped the rebuilding of the Cathedral would act as an ‘instrument of evangelisation’.

At the Chrism Mass the Archbishop blessed the holy oils – the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick and consecrated the Oil of Holy Chrism.

These will be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the parishes of the Archdiocese in the course of the year.

Archbishop Longley also led the priests in renewing their promises to serve God and his people.

This Mass symbolises the unity of the Presbyterate as the Bishops, priests and deacons gather around the Archbishop.

During his Homily Archbishop Bernard gave thanks to the jubilarians, and all those celebrating special anniversaries of their priestly ordination this year.

Including: Diamond Jubilarians Bishop Philip Pargeter and Mgr John Heslin; Golden Jubilarians Frs Sandy Brown, Paul Chamberlain, John Darley, Christopher Handforth, Tony Joyce and Joseph Narikuhzi and Silver Jubilarians Frs Laurence Crowe and Anthony Pham-Tri-Van.

In July, Deacons Marco Egawhary, Ryan Service and John Waters will, please God, be anointed with the chrism consecrated today and ordained priests in the Cathedral.

It was standing room only at the service, which was accompanied throughout by the St Chad’s Cathedral Choir.

Read Archbishop Bernard’s Homily here

Photo Gallery

Everyone Needs Good Neighbours

A rapidly changing landscape may be engulfing the Snow Hill skyline – but one constant is St Chad’s Cathedral.

The Pugin masterpiece was the first Catholic Cathedral erected in Great Britain in 1841 following the Reformation of the 16th century.

Its presence continues today, and St Chad’s is as welcoming as ever to visitors from far and wide.

With this in mind a special meeting recently took place (Thurs 11 April) between Archbishop Bernard Longley, head of the Archdiocese of Birmingham – of which St Chad’s is the Mother Church, staff and the firm behind one of the latest developments in the area.

The Ballymore Group is responsible for the multi-million pound development at Three Snowhill, which provides fantastic views of St Chad’s from its office space over 17 storeys.

As a neighbourly gesture the team at Ballymore invited Archbishop Bernard to take a tour of their new facility, followed by a meeting with Sean Mulryan, the Founder, Chairman and Group CEO.

Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “I was delighted to meet with Mr Sean Mulryan and to visit the impressive new building, Three Snowhill, as it nears completion.

“This will soon be home to approximately 4,000 city workers, our new neighbours.

“From their workplace they will have a brilliant view of St Chad’s Cathedral.

“I hope they will come to know that we will remember them in the prayers offered day by day in the Cathedral.”

Mr Mulryan added: “I was delighted that Archbishop Bernard Longley, head of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, accepted my invitation to visit Three Snowhill.

“The Catholic Church and parish activities play a vital role in communities across the world and Birmingham is no different.

“At Ballymore, we strive to ensure our developments are integrated into the local community which helps create a true sense of place and belonging for those who work in our office buildings but also the local community.

“I would like to thank Archbishop Longley and his staff for visiting and look forward to the opportunity of collaborating in the future.”

The Archdiocese is working hard to develop relationships with its new neighbours, and recently welcomed staff from St Joseph – which is behind the Snow Hill Wharf development – with a blessing at its site.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/155145153@N08/sets/72157704538174062/with/46869337524/

Bishops welcome Post-Synodal Exhortation: Christ is Alive

Pope Francis today released his Post-Synodal Exhortation Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive) to Young People and to the entire People of God, following the Synod of Bishops in October 2018. The theme of the Synod was “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment”.

The Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales took three delegates to the Synod of Bishops in October 2018: Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Bishop Ralph Heskett, Bishop of Hallam and Bishop Mark O’Toole, Bishop of Plymouth.

Welcoming the publication of Christus Vivit, they said:

“What a joy it is to receive this Post-Synodal Exhortation ‘Christ is Alive’. Reading it brings back all the best features of the Synod of Bishops we attended last October: the vitality of young people; their love for the Church and for us Bishops; their willingness to face the difficult challenges before us; their capacity for prayer and a living, loving relationship with Jesus. We thank Pope Francis so warmly for this remarkable document which will now be poured over by many young people and brought to bear on their lives.

“The closing words of this Exhortation will be so welcome: ‘The Church needs your momentum, your intuitions, your faith. We need them! And when you arrive where we have not yet reached, have the patience to wait for us’ (299).

“Here is a great invitation from Pope Francis asking all of us to reflect on so many aspects of our world today, a world in which hunger, homelessness, violence, cruelty and exploitation touch and diminish the lives of so many young people. These and many other challenges face young people in particularly dramatic ways, including the rights and roles of women and our own past in the Church (42); the exploitation of the images of young people (79); the desires, hurts and feelings of young people, including their sexuality (81); the digital world (86); abuse of every kind (95).

“The Pope writes with great vigour of the message of the Living Christ and invites young people to ‘make the most of these years of youth’ (143), in friendship with Christ (150), in ‘strong social friendships’ (169) and always as ‘courageous missionaries’ (175).

“He also spells out the challenges for ministry in the Church and speaks about the task of true discernment.

“In ‘Christ is Alive’ we have received a great gift. Now we can open the wrapping and delve into the richness of what we have been given!”

Does Pope Francis not want people to kiss the papal ring?

Image: Pope Francis walks with young people during his visit to the Sanctuary of the Holy House on the feast of the Annunciation in Loreto, Italy, March 25, 2019
Photo: CNS photo/Vatican Media

For Francis, the authority of the papacy does not rest on whether people kiss his ring but on faithfulness to the carpenter from Nazareth

There is no mention of it in the Gospels, nor is it a matter of Church doctrine or apostolic tradition. But the question of whether or not to kiss the ring of a Pope has been the subject of intense debate among Catholics after a video of Pope Francis awkwardly withdrawing his hand from some people greeting him at a shrine in Loreto went viral. 

The custom of kissing the ring of the Pope, or any bishop, was developed as a way of showing respect for the office that individual held and is also linked to kissing the hands of a newly ordained priest as a sign of respect for the sacraments that he will now bring to the people. 

One of the symbols of the papal office is the “Fisherman’s ring” (St Peter, the first Pope, was a fisherman) which dates back the 13th century as it was used to seal documents. Francis only wears the fisherman’s ring for special ceremonies and prefers to wear the one he had as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, in Argentina.

This kissing custom can seem strange to outsiders, but the Catholic faith takes symbolic gestures very seriously and is a sacramental religion which embraces the senses. During Mass the faithful consume Christ’s body and blood in the form of bread and wine; priests use water and oil when they baptise and, next month, on Good Friday, millions of believers will profess their faith by lining up to kiss a crucifix. 

There is always a danger, however, of mixing up the essentials of faith with the accruements of the past, and in this case, the focus is over a ritual attached to a time when Popes operated as quasi-monarchs exercising secular power.

A few caveats are needed before the Francis critics jump to the assumption that he is doing away with “yet another” tradition. 

In response to the furore, the Vatican says that sometimes the Pope likes the custom and sometimes not, and there is no sign he is going to issue a ruling on the practice (in fact, it was Benedict XVI who told journalist Peter Seewald he had formally abolished the custom although “no-one followed the new protocol”). The shorter viral video from Loreto should also be watched with the longer version which shows a number of people kissing Francis’ ring. 

There are also practical considerations. It is not uncommon for this Pope to try and individually meet several hundred people in a single day either in the Vatican or when traveling abroad. Waiting for people to bend down to kiss his ring is time-consuming, tiring and limits the number of individuals Francis can meet. 

Nevertheless, it is clear that that the natural preference for this Pope is for people to greet him and to maintain eye contact rather than dropping to their knees to kiss his hands. One of the reasons is that he has repeatedly called for Church leaders to maintain a “closeness” to its people, and for the world to develop a culture of  “encounter” – the ring kissing exercise places a barrier to both.

While it is no doubt sincerely intended by those who do it, kissing the ring creates a certain distance and cuts off any chance of talking to the Pope or engaging with him. While defenders of the practice say they are showing respect to the Pontificate, the reality is that it has become a way of reverencing an “idea” of the papacy that is remote and ossified in the past. 

Read More: https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/11524/does-pope-francis-not-want-people-to-kiss-the-papal-ring-

Great Britain: 2020 will be dedicated to the rediscovery of the Holy Scriptures

An initiative of Catholic bishops in cooperation with the “Bible Society” will support and fund new proposals. The project includes a Gospel for people with autism and the Gospel of Matthew in sign language for hearing-impaired persons. Initiatives include a work of art brought across all twenty-two Catholic dioceses of England and Wales to “initiate a conversation with God” and concerts of migrant choirs

The year 2020 is dedicated to the rediscovery of the Holy Scriptures, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the “Verbum Domini”, the apostolic exhortation of Pope Benedict, and 1600 years since the death of Saint Jerome. The initiative is jointly promoted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the “Bible society”, a charity that brings the Bible to over 200 Countries. Fleur Dorrell, coordinator of the activities, illustrated the program to SIR.

Full immersion into the Scriptures. The ‘ Year of the God Who Speaks’ will begin next September 30th at the National Gallery with a recorded message by Catholic Primate Vincent Nichols. This is an initiative planned by Catholic bishops in cooperation with the “Bible Society”, that will support and fund the new activities of the Year. The project includes a Gospel for people with autism and the Gospel of Matthew in sign language for hearing-impaired persons. Initiatives include a work of art brought across all twenty-two  Catholic dioceses of England and Wales to “initiate a conversation with God” and several concerts of migrant choirs.

Inspired by verbum Domini. Fleur Connell and the bishop of Wrexham Peter Brignall had the idea of dedicating twelve months to a full immersion into the Scriptures. “We are members of a study group on the Scriptures within the Evangelization and Catechesis department of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales”, said Fleur Dorrell.
“We thought it would be a wonderful idea for the English Catholic Church to dedicate a full year to the Scriptures in an unprecedented manner. We were inspired by the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation  “Verbum Domini” and by the year marking 1600 years since the death of Saint Jerome, the Father and Doctor of the Church who translated the Greek text of most of the Old Testament into Latin and all the Hebrew Bible.”Kickoff at the National Gallery. The “Year of the God Who Speaks” will begin at the National Gallery on September 30th, Feast Day of Saint Jerome. In a video message screened with a portrait of the Saint in Trafalgar square, in the heart of London, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Catholic Primate of England and Wales, will illustrate the figure of Saint Jerome and his import as pre-eminent Catholic Biblical scholar. “We wish to find new, unprecedented ways to promote the Bible “, said Fleur Dorrell. “Using creativity to communicate the message that the Bible is a thriving, dynamic way to speak of God.”

Activities for everyone. During the “Year of the God Who Speaks” the Catholic Church of England and Wales will have the opportunity to listen to the voices of a wide range of groups, giving special relevance to migrants and political refugees. “The choirs that will tour the Country will provide this group of people with the opportunity to express themselves in their native language thereby involving many different people through their music”, Dorrell pointed out.
“People with disabilities constitute another important group. We are reflecting on how to bring the Holy Scriptures to the visually-impaired or to people who are simply lacking the educational background to understand the Bible.” A truly ecumenical year. The coordinator of the “Year of the God Who Speaks” explained that organizations representing people with disabilities asked her to prepare a Gospel for visual learners addressed to individuals with autism, along with a Gospel of Matthew in sign language for people with hearing impairment.

Read More: https://agensir.it/europa/2019/01/29/great-britain-2020-will-be-dedicated-to-the-rediscovery-of-the-holy-scriptures/

Young people deserve to hear directly from Pope Francis on synod

Pope Francis should write a post-synodal apostolic exhortation following the close of the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment.

At the Sept. 18, 2018, press conference announcing the pope’s apostolic constitution Episcopalis Communio on changes to the rules concerning voting members and the preparation for synods, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, suggested that Francis might elect not to write a post-synodal exhortation. He might simply affirm that the final synod document is taught exercising his ordinary magisterium, according to Baldisseri.

The practice of writing an apostolic exhortation after a Synod of Bishops became a regular practice during the pontificate of John Paul II, something Benedict XVI and Francis have continued up to now. After the Oct. 3-28, 2018, synod on young people, it is not yet clear what path the Holy Father will choose: write an apostolic exhortation or simply accept the synod’s final document as is.

Having studied the major synod documents — the preparatory document from January 2017, the young people’s pre-synodal meeting document from March 2018, the instrumentum laboris from June 2018, and now the final document of the Synod of Bishops — and followed as closely as possible the daily briefings about interventions from the floor, I feel strongly that the final synod document is not enough. There are at least a few reasons it remains inadequate.

It is a compromise document, which required the majority of delegates to approve the text, paragraph by paragraph, in order for it to be finally accepted. The result of this laborious approval process is exactly what one might expect: The language was watered down, certain topics were qualified or removed all together, and what began with the potential for a bold, prophetic and inspiring message was reduced to a disappointing state of unremarkable generality.

There are also clues in the final document itself that the bishops anticipated readers might be less than thrilled with their text. In a telling move, they suggest in the introduction that readers of the final document also read the instrumentum laboris alongside it for, in their estimation, these documents are complementary. Some bishops admitted that readers would notice that several themes appearing in the earlier working document were absent from the final document and might criticize the document or the process.

Their solution was to give extra homework to readers: Read both texts together. This adds another layer of complication.

What are readers to make of the mention of the themes or terms (e.g., use of acronym “LGBT”) found in the instrumentum laboris but absent in the final document? Which text takes precedence where there is a discrepancy? If the pope were not to write a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, then how would he account for this instruction to read the instrumentum laboris as the complement to the final document? Does he somehow bring these texts together?

There is currently no mechanism to resolve this novel tension.

There are also the issues of length, repetition and clarity. Insisting that readers of the final document must also read the pre-synodal working document only makes the material more cumbersome (the instrumentum laboris adds an additional 214 paragraphs to the final document’s already-lengthy 164 paragraphs) and confusing.

Beyond the confusion around how to negotiate the two-text solution, there is the matter of the uninspiring and, at times, didactic tone of the final document. A question that regularly surfaced for me while reading it was: For whom was this written? What is the audience of this text?

Francis’ vision of the synodal process is one of accompaniment, dialogue and listening. This conversational and inviting style resulted in an honest, direct and insightful response from the young people who gathered in March 2018. To a lesser degree, though still better than the final document, the instrumentum laboris carries a feeling of “we’re in this together,” regularly citing the feedback from young people as well as input from dioceses and bishops’ conferences around the world.

But the final document notably lacks this feel. Its tenor is more closely aligned with a “father knows best” approach, which speaks more in the royal “we” (as in “we, the bishops”) and addresses young adults in the second or third person rather than as fellow and equal members of the church, which is at the heart of Lumen Gentium and any Vatican II ecclesiology.

Young people participate in a pilgrimage hike from the Monte Mario nature reserve in Rome to St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 25, 2018. Participants in the Synod of Bishops on youth and young people from Rome parishes took part in the hike. (CNS)
Young people participate in a pilgrimage hike from the Monte Mario nature reserve in Rome to St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 25, 2018. Participants in the Synod of Bishops on youth and young people from Rome parishes took part in the hike. (CNS/Paul Haring)

An example of this dissonant ecclesiological tone appears at the outset of the document. In the “preamble” of the text, the bishops recount the story of the resurrected Jesus appearing to the two disciples journeying on the road to Emmaus as depicted at the end of Luke’s Gospel. According to published reports from the English-speaking working groups, this pericope was selected to illustrate the spirit of accompaniment the bishops wished to highlight as the governing theme of synodality in general and the text on young people in particular.

But as Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese observed, it seems that the bishops may have misidentified just who is which character in the narrative.

This is a truly magnificent story, but if the bishops think they are Jesus and young people are the disciples, they missed the whole point Francis was trying to make. We are all disciples, and the disciples’ confusion before Jesus joins them is reflective of the entire church. Or to put it another way, sometimes Jesus may be the young explaining things to the bishops.

There are several clear and simple reasons why it makes sense for Francis to write a post-synodal exhortation on young people.

First, young people deserve to be taken seriously and not just politely listened to and then treated with what might rightly be viewed as well-meaning paternalism (or, worse, condescension). A post-synodal apostolic exhortation could restate with directness and clarity the vision of synodality Francis signaled before and during the synod, a vision consistent throughout his pontificate. It calls for a disposition of accompaniment marked by mutuality, respect, humility, listening, openness to challenge, and good-faith understanding. Francis could address young people directly as his sisters and brothers, as the equal members of the body of Christ that they are, and not merely the ecclesiastical charges they appear to be in the eyes of some bishops.

Second, young people deserve assurance that their experiences matter and that, though confusing or even offensive to some synod participants, the diversity of their experiences is not a threat to authentic church life and communion but, as St. Paul once reminded the Corinthians, it is the very condition that makes the church possible in the first place.

To this end, Francis, who has not shied away from using the moniker “gay” and is known to have friends in same-sex relationships, could do a lot to build trust among LGBTQ persons by using the self-referential terms they prefer, thereby acknowledging their inherent dignity and value.

Third, young people deserve more direct answers to their queries about the role of women in the church and society. When half the world’s population is in question, the issue of women in the church is not merely a “Western ploy” or the agenda of “radical feminists,” but a matter that calls for serious and concerted reflection, change and implementation.

More inclusive leadership does not necessarily mean changing who is admitted to holy orders — appointing more female parish administrators, diocesan chancellors and curial officials is an approach that can begin today. But with the conclusion of the pontifical commission on women and the diaconate’s work in hand, Francis might take this opportunity to address female leadership in the church with changes to the diaconate.

Read More: https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/faith-seeking-understanding/young-people-deserve-hear-directly-pope-francis-synod

Holy Land Coordination 2019 – final communiqué

The Holy Land Coordination stands in solidarity with all Christians in Israel and Palestine. Our ongoing advocacy for a just peace is informed by an annual pilgrimage to meet with our sisters and brothers, listen to them, and witness the challenges they face. This year our focus has been those Christians who live in the state of Israel.

Standing in solidarity with Israel’s Christians
Throughout our visit we have experienced how there are Israeli citizens from many different backgrounds who coexist and work together for the Common Good of their society. We recognise that Israel was founded on the stated principles of equality between all its citizens. This urgently needs to become the lived reality.

Israel’s Christians wish to live as full citizens, with their rights recognised in a plural and democratic society. We have seen the vital contribution that they make especially through schools, hospitals, involvement in public life and attempting to build bridges between different faiths.

Yet it is clear that at the same time they face profound difficulties across all aspects of their lives. We have heard that, along with other Palestinian Arab citizens and migrants living in Israel, many Christians find themselves systematically discriminated against and marginalised.

Those we met expressed particular concern about the Nation State Law that was passed since our last visit to the Holy Land. Local Christian leaders have warned that this creates a “constitutional and legal basis for discrimination” against minorities, undermining the ideals of equality, justice and democracy.[1] We stand with Israel’s Christians and all those challenging discrimination, in support of their call to protect the country’s pluralism.

As we approach this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we reaffirm our solidarity with all of the Churches here, and pray that Christians may work more closely together in the pursuit of justice and peace.

Human dignity under occupation
Our delegation also travelled to Palestine, where despite the faith and resilience of those we met, the misery of occupation has been deepened by severe cuts to humanitarian funding by the US government.

Healthcare, education and other basic services for refugees are being increasingly threatened, exacerbating the ongoing violations of their fundamental human dignity. This cannot be ignored or tolerated.

We call upon our own governments to help meet the funding gaps now faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and redouble their efforts towards a diplomatic solution, with two democratic sovereign states of Israel and Palestine existing in peace.

Hope for the future
We are a people who believe in the truth of the Resurrection and so we have hope for the future. As we return to our home countries we echo the words of Pope Francis:

“Always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you! Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts!”[2]

We admire our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land for not losing hope and we commit ourselves through prayer, pilgrimage and practical solidarity, to helping keep that hope alive.

Bishop Declan Lang – England and Wales (Chair of the Holy Land Coordination)
Bishop Stephen Ackermann – Germany
Archbishop Stephen Brislin – South Africa
Archbishop Timothy Broglio – United States of America
Bishop Peter Bürcher – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden
Bishop Rodolfo Cetoloni – Italy
Bishop Christopher Chessun – the Church of England
Bishop Michel Dubost – France
Bishop Lionel Gendron – Canada
Bishop Felix Gmur – Switzerland
Bishop William Kenney – England and Wales
Bishop Alan McGuckian – Ireland
Bishop William Nolan – Scotland
Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho – Portugal
Bishop Noel Treanor – Ireland

Nuns on the run: Vatican’s new track team dreams of Olympic glory

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican launched an official track team Thursday with the aim of competing in international competitions as part of an agreement signed with the Italian Olympic Committee.

About 60 Holy See runners — Swiss Guards, priests, nuns, pharmacists and even a 62-year-old professor who works in the Vatican’s Apostolic Library — are the first accredited members of Vatican Athletics. It’s the latest iteration of the Holy See’s long-standing promotion of sport as an instrument of dialogue, peace and solidarity.

Because of the agreement with CONI, the team is now a part of the Italian track association and is looking to join the International Association of Athletics Federations. It is hoping to compete in international competitions, including the Games of the Small States of Europe — open to states with fewer than 1 million people — and the Mediterranean Games.

“The dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games,” said Monsignor Melchor Jose Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, team president and the head of the Vatican’s sports department in the culture ministry.

But he said that was neither a short-term nor medium-term goal, and that for now the Vatican was looking to participate in competitions that had cultural or symbolic value.

“We might even podium,” he noted.

Religions

Vatican pharmacist-runner Michela Ciprietti told a Vatican press conference the aim of the team isn’t exclusively competitive, but rather to “promote culture and running and launch the message of solidarity and the fight against racism and violence of all types.”

Read More: https://www.euronews.com/2019/01/11/vatican-new-track-team-nuns-priests-targets-olympics-n957496

Image @ Copyright : MAURIZIO BRAMBATTI

Bishop for Migration and Asylum has spoken out against the recent dehumanising rhetoric used about asylum seekers

Press Release for immediate Release, 4.1.2019

The Lead Catholic Bishop for Migration and Asylum has called for asylum seekers crossing the English Channel to be treated with dignity and spoken out against the dehumanising rhetoric that has characterised debate in recent weeks.

Bishop Paul McAleenan said today:

“All people fleeing their homes and seeking to build a better life here should be recognised as human beings and treated with dignity

As the focus on refugees now turns towards the English Channel, we should keep in mind that our priority must always be saving lives and playing our part in offering sanctuary to those escaping war or persecution.

Rhetoric and policies that dehumanise or stigmatise people only serve to fuel hostility and harm our society.”

Bishop Paul has previously called for the UK government to go further in assisting asylum seekers during a visit to Calais with his Scottish counterpart in 2017 and following the signing of the Sandhurst Treaty last year.

http://catholicnews.org.uk/channel-refugees

Pope’s homily for New Year’s Day Mass, 2018: full text

Pope Francis delivered a homily at Mass on New Year’s Day, the Solemnity of the Mother of God. On 1 January, the Church also observes the World Day of Peace.

Full official English translation of Pope Francis’ homily for the Mass on New Year’s Day

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

1 January 2018

The year opens in the name of the Mother.  Mother of God is the most important title of Our Lady.  But we might ask why we say Mother of God, and not Mother of Jesus.  In the past some wanted to be content simply with the latter, but the Church has declared that Mary is the Mother of God.  We should be grateful, because these words contain a magnificent truth about God and about ourselves.  From the moment that our Lord became incarnate in Mary, and for all time, he took on our humanity.  There is no longer God without man; the flesh Jesus took from his Mother is our own, now and for all eternity.  To call Mary the Mother of God reminds us of this: God is close to humanity, even as a child is close to the mother who bears him in her womb.

The word mother (mater) is related to the word matter.  In his Mother, the God of heaven, the infinite God, made himself small, he became matter, not only to be with us but also to be like us.  This is the miracle, the great novelty!  Man is no longer alone; no more an orphan, but forever a child.  The year opens with this novelty.  And we proclaim it by saying: Mother of God!  Ours is the joy of knowing that our solitude has ended.  It is the beauty of knowing that we are beloved children, of knowing that this childhood of ours can never be taken away from us.  It is to see a reflection of ourselves in the frail and infant God resting in his mother’s arms, and to realize that humanity is precious and sacred to the Lord.  Henceforth, to serve human life is to serve God.  All life, from life in the mother’s womb to that of the elderly, the suffering and the sick, and to that of the troublesome and even repellent, is to be welcomed, loved and helped.

Let us now be guided by today’s Gospel.  Only one thing is said about the Mother of God: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).  She kept them.  She simply kept; Mary does not speak.  The Gospel does not report a single word of hers in the entire account of Christmas.  Here too, the Mother is one with her Son: Jesus is an “infant”, a child “unable to speak”.  The Word of God, who “long ago spoke in many and various ways” (Heb 1:1), now, in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), is silent.  The God before whom all fall silent is himself a speechless child.  His Majesty is without words; his mystery of love is revealed in lowliness. This silence and lowliness is the language of his kingship.  His Mother joins her Son and keeps these things in silence.

That silence tells us that, if we would “keep” ourselves, we need silence.  We need to remain silent as we gaze upon the crib.  Pondering the crib, we discover anew that we are loved; we savour the real meaning of life.  As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart.  His lowliness lays low our pride; his poverty challenges our outward display; his tender love touches our hardened hearts.  To set aside a moment of silence each day to be with God is to “keep” our soul; it is to “keep” our freedom from being corroded by the banality of consumerism, the blare of commercials, the stream of empty words and the overpowering waves of empty chatter and loud shouting.

Read More: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-01/pope-homily-new-year-2018-mother-of-god-full-text.html

Love is in the Air – Celebrating Marriage Week 2019

Milestone marriages are to be celebrated by the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the hunt is now on to find the longest married couple!

As part of Marriage Week, which runs from February 7 to 14, a Thanksgiving Mass is to be held at St Chad’s Cathedral at 11am on Sunday 3 February.

And if couples aren’t able to get to the cathedral, it is hoped celebratory Masses will be said across the diocese to ensure all milestone marriages are marked.

Lianne Pap, Family Ministry Worker for the diocese, has been tasked with pulling together the plans for Marriage Week.

“Archbishop Bernard Longley will be celebrating the Thanksgiving Mass for couples that have reached a milestone in their marriage – five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 45, 50, 60 and even 70 years of marriage,” said Lianne.

“This has never been done for the whole diocese before and I’m really hoping to find the longest married couple.”

Marriage Week UK is co-ordinated by Marriage Foundation and runs each year. It’s hailed a great annual focus for couples with the belief marriages can get better and better with each passing year.

If you are celebrating a milestone marriage and would like to be a part of the Thanksgiving Mass please email lianne.pap@rc-birmingham.org – marking your email ‘Marriage Week’.

Catenian Mass at St Chad’s Cathedral

CATENIANS PROVINCE 6 (MIDLANDS) ANNUAL MASS FOR DECEASED MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES

By Peter Harrington

Over 200 members of the Catenians Association attended their Annual Mass at St Chad’s Cathedral, accompanied with their wives and families.

Before Mass began yesterday (Sun 3 Nov), the Provincial President, Danny McAree, read out a memorial list of all members and ladies who had died in the last 12 months.

A beautifully balanced quintet of voices, accompanied by David Saint on the Cathedral organ, led the congregation in the Psalm and Hymns.

Mass was celebrated by Bishop Robert Byrne, supported by three Catenian Deacons, with a team of altar servers from many parts of the Diocese.

Bishop Robert gave a warming homily, reminding the congregation of the lifetime values in strengthening family life through friendship and faith.

After Mass there was an enjoyable celebration with light refreshments in the Grimshaw Room, where there were many “remember when” conversations over happy memories.

Citizens UK host event at St Chad’s Cathedral

Saidul Haque Saeed
Lead Organiser

Canon Gerry Breen recently hosted a special event by Citizens UK at St Chad’s Cathedral to mark four years of community organising to make Birmingham a more welcoming city for refugees and migrant communities.

Citizens UK: Birmingham is an independent civil society alliance of faith, education, trade union and community institutions.

54 leaders from across the city reflected on the successful community organising campaign to resettle Syrian refugees from UN Camps to Birmingham, and recognised Councillors Tristan Chatfield, Waseem Zaffar and Alex Yip with Claire Spencer for their leadership and support.

Pupils from St Francis’ Catholic Primary School in Lozells shared their personal testimonies on being part of a refugee welcome school with Mrs Wade pointing out the school’s excellent SATs results.

Students from the CORE Education Trust presented a brilliant new city project called Echo Eternal, remembering the survivors of the Holocaust and the reflections they have for us.

A host of other Citizens UK leaders shared news on current projects: Community sponsorship, the Business leaders project and the Islam & Public Life Commission.

Three moving personal stories introduced a new campaign, 80 years on. It’s Our Turn click here – which received the backing of Cllr Tristan Chatfield at Birmingham City Council to take in 80 child refugees on first instance dependent on securing funding from Government.

If you would like to get involved or find out more please email Saidul.haque@citizensuk.org

Newman University celebrate Feast Day at St Chad’s Cathedral

Earlier this week (Tues 9 Oct) Newman University celebrated its Feast Day Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman at St Chad’s Cathedral Birmingham, where Archbishop Bernard Longley and Bishop Christopher Budd led the celebratory service.

The service was attended by current and retired staff, friends of the university, students and alumni.

The event was one of the highlights of the university’s 50th anniversary year.

The university choir performed which made the occasion all the more special.

A date for the December diary!

Click here for information on this event

St. Chad’s Cathedral Carol Service – Sunday 16th December 2018 – followed by mulled wine and mince pies in the Grimshaw Room.  Please come along and listen to our magnificent Cathedral singers under the direction of Professor David Saint sing a variety of Christmas songs and carols interspersed with readings from the scriptures.  All are welcome. NO CHARGE.

Birmingham hosts AoS Mass for the first time.

St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, was the venue for the fourth in a series of special Stella Maris (Star of the Sea) Masses taking place around Britain’s “port” cathedrals and churches to thank God for the work of the Apostleship of the Sea and to pray for the welfare of seafarers.  

The Apostleship of the Sea is the fully recognised worldwide Catholic organisation for which a collection is made throughout Britain each year to support the work done by them in supporting seafarers when in port, arranging Masses for them where possible, and giving general pastoral care.

Many of the mariners spend many months at sea, away from their homes, and without having the opportunity of attending Mass, etc., and so the help given by the AoS is of very important.

At the invitation of His Grace Archbishop Bernard Longley, this is the first time that the Birmingham Cathedral the Mass of “Our Blessed Virgin Mary Stella Maris” for the AoS.  Birmingham may not be a port, but the AoS has many supporters living within the Archdiocese.

Apostleship of the Sea National Director Martin Foley said, “We were delighted to celebrate our first Stella Maris Mass in the Archdiocese of Birmingham and would like to thank Archbishop Bernard and the Cathedral Dean, Canon Gerry Breen, for their hospitality.”

“The Archdiocese of Birmingham has always been a very generous supporter of the work of AoS so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to our supporters and those priests who have served as Apostleship of the Sea cruise chaplains in the diocese.”

For more details about the AoS, please visit apostleshipofthesea.org.uk or contact 020 7901 1931.

Two new priests for the diocese

Archbishop Bernard Longley ordained two men to the priesthood at St Chad’s Cathedral on Saturday 7 July.

The cathedral was filled with parishioners, clergy, friends and family who gathered to witness this important moment and to wish the two new priests joy in their vocation.

The two candidates, Jason Mahoney, who was deacon at St Chad’s Cathedral and Robert Carey, who was deacon at St Dunstan’s, King’s Heath, were presented by Canon David Oakley, Rector of St Mary’s College, Oscott.

During the ordination rite, the candidates promise ‘to celebrate the mysteries of Christ, faithfully and religiously… for the glory of God and the sanctification of Christ’s people.’ 

In his homily, His Grace, Archbishop Bernard Longley said: “Today’s ordination is the clearest answer that God could give to our prayers for priestly vocations.

“It comes in the shape of two men who have been discerning our Lord’s call for many years, along the highways and the byways of their lives.”

The Archbishop noted the candidates followed in the footsteps of others who moved a distance to serve in the Midlands- St Chad, Blessed John Henry Newman and Blessed Dominic Barberi.

“Jason and Robert, you have been called from different backgrounds and experiences to share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. 

“Today a little bit of Yorkshire determination and a whisper of the Wirral enrich the presbyterate of the Archdiocese. 

“You have both come to appreciate what it means to belong to uproot yourselves and to serve where the Lord is sending you.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”

Newly ordained, Fr Jason Mahoney will be appointed as Curate at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Redditch and Fr Robert Carey will be appointed as Curate at The Immaculate Conception, Bicester

Please keep them in your prayers, along with all our other priests in this, the diocesan #YearforPriests

Servers Commitment and Dedication is Celebrated

It was a sight to behold at St Chad’s Cathedral today (Sat 17 Feb) as hundreds of altar servers from across the Diocese gathered to take part in this year’s Guild of St Stephen Annual Mass.

The procession of altar servers stopped passers-by in their tracks as they made their way from the crypt into the cathedral.

With more than 200 altar servers of all ages, and their families, gathered for the event, it was standing room only inside.

The Principal Celebrant at the Mass was The Right Reverend Robert Byrne, Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham, who was joined by several concelebrating priests and deacons, and representatives from the Guild Archconfraternity of Westminster.

The Mass was also Fr Michael Dolman’s first as Diocesan Director of the Guild of St Stephen.

During his Homily, Bishop Byrne said: “It is a great pleasure for me to say this Mass for you.

“It gives the Diocese an opportunity to thank you.

“Altar servers perform a very important part of the Church’s life. Mass is the centre of everything we do. That moment we encounter the Lord.”

He continued: “You should be examples to your parishioners for the love of the Mass and the love of God.”

Following the Mass a period of Adoration was observed, before refreshments were served.

The Guild of St Stephen is an international organisation of altar servers, founded in England in 1904 by Fr Hamilton McDonald. The Guild has spread and developed since then.

The objectives of the Guild are: To encourage, positively and practically, the highest standards of serving at the Church’s liturgy and so contribute to the whole community’s participation in a more fruitful worship of God. To provide altar servers with a greater understanding of what they are doing so that they may serve with increasing reverence and prayerfulness and thereby be led to a deepening response to their vocation in life. To unite servers of different parishes and dioceses for their mutual support and encouragement.

St Chad Pilgrims’ Progress

Almost 140 people – including the Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham and the Anglican bishops of Lichfield, Birmingham and Aston – took part in an historic walk of friendship from Birmingham to Lichfield on Saturday, 23 September.

  • The 18-mile St Chad Pilgrimage marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The walk began at the Midlands hub of the Roman Catholic Church – the Metropolitan Cathedral Church and Basilica of St Chad, Birmingham – and ended at Lichfield Cathedral, which was founded in AD 700 on Chad’s burial site. Mgr Tim Menezes, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Birmingham carried a relic of St Chad along the way, which was placed in the Shrine of St Chad at Lichfield Cathedral for the duration of the visit.

The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “The example of St Chad is as relevant today as it was over 1,300 years ago when he became the first Bishop of Lichfield. Chad, a Northumbrian, crossed boundaries in a pioneer ministry, winning over the pagan Mercians throughout what is now the modern-day Midlands. It was fantastic on Saturday to journey as 21st century pilgrims together from Birmingham to Lichfield and follow in Chad’s footsteps, building bridges of trust, kinship and kindness.”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Revd Bernard Longley, said: “I was delighted to take part in the ecumenical pilgrimage walk from St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham to Lichfield Cathedral in company with Bishop Michael and representatives from so many branches of the Church.

“Walking, praying and witnessing together in this way was a practical demonstration of our commitment to the unity of the Church and our mutual regard for the legacy of the great missionary, St Chad. The pilgrimage walk enabled us to deepen our friendships in Christ and to pray for the intercession of St Chad for all those who bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of the Midlands today.”

Pilgrimage organiser Robert Mountford added: “The St Chad Pilgrimage celebrated the fact that, 500 years on from the Reformation, Catholics and Protestants have resolved many of the doctrinal issues that once separated them and are now, more than ever before, walking, praying and working together in respect, friendship and co-operation.”

The full list of church leaders who took part in some, or all, of the walk were:

  • The Most Revd Bernard Longley, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham
  • Mgr Timothy Menezes, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Birmingham
  • The Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Anglican Bishop of Lichfield
  • The Right Revd David Urquhart, Anglican Bishop of Birmingham
  • Revd Ian Howarth, Chair of the Birmingham District of the Methodist Church
  • Revd Adrian Argile, Regional Minister Team Leader for the Heart of England Baptist Association
  • Revd Steve Faber, Moderator of the West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church
  • Majors Peter and Julie Forrest, Divisional Leaders, The Salvation Army West Midlands Division

Pilgrims were sent on their way at 9am with a blessing by Canon Father Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral, and received an official welcome from Canon Custos Peter Holliday upon arrival at Lichfield Cathedral at 6pm.

 

Visitation of Fatima Statue to St Chad’s Cathedra

Nearly one hundred years ago, from May to October 1917, Our Lady appeared to three young shepherd children, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and Lucia dos Santos, at Fatima in Portugal. In 2017, the World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF) in England and Wales will be promoting the Centenary of the Fatima apparitions through a programme of visitations to Cathedrals by the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, and Relics of Blessed Jacinta and Francisco.

This will start with a Visitation of the Statue and Relics to Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 18 February 2017, with Cardinal Vincent Nichols crowning the statue and presiding at Mass, and will continue until October with visits to 18 of the Cathedrals in England and Wales, including the St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham Archdiocese, from 29-30 July 2017. For details about these Visitations go to: www.worldfatima-englandwales.org.uk/visitation.html

The work of the WAF involves promoting the message that Our Lady gave at Fatima, when she spoke of the necessity of personal conversion, penance, and prayer, and particularly the importance of praying the Rosary for peace. She also asked for the Five First Saturdays devotion of reparation and the consecration of Russia, and promised that in the end her Immaculate Heart would triumph and a period of peace would be given to the world. The international World Apostolate of Fatima was officially approved by the Church as a Public Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right in October 2010.

The Fatima message is more relevant than ever today, especially for the family. Pope St John Paul II said that the Church accepted the message of Fatima because it repeats Our Lord’s call: ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ (Mk 1:15); and after the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta on 13 May 2000, he said it is, ‘a message of conversion and hope which is the true Gospel of Christ’.

statue handsworth smallerIn 2006, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the hope that ‘the message of Fatima will be increasingly accepted, understood and lived in every community,’ and Pope Francis, too, has been very supportive of Fatima, and is due to visit the Shrine in May 2017.

A special Centenary Crown is being made in Portugal for the National Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima. This will accompany the Statue as it journeys around England and Wales, and be used to crown it during the Visitations.

Pope Francis has granted a special Fatima Centenary Plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, from 27 November 2016 to 26 November 2017, for those who go on Pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Fatima, or visit an image of Our Lady of Fatima which is being publicly venerated on the 13 of each month from May to October 2017. Those who cannot travel can fulfil the conditions in front of a small image of Our Lady of Fatima.

The Pope’s initiative prompts the question: do I know what Our Lady asked of me at Fatima, and am I complying with her requests? The new CTS booklet, Message and Prayers of Fatima and also Sr Lucia’s Memoirs – Fatima in Lucia’s own words, vol. 1 – which they also stock, will help us to respond to these questions. www.ctsbooks.org)
The centenary year is important since it offers the Church a chance to look again at the message of Fatima – which is really a compendium of the Gospel for our times – and realise that the Fatima message and the Rosary are powerful weapons against modern secularism. The most important thing is not to let the centenary go by without doing something to deepen one’s knowledge of Fatima.

More information about the World Apostolate of Fatima and the Message of Fatima can be found on the website of the WAF International Secretariat, at: www.worldfatima.com
And you can see more details about the WAF England and Wales at: www.worldfatima-englandwales.org.uk

By Donal Foley, Birmingham

Anglican Bishop Venerates Relic at St Chad’s in Birmingham

The new Anglican Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Reverend Dr Michael Ipgrave, has paid a visit to St Chad’s Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham, to pray and to venerate the relic of St Chad prior to his installation in September.  Welcoming him, Archbishop Bernard Longley described it as an opportunity to give thanks for all that Anglicans and Catholics share in faith.  They prayed  together in silence in front of the relic which was placed on the Altar; Archbishop Longley led a prayer for Bishop Ipgrave’s ministry as well as Lichfield Cathedral and its parishioners. Bishop Ipgrave reciprocated and then concluded by saying the prayer of St Chad. The Very Rev’d Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield, was also in attendance.

anglican 127Lichfield is among the earliest centres of Christian worship in the UK.  St Chad went in 669 to be the first Bishop in Lichfield and so impressive was his teaching and so genuine was the way he practised what he preached, that on his death his remains quickly became venerated and a place of pilgrimage.  The Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral, Canon Gerry Breen, said that up to the reformation St Chad was a saint for all people and was now uniting people again: “It’s wonderful that we came together to share things that unite us – he is our common patron. This historic visit by Bishop Michael  marks a change in theology and mission and reflects Christ’s prayer that we may be one.  It also reflects the working together on many levels that takes place between our two churches. It was a great gesture for Bishop Michael to come here and a sign of his generosity to work more closely. Both Cathedrals follow the pilgrim path of Chad.”

anglican 125Canon Breen and Bishop David McGough, auxiliary of Birmingham,  were appointed as Ecumenical Canons of Lichfield Cathedral in November, the first in the Cathedral’s history.  Among Lichfield Cathedral’s many treasures is the exquisite 8th century sculpture of the ‘Lichfield Angel’ from the St Chad’s tomb chest, as well as the St Chad Gospels – which are  older than the Book of Kells.

After his forthcoming installation, Bishop Ipgrave will assume responsibility for one of the Church of England’s largest dioceses, leading an  episcopal team with the Bishops of Wolverhampton, Stafford and Shrewsbury.  When his appointment was announced he said: “I’ve had twelve wonderful years in London but I am so looking forward to coming back to the Midlands. Lichfield is the mother church of the Midlands, and the city of St Chad, a man of great humility and profound Christian faith.”

anglican128

 

St Chad’s Cathedral Increase in Visitors During Year of Mercy

St Chad’s Cathedral is reporting a huge increase in numbers of visitors during the Jubilee Year of Mercy – ten thousand in one recent week.  A Pilgrimage of Mercy has been created around the inside of the Cathedral with pilgrims having the opportunity to encounter various aspects of mercy as they read the special banners that are on display throughout the building. Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad’s says he’s been overwhelmed by the success of the pilgrimage experience: “The number of visitors has rocketed, it’s probably one of the most popular Jubilee years and is extra special for us as we celebrate the 175th anniversary of St Chad’s. Not just Catholics either, but lots of other groups – such as rambling groups, historical societies, church history groups, ecumenical groups. Occasionally whole schools turn up – so over a thousand pupils at a time!”

Featured on the pilgrim’s journey around the Cathedral are men and women who have lived extraordinary lives in the spirit of the Beatitudes and who offer inspiration for living the Christian life today and for experiencing God’s mercy. These include universal saints like St Francis together with those on the path to sainthood and who have connections with the Archdiocese of Birmingham: Blessed John Henry Newman, Blessed Dominic Barberi and Mother Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy with links to the Mercy Convent in Handsworth.    Pilgrims are then encouraged to identify living pilgrims of mercy today in their own lives – such as the influence and example of parents, teachers or priests. Then at the end pilgrims are brought to the realisation that as they prepare to go out through the door of the Cathedral, they are also called to be pilgrims of mercy.

Canon Gerry has noticed how people are often taken by surprise by suddenly wanting to engage with the spiritual aspect of the experience : ”When we put a sign up above the confessional, suddenly people felt drawn to experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation – even local workmen came in and I recall one man who hadn’t been to confession for forty years. When people have gone round the Cathedral and seen the banners, it’s touched them in a real way and enabled them to reflect. It’s taken off on a much bigger scale than we expected.“

Even more visitors are expected to flock through the doors this month during the annual Flower Festival, from June 17th – 19th, when the whole interior will be beautifully bedecked by floral displays from parishes and schools – with special concerts also taking place.   Then, in July, a new series of lunchtime organ recitals are to begin ; they will take place on the first Thursday of each month, with the initial one on Thursday July 7th from 1.15 – 1.55 pm; admission free.

St Chad’s is known across the world as a beautiful building with a remarkable history and a rich heritage. It was the first Catholic Cathedral erected in Great Britain in 1841 following the Reformation of the 16th Century. St Chad’s was designed by the great Gothic Revivalist Augustus Welby Pugin, who was also responsible for the Palaces of Westminster and the iconic clock tower of Big Ben. The Cathedral is home to the relics of St Chad, which were originally interred in a shrine at Lichfield Cathedral in the year 672 AD.

Veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Hundreds of people made the journey to St Chad’s to venerate the miraculous relic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe which was brought there for six days in May.

Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed in 1979: ‘The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be the centre from which the light of the gospel of Christ will illuminate the entire world by the means of distribution of the Miraculous Image of His mother.’ To that end he authorized 220 digital replicas of the miraculous image Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Miraculous Relic Image that is now in England, when not being brought around the country, is exposed to the public at The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Bedford.

The pilgrimage programme in Birmingham started with a service of Reception and Solemn Guadalupe Mass of Our Lady attended by several hundred people. The next day brought over a thousand people to the Cathedral for the 2016 March for Life, Our Lady of Guadalupe as Protectress of the unborn, was patroness of the March. The congregation were led in the veneration of the Relic Image by Bishop Robert Byrne, Auxiliary of Birmingham, Bishop Patrick McKinney Bishop of Nottingham and Bishop Emmanuel Ade Badjeo from Nigeria. Prior to the march starting, long lines of pilgrims queued patiently for a chance to venerate, which the organisers described as one of the many highlights of the pilgrimage visit.

APC image files[1]The following day, the Cathedral was again packed for Birmingham Children’s Hospital annual Memorial Mass; many attending understood the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her Relic Image, under the title Protectress of the unborn and Pilgrim Queen of the family. Veneration of the Miraculous Relic Image then continued on a daily basis.

Guardians from the Shrine in Bedford were assisted during the six days of pilgrimage by local Knights of St Columba.

On December 12 of each year, the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, marking the day when, in 1531, the Blessed Mother appeared in Mexico to a 57-year old peasant named Juan Diego. In trying to convince the church authorities of this, Juan Diego eventually was asked for a sign to prove what he had seen. Upon returning to Mary and sharing this with her, Juan Diego was instructed to climb to the top of the hill to gather flowers to bring back. Reaching the crest of the hill, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, which were neither in season nor native to the region. The Blessed Mother arranged the flowers herself in Juan’s tilma – a type of cloak – and instructed him to open the cloak only upon return to the bishop. When Juan Diego arrived back at the bishop’s residence and opened his cloak, the flowers fell to the floor and left on the surface of the tilma was the image that’s come to be known as ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’.

by Ernest Northey
Knights of St Columba

Archbishop Longley prays for persecuted Christians at the Easter Vigil Mass at St Chad’s

Ten people were baptised or received into full communion at the Easter Vigil Mass at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham.   In his words of welcome to the ten, Archbishop Bernard Longley said : “As you receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit together in this Easter confirmation may you always use the Spirit’s gift of courage to bear witness to the impact of Christ’s resurrection in your lives.” Archbishop Longley told the congregation they were united worldwide with all those who declare that Jesus is risen – and he prayed for Christians who are declaring their faith in the face of persecution:  “Tonight we are caught up personally and as a community in the joy of the Gospel since the resurrection is the chief joy of the Good News that we are called to broadcast to others. The joy and hope that the resurrection brings is needed more than ever this year as we contemplate the impact of intolerance and violence upon so many communities and families.  Holy Week invites us to pray in solidarity with the Christian communities of the Middle East who have been savagely persecuted or forced to leave their homes because they will not renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.  Their desperate suffering also makes us conscious of other minority groups in Asia and Africa, including many Muslims, who are persecuted because they will not conform.”

Archbishop Longley said the message of the resurrection is that a new life and light spring out from the destruction and darkness of trial and judgment, suffering and death and that Jesus Christ brings hope to all humanity, irrespective of culture or creed, ability or achievement; he referred to the  women who were chosen to be the first witnesses and messengers of the resurrection:  “St Luke says that these women include Mary of Magdala, Joanna (whom we meet earlier in the Gospel as the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza) and Mary the mother of James.  These three were among the women followers of Jesus who ministered to him in Galilee out of their own resources.  In Luke Chapter 8 they are described as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments and we can imagine the feelings of gratitude and affection with which they followed our Lord. Jesus had changed their way of life, just as he had transformed the lives of the apostles.  But unlike most of the apostles these women found the courage to stay close to Jesus in his suffering and death on Calvary and to comfort his mother in company with the beloved disciple John.  Those women, in whose lives the mercy of God had brought about the great change imaginable, were chosen to be the first to see the empty tomb and to take this news to the apostles.  Only Peter, who had emerged from the trauma of betraying Jesus, was able to recognise the truth of their testimony.  Only when we ourselves have experienced forgiveness, healing and new life in Christ can we be effective ambassadors of his mercy.”

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Mass of Thanksgiving for Bishop Pat McKinney

A Mass of thanksgiving for the newly appointed Bishop of Nottingham, Patrick McKinney, has taken place at St Chad’s Cathedral. Bishop Pat was a priest of the Archdiocese of Birmingham before being ordained to the episcopate in July and many of his  former parishoners in Stourbridge  travelled in to St Chad’s for the celebration. During the Mass Bishop Pat was presented with  a new Crozier, made in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter by the same craftsman who made the silverware for the Beatification of Cardinal Newman by Pope Benedict XV1 at Cofton Park five years ago — Desmond McCarthy from Avon Silversmiths,  a parishioner of Corpus Christi, Stechford, Birmingham.

Desmond McCarthy with Bishop Pat Mckinney

Desmond McCarthy with Bishop Pat Mckinney

Archbishop Bernard Longley said that over the years, wherever Bishop Pat had  served, he was very conscious of the responsibilities entrusted to him in furtherance of the mission of the Archdiocese and had been  dedicated and conscientious.  He said the clergy, Religious and lay faithful of Nottingham will find in him a devoted pastor.    The Archbishop said that as Bishop Pat leads his people in the years ahead he will see the cross of St Chad set in the crook of his crozier and be reminded of the prayers and affection of his old diocesan family.   Bishop Pat expressed his heartfelt thanks and assured the people of the Archdiocese that he would remember them in prayer.

Bishop Pat  was born on 30th April 1954,  the eldest son of Patrick and Bridget McKinney.  He was brought up in Birmingham and began his studies for the priesthood at in St Mary’s College, Oscott, the Archdiocese of Birmingham’s seminary for the training of priests, in 1972; he was ordained to the priesthood on 29th July 1978 in St Mary’s Church, Buncrana, Co Donegal, Ireland, where his family lives.

After his Ordination he was appointed assistant priest in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Yardley Wood, Birmingham, and chaplain to St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, Kings Norton, Birmingham. Between 1982 and 1984, he was a student at the Gregorian Pontifical University, Rome, where he gained a Licence in Sacred Theology. Returning to the Archdiocese of Birmingham, he taught fundamental theology in St Mary’s College until 1989, when he was appointed Rector of St Mary’s College, a post he held for nine years, during which period he was also a lecturer in ecclesiology, the theology of the Church.

2015-09-21-10.57.57He left the College in 1998, and until 2001 he was parish priest of St John’s, Great Haywood, and Episcopal Vicar for the north of the Archdiocese of Birmingham. He left the parish in 2001, remaining as Episcopal Vicar until 2006 when he was appointed parish priest of Our Lady and All Saints, Stourbridge and Dean of the Dudley Deanery.

He was made a Prelate of Honour in 1990 and a member of the Metropolitan Chapter of St Chad in 1992, and  served for a time as Chair of the Birmingham Archdiocesan Ecumenical Commission.

He was appointed tenth Bishop of Nottingham in succession to Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, on 14th May 2015, and was ordained to the episcopate by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, in St Barnabas’ Cathedral, Nottingham on Friday 3rd July 2015.

Lourdes Encore

Birmingham shares its week in Lourdes with fellow pilgrims and friends from the dioceses of Middlesbrough and Plymouth. Following our inter-diocesan Mass Mgr Charlie Cavanagh, former pilgrimage director for the Scottish diocese of Paisley who travelled with Birmingham for our anniversary, is pictured in front of the Grotto with Canon Gerry Breen greeting newly appointed Chaplain d’honneur for Lourdes Fr Paul Farrer. Until recently Fr Paul was the director for Middlesbrough, and he continues to serve his diocese as Vocations Director and Youth Chaplain.

During the week Middlesbrough diocese presented Birmingham with a cake to mark the anniversary of our 75th pilgrimage. A celebration was held with the sick in the accueil.

Canon Gerry Breen
St Chad’s, Birmingham

Archbishop Longley and SVP Members Receive Cheque from Charity ‘Lovebrum’

A branch of the poverty charity, the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), which hands out food at a Birmingham city centre soup kitchen has won funding that will secure its work for a year. The SVP group, from Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Redditch, was one of the winners in a competition run by the charity ‘Lovebrum’ which supports smaller charities in the Midlands. The group had to post a short film about its work on Lovebrum’s website under the title ‘Serve Our Brummies’. Registered members of Lovebrum then voted for who they thought should win, with eight charities vying for the cash. The SVP group will receive two and a half thousand pounds; a spokesman for Lovebrum expressed delight that the charity’s members loved ‘Serve Our Brummies’ so much and said the award was well deserved and just the start of a relationship which could see further funding in the future.

The Redditch SVP group turns up twice a month to hand out food and clothing to the homeless at the Birmingham City Centre Soup Kitchen, which helps between seventy and one-hundred-and-forty people in need every night. It is one of six SVP groups from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, which supports the Soup Kitchen project. The group’s Steve Martin welcomed the award, saying ‘it shows how the people of Birmingham are aware of the need to support those most vulnerable in the city.’

Bernadette Kehoe
Birmingham

St Chad’s Association Mass

On Sunday 14th June, Archbishop Bernard Longley celebrated the Association of St Chad’s Mass in the beautiful adorned cathedral of St Chad.

The closure of the Flower Festival served as a stunning backdrop for the Mass and a pertinent setting for His Grace to comment on the Pope’s forthcoming encyclical on the environment: ‘We are told that its title is Laudato Sii, calling to mind the words of the psalm May you be praised, O Lord.  It is expected that Pope Francis will focus on human dignity and compassion for the world’s most vulnerable people, on human ecology and care for creation, and on authentic human development.’

The Archbishop spoke of how the flower festival reflected on the parables and presented the opportunity of a mini-pilgrimage, changing us in some way as we ponder each display. He compared this to the purpose of the Pope’s encyclical letter which will assist us in reflecting on the way we treat the human lives of our neighbours, and help us focus on the environment which we share with them.

To read Archbishop Longley’s homily in full, please click here: StChad’sAssociationMass150614

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Romero Mass 2014

Tuesday 24 March 2015 was the 35th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s martyrdom and the sixth Romero Mass at St Chad’s Cathedral.

The day started with 100 Year Nine students from schools across the Diocese taking part in a CAFOD “Dragon’s Den”. In an energetic workshop, teams had to prepare to ‘pitch’ an idea for a development project to a panel made up of CAFOD volunteers and teachers. The teams were enthusiastic in learning about the communities of El Salvador and the challenges they face.

The schools joined others for the Diocesan Romero Mass in St Chad’s Cathedral, where music was provided by students of Hagley High School, the readers by Bishop Challoner Catholic College and the gifts were offered by St Chad’s Primary School.

Bishop David McGough presided at the Mass and his homily reflected on the hope and the joy of the Resurrection, enabling CAFOD staff and volunteers to continue to do their work despite being faced daily with human suffering, saying “because we believe we share in Christ’s death and resurrection, we die to poverty, violence and injustice and we are raised up in Him who is perfect justice”. Bishop David spoke of Oscar Romero’s devotion to working in Christ’s name and of his example to all who work to create God’s Kingdom: “In giving we are part of Christ; we reach out to others, because in doing so we become part of Him”

Clare Dixon, Head of Latin America at CAFOD and a founding trustee of the Archbishop Romero Trust spoke at a reception after Mass. Clare has worked in Latin America for many years and has witnessed Romero’s legacy in the people of many countries. Clare said of Archbishop Romero: “in his life through his homilies, broadcast on radio across the country, he was always the voice of the voiceless; in his death he became the name of the nameless”. In 1978, CAFOD funded the rebuilding of the radio station which broadcast Romero’s homilies, when it was blown up by those who opposed Romero; Clare spoke of Romero’s homilies ringing through the streets of El Salvador every Sunday from radios in homes and cars. Romero called on us all to be “microphones of God”.

For many in Latin America, Romero has been long-hailed a saint and so his beatification in May this year will be a time of great celebration of the first Central American saint. Clare gave a simple summary of Romero from the point of view of the Salvadorian people:

“he spoke the truth, he defended the poor and so they killed him”

Day for Consecrated Life at St Chad’s

Once again in this Year for Consecrated Life Religious men and women including those from the Anglican Church gathered in the Grimshaw Room and St Chad’s Cathedral on Saturday 7 February.

The Day included Congratulations to those who were celebrating Jubilees this year; the opportunity to hear from and greet Archbishop Bernard and sympathise with him on the recent death of his father Fred and to receive input from Sister Una O’Neill a Religious Sister of Charity who came from Dublin to speak to us. Sr Una’s Theme was; ‘Living Religious Life with Passion’.Una reminded us that our lives only make sense if we are committed body and soul to the person of Jesus. In our reality there is always darkness and light. Many people in our world today are dispossessed and voiceless. Our call as consecrated women and men is to be a light in the darkness and to convey hope. It has been said that: ‘Hope is most a virtue when there is least to justify it’. Even in times of difficulty we set our hearts on Christ and his promise of life. We have choices to make: to be life-giving; to be compassionate; to be generous. Sometimes we get so caught up in theories and discussions and fears that we fail to see the obvious. To illustrate this Una told the story of the King who bought two falcons and delighted to watch them fly high in the sky each day. After some time he noticed that only one falcon was flying each day and he sent for the falconer to ask the reason. The falconer told him that no matter how much he tried to encourage the second falcon to fly he wouldn’t move from his perch. The king advised the falconer to speak to the local farmer who was a wise man. Next day he was pleased that both falcons were flying again. The king asked the farmer how this had come about. The farmer replied: ‘I just sawed off the branch on which the falcon was sitting.’

2015-02-06 12.35.13Una encouraged us to choose life and walk alongside those who are in the twilight zone. She reminded us of Pope Francis words on his recent visit to the Philippines when he spoke to the people who were in distress because of the frequent natural disasters: ‘All I can do is walk with you and I walk with you with my silent heart’.

On the Opening Day of a Magnificent Cathedral a man was admiring the building when a young girl asked him: ‘Do you like this Church Mister?’ He replied that he did and she went on to say: ‘I’m glad you like it because I helped to build it’. The man said: ‘You are a young girl, how could you help to build this magnificent Cathedral?’ The girl replied: ‘My daddy is a bricklayer and he was working on this Cathedral and I brought him his lunch every day.’ Each person contribution is important even though it may seem very little.

As Consecrated women and men we need to stop asking the questions of yesterday. We can focus on the past to avoid engaging with the present and the future. Like St. Joseph we need to believe the promise we have been given: The Magi had a Star, the Shepherds had a Song but Joseph only had a Promise and he trusted that the Promise would be fulfilled. As in the words of the Hymn: ‘We walk by Faith and not by sight’. We are no longer in control as we were in the past in schools and hospitals. It is important that we are what we say we are and keep our spirit of Joy. We need to follow the ‘ninth’ beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are able to laugh at themselves, they will never cease to be amused.

2015-02-06 13.12.21Archbishop Bernard’s Homily

Bishop Bernard quoted from the Reading from the Song of Songs: ‘Set me as a seal on your forehead, a seal on your heart like a seal on your arm. Christ is the seal on our forehead because we always profess him, the seal on our heart because we always love him and the seal on our arms because we are always working for him. Religious have a life in Community and a common purpose. Many belong to National and International groups but their contribution to the life of the Archdiocese is very important and the local Church would be impoverished without its Religious men and women. Jesus asks us to carry our Yoke and as a carpenter he knew the importance of the yoke corresponding to the shoulder of the bearer.
Special Congratulations were offered to this year’s Jubilarians some of whom were unable to be present:

Sr Jacinta Mary – Little Sister of the Poor
Sr Marian Elizabeth – Little Sister of Poor
Sr Therese O’Neill – Sister of Charity of St. Paul
Sr Catherine Burke – Sister of Charity of St. Paul
Sr Regina Mary – Sister of Divine Love
Sr Mary Stella – Carmelite Sister
Sr Mary of Jesus – Carmelite Sister

All present renewed their vows concluding with words:
‘We continue to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to serve God and the Church, and to spread the kingdom of Christ with love and zeal.