This is the last e-News update before Christmas – now just a few days away!
Here, after the Masses of Christmas in the Cathedral (10 pm Night Mass and 10 am Morning Mass), we have a special meal in the Discovery Centre for the housebound, the elderly and the sick. We then have our own Christmas dinner in Bishop’s House in the early evening. The next morning on St. Stephen’s Day, after early Mass, I will be going up to Manchester for a few days to be with my brothers, their wives and families. I am looking forward to some good Northern air once again!
Meanwhile, I thank you for your support and I wish you a blessed Christmas with many graces from the Lord for the New Year. Please pray for me.
This coming Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit, at Mass is the Rorate Caeli.
Some may be familiar with the Advent tradition of Rorate Caeli Mass celebrated by candlelight just before dawn in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary which takes its name from this antiphon.
Here is recording of the chant along with an English translation.
Each week founder of the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the theologian and best-selling author, Dr Scott Hahn, offers a wonderful reflection on the readings for the coming Sunday.
What is announced to Mary in this coming Sunday's Gospel is the revelation of all that the prophets had spoken. It is, as Paul declares in the Second Reading from Romans, the mystery kept secret since before the foundation of the world.
Jesus has been made known, Paul says, to bring all nations to the obedience of faith. We are called with Mary, to marvel at all that the Lord has done throughout the ages for our salvation. And we too, must respond to this annunciation with humble obedience – that His will be done, that our lives be lived according to His word.
Read his complete reflection for this coming Sunday - and sign up to receive the reflections each week by e-mail here.
As this week's eNews is a double issue, we have a double helping from Jennifer Geach's Advent Reflections, looking both back at last Sunday and forward to next weekend.
In her Advent Reflection for Gaudete Sunday she reminds us that, whatever season we are in, the reason for our rejoicing is always the same: the Lord is near. She also consider the "O" Antiphons which appear in Evening Prayer during these last days of Advent. You can reads the full reflection here.
For the 4th Sunday of Advent, Jennifer considers how some of us may feel that, with the shortness of the Advent season this year, that Christmas has caught us by surprise, and found us unprepared, unready. Not just in the secular sense of not obtaining presents, or preparing the menus for the season: but spiritually as well. You can read the full reflection here.
Bishop Barron reflects on the Nativity narrative from St Luke's Gospel (1:26-38) which we hear at Midnight Mass.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
This Christmas, as a help to the work of evangelisation across the Diocese, I wish to give a gift to everyone who comes to Christmas Mass – not only to the regularly practising but to all the Christmas attendees.
A generous donor has provided me with 40,000 copies of Matthew Kelly’s best-selling book, Rediscover Jesus, for distribution to all the faithful of our Diocese of Portsmouth. For more on this gift, see here.
Over the next week, every parish will be receiving their allotment of books, enough for the usual numbers of practising Catholics, plus many more for the Christmas attendance. I suggest the books are handed out to each person at the end of the Christmas Masses as people leave church. Some parishes are gift-wrapping the books and others are planning to invite readers to a follow-up meeting in January to discuss it.
Hope you enjoy it. May it help all of us in our efforts at “Bringing people closer to Jesus Christ through His Church.”
Make sure you get your copy.
Please remember the annual diocesan day of prayer on Sunday 31st December, the Feast of the Holy Family, to pray for those in the ministry of Safeguarding. This is our annual diocesan day of prayer for children and vulnerable adults, for the victims of abuse and for all who work in the ministry of safeguarding.
Just as Mary and Joseph created a safe home-environment for Jesus, so too on this day especially, let us pray that the Church in all her contexts will be a safe haven for our children and for the vulnerable. Indeed, for all their efforts, let us thank God today for the work of our diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator, for the members of the Safeguarding Commission and for all who serve so generously in our parishes as safeguarding representatives.
Member of Parliament for Meon Valley, George Hollingbery, who is also Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, has kindly followed up my concerns with the Minister of State responsible for Africa.
The Minister of State has responded with assurances that the Government is closely following the situation in North West and South West Cameroon. The British High Commissioner in Yaoundé has raised concerns over the handling of the protests in the Anglophone region with both the Prime Minister and Minister of External Relations, asking the Cameroonian Government to exercise restraint, pursue dialogue and take action to reduce tensions.
I am hoping to visit Bamenda in February and to meet with Archbishop Cornelius. In the meantime, please keep him and his clergy and people in your prayers.
On behalf of us all, I wish to acknowledge a huge debt of gratitude to Fr. John Cooke, ably assisted by Clare Ryan, for all the good work in organising our annual diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Both he and Clare labour in front of the scene and behind it to make the pilgrimage a great success.
However, we are taking the opportunity to review and thoroughly rethink the format of the pilgrimage and its many and various arrangements, so we will not be running the usual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes in summer 2018.
During this pause, if you have any ideas or suggestions to help the review, please e-mail them to Fr John.
Next year, we are planning a big diocesan Symposium to be held in Winchester called “Science - or - Religion?” This is always a hot topic, and I have invited two key speakers: Professor Brian Cox, professor of physics from the University of Manchester and well-known BBC broadcaster, and Dr. Andrew Pinsent from the Oxford University Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion. In addition there will be optional workshops for participants to join depending on their interests. These include “Christianity and Extra-Terrestrial Life”, “What is Consciousness?” and “The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.”
For more, see here.
Transgender issues are rarely out of the news these days, especially when they arise in our schools. As Catholics, our first reaction to someone conflicted in this way is always one of love and compassion, with a sincere desire to help and support the other person, as a beloved child of God. Another important principle is the distinction between sex and sexual identity (the objective sex into which a person is born, male or female) and gender and gender characteristics (the emotional dispositions or traits characteristic of femininity or masculinity). Being male or female is an essential property of who we are as persons. For example, a man simply cannot as a male ‘gestate’ children. Men do not have such a potency, but women do. Thus, being male or female is essential to what we are. ‘Femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ are gender terms and refer to specific traits or dispositions. A male can have feminine-like characteristics and vice versa.
There is much potential confusion as well as harm here, especially when, as Pope Francis has repeatedly warned, gender ideologies take over. I am hopeful that at some point soon the Roman Magisterium and our own Bishops’ Conference will issue some teaching and guidance on these complex and often controversial issues. Meanwhile, I am grateful to Edmund Adamus, our Advisor on Education, for drawing my attention to a recent statement “Created Male and Female” from the US Bishops in liaison with other faith leaders.
You can read it here.
In Avon Stour Pastoral Area, our ‘Welcome to Worship’ evenings are one key element in our ‘making disciples’ mission – giving people an opportunity to explore their own spirituality and encounter Jesus in a non-threatening, non-judgemental, non-pressured environment, and increasing the senses of welcome and belonging to a community.
Anyone and everyone is welcome to join us for these! Our next one will be just after Christmas (Wednesday 10th January) in Southbourne, near Bournemouth.
Further details here.
Some of the young people who make up the Soul Food Youth Group at St Michael’s Leigh Park made Helping the Homeless their Advent Mission. Parishioners, as well as families at St Thomas More School, Bedhampton, gave very generously in response to the appeal to fill rucksacks with anything necessary to someone living rough at this time. Some of the young people are pictured sorting out the gifts, accompanied by Diaconate Student Nick O’Neill who leads the group.
I recently came across this prayer for the homeless – please offer it for them this Christmas.
During Advent, children at St Swithun Wells Primary School in Chandlers Ford have been collecting gifts for the elderly residents of Marie Louise Care Home in Romsey. Children, staff and parents collected a Christmas present label from our Giving Tree where each label had the name of a resident on it and brought back a wrapped present. Children then delivered the presents to the care home, entertaining the residents with carols and spending time talking to them.
The school community was incredibly generous and their gifts were very much appreciated. The children recognised that they brought the Advent message of joy to those at Marie Louise House.
In common with many of our Catholic schools, Saint Mary’s Independent School in Southampton offered an Advent Service of Readings and carols in preparation for Christmas.
They are always grateful for the hospitality of St. Edmund Church in the centre of Southampton.
Among those attending were members of Finance, Administration, Personnel, IT, Schools and Academies Office (CASO), Educational Chaplaincies, Archives, Clergy Support, Property, Safeguarding and Bishop's Office.
At the beginning of the gathering, Fr PJ Smith who heads up the Department for Educational Chaplaincies addressed the meeting speaking about what has been happening across his department in the past year, especially in terms of Youth work under the patronage of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Patron of of Catholic Youth.
Deacon Craig Aburn - Executive Assistant to the Bishop
Deacon Craig Aburn has been working for me part-time as my Executive Assistant for nearly two years and is responsible for co-ordinating and editing this weekly e-News for me and looking after the Diocesan Social Media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. He is also responsible for Liturgical Planning of Confirmation Masses in conjunction with the Coordinating Pastors.
Outside Bishop's Office, Deacon Craig is Parish Deacon in Aldershot working with Fr Anthony Glaysher and Deacon Tony D'Mello. His parish work includes chaplaincy work in St Joseph's Primary Academy, the Parish Primary School and Lead Catechist for First Holy Communion preparation as well as varied pastoral work and managing the Parish website and social media.
He has been married to Nicki, a Nursery Assistant, for 22 years and they have two children.
His interests include Scouting, in which he has been involved since childhood and over 20 years in leadership roles. He is a Queen's Scout and currently District Chairman of Blackwater Valley Scout District.
I wish to thank on our behalf Fr. Peter Hollins for the splendid job he has done as the chair of our Pastoral Care Services (see Framework 6.1.4 in the Directory). Fr. Peter is stepping down from chairing this sub-department and will in future become its chaplain. I thank him in advance for taking on this role.
In his stead, I am pleased to announce that Philippa Foster, a parishioner from Abingdon parish, who is an accountant and Finance Director with experience of restructuring, has agreed henceforth to be chair . Please pray for her and for everyone across the parishes of our Diocese involved in the pastoral care of parishioners.
Ryan Browne is a parishioner from Our Lady Queen of Peace parish in Southbourne. He is currently in his last year as an undergraduate at the University of Exeter, where he is studying Philosophy and Theology. Recently, he went on retreat at Buckfast Abbey in Devon for a “Come & See Vocations Weekend.” He has written up his experience for us here.
Please continue to prioritise prayers for vocations to all states of life and ministry in the Diocese, but especially to the priesthood. Here is the prayer from the Roman Missal:
O God, who willed to provide shepherds for your people,
pour out in your Church a spirit of piety and fortitude,
to raise up worthy ministers for your altars
and make them ardent yet gentle heralds of your Gospel.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen
The new issue of Portsmouth People will soon be hitting the pews at Christmas.
Do keep an eye out for your copy.
If you can't wait for a hard copy, you can read it here.
I would like to encourage all readers to send in items for the e-News about events in parishes, pastoral areas and schools about the many sacramental celebrations and general good news about people in the diocese.
I often hear much Good News from many people - do share it with us so we can share it with others in the diocese.
Thanks, of course, to all who already contribute articles for the e-News on an occasional or regular basis.
Please e-mail all news items by Friday for consideration for the following week's issue to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have a Parish or Diocesan event to advertise, please complete this form.
Friday 22nd December
Seminarians Christmas Gathering, Bishop’s House
Sunday 24th December
10pm – Mass of Christmas Night, St John’s Cathedral
Monday 25th December
10am - Mass of Christmas Day, St John’s Cathedral
Tuesday 2nd January 2018
Bishop’s Office Meeting
Thursday 4th January
Interviews for Director of Communications, Bishop’s House
Planning meeting for engaged couples event, Bishop’s House
Friday 5th January
Various meetings, Bishop’s House
Meeting and Mass with Communion and Liberation, Reading
Saturday 6th January
Dialogue with Sectors Team Meeting, Bishop’s House
Individual meetings with retired clergy
Saturday 6th January 2018
ABLAZE! Catholic Music ConcertBethel Convention Centre, West Bromwich
Monday 8th January 2018
Winchester Catholic History Group
Talk on The Vowess, A Forgotten Vocation by Dr Laura Wood
St Peter's Church, Winchester
Saturday 27th January 2018Alton Day of Renewal
Part time - 14 hours per week (Thursday and Friday)
The Catholic Academies & Schools Office (CASO) in Portsmouth are looking to appoint an Administrative Assistant to support their work with the schools in the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth. This will be an interesting and varied role and would be suitable for an existing Clerk to the Governors, or those with an interest in school administration.
Closing date for applications: Thursday 18th January 2018
Interview date: Wednesday 24th January 2018
Part time - 6 hrs per week to be worked at times required ensuring effective financial administration of the Parish (Flexible working to be agreed).
The Parish of Corpus Christi in Wokingham is looking to appoint a part time Parish Bookkeeper to provide financial services to the Parish.
Commencement Date: As soon as possible
Closing date for applications: Monday 15th January 2018 (4.00pm)
Interviews will take place on: Wednesday 7th February 2018
The Canonisation of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Patron of our Youth.
The repose of the souls of all who have died recently and for all those killed through acts of warfare, violence, terrorism and natural disaster. For all departed clergy and people of the diocese and for all the Faithful Departed. Requiescant in pace.
The work of the Apostleship of the Sea.
The work of Caritas Diocese of Portsmouth and Caritas Jersey and those with whom they work.
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