In the world, in the shops, on TV and everywhere, Christmas seems to be in full swing! However, the Liturgy reminds us that this is Advent, and only the first week! Let's try and find time and space for prayer these next days in order to keep things in their true perspective. Meanwhile, sad to say, I have had to say farewell to Jackie Emmerson who has been helping me in Bishop's Office these last four years. She left Bishop's Office last week and I'm going to miss her badly. Please say a prayer she enjoys her new endeavours going forward. Thanks as ever to Deacon Craig for his work on e-News - and also for taking over from Jackie the various duties that need to be done. Have a good week ahead - and may God bless you.
Saturday this week, 8th December, is the great Feastday of our Diocese, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. Please do try to get to Mass. Not to be confused with the virgin birth of the Lord, the Immaculate Conception is about how God acted in an extraordinary way in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that from the very first moment of her own conception, she was rescued from the power of original sin. God’s plan of salvation was for His Son, Jesus Christ to save us from sin through His death and resurrection. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary meant that Christ, who received His human flesh from His Mother, received it from one who, by a singular gift from God, herself comes into this world without original sin. Thus a new creation, the re-creation of the world, begins! This does not mean that Christ's Mother did not need a Saviour or that somehow she saved herself. In fact, it means the opposite. Christ saved her in an extraordinary way, “in advance, if you like, and gave her a holiness that she did not achieve for herself. In this way the new creation could begin, first with Christ, then with Mary and subsequently with us, who through baptism are cleansed of Original Sin and restored to the holiness of God’s children. Happy Feastday on Saturday!
Click on the picture above for a brief video explanation from Fr. Mike Schmitz
Next Sunday’s Psalm paints a dream-like scene—a road filled with liberated captives heading home to Zion (Jerusalem), mouths filled with laughter, tongues rejoicing. It’s a glorious picture from Israel’s past, a “new exodus,” the deliverance from exile in Babylon. It’s being recalled in a moment of obvious uncertainty and anxiety. But the psalmist isn’t waxing nostalgic. Remembering “the Lord has done great things” in the past, he is making an act of faith and hope—that God will come to Israel in its present need, that He’ll do even greater things in the future. This is what the Advent readings are all about: We recall God’s saving deeds—in the history of Israel and in the coming of Jesus. Our remembrance is meant to stir our faith, to fill us with confidence that, as the Second Reading puts it, “the One who began a good work in [us] will continue to complete it” until He comes again in glory. Each of us, the Liturgy teaches, is like Israel in her exile—led into captivity by our sinfulness, in need of restoration, conversion by the Word of the Holy One. The lessons of salvation history should teach us that, as God again and again delivered Israel, in His mercy He will free us from our attachments to sin, if we turn to Him in repentance...
Read Scott Hahn's complete reflection for this coming Sunday here.
St Luke opens his account of the ministry of John the Baptist by naming the current emperor, governor kings, high priests…Why is this important? Why do these people need to feature in his Gospel, in the Word of God? In this webinar, we’ll reflect on the historicity of the Gospel. The events recounted truly happened in human time and space, and were seen not only by believers but by everyone. Luke is also keen to build bridges with the Old Testament. Our human history is a history of salvation, where God enters human reality and opens it up, in time, to his divine eternity.
We’ll reflect on:
Faith: Do we dare to believe that God entered human history and changed its course forever?
Hope: Do we dare to trust that God enters our own personal history and can transform it?
Love: How is our love for God and others an agent of change in our own time?
The secular world is rolling into the Christmas, or I should rather say, the holiday season. Shops are full of tinsel and gifts: offices, schools and even, alas, parishes are organising their ‘Christmas’ lunches and parties. (Why do we do this? Surely we might put up a tiny resistance to secular values and mores by having the parish Christmas party in Christmas tide – say at Epiphany, when parishioners who might be away for Christmas would likely have returned home?) The secular holiday frenzy begins even before Halloween, and stops dead on Christmas day. But for us Christians it should be quite different: the liturgical season that we are embarking on is the season of Advent, the season of the coming. Our mother, the Church gives us four Sundays to prepare for the Coming of the King, and by the readings on Sundays and through the week directs our attention in two directions at once.
Read the full reflection here.
One of the best summaries of the life of St. Oscar is the one given on the Caritas Australia website. You can read it here. It’s only a page long but it gives you the basics. Over the next weeks, I hope to give some quotations for his sermons and writings, as he is an inspiring figure for us today. In 1977, as he prayed beside the body of the murdered priest, his friend Fr. Rutilio Grande, he realised that if he were to follow things through to their final consequences it would, as he wrote, “put me on the road to Calvary”. He made at that point a fundamental option for the poor and it took him to his martyrdom. Asked what that mysterious but challenging phrase, beloved of Latin American liberation theology, “preferential love for the poor,” sometimes “option for the poor,” means, he replied: “I offer you this by way of example. A building is on fire and you’re watching it burn, standing and wondering if everyone is safe. Then someone tells you that your mother and your sister are inside that building. Your attitude changes completely. You’re frantic; your mother and sister are burning and you’d do anything to rescue them even at the cost of getting charred. That’s what it means to be truly committed. If we look at poverty from the outside, as if we’re looking at a fire, that’s not to opt for the poor, no matter how concerned we may be. We should get inside as if our own mother and sister were burning. Indeed it’s Christ who is there, hungry and suffering.”
Paul O'Beirne, Formation for Mission Team Lead for Liturgy with Children writes...
Many of us need a list of Sundays with dates and other relevant events to organise rotas. There is now a Word document giving the dates, Sunday, Gospel reference, the gospel theme, other events (such as school holiday and national campaigns) and the liturgical colour. Its original purpose was for the Children's Liturgy rota. It can be downloaded and use directly as a rota or adapted. You will find it here; please pass-on the link to any organisers who may need it.
This is a useful resource to use alongside the main Diocesan Ordo. The new edition for the current liturgical year can be found here.
The young people of our Diocese invite you to join them for the diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes next summer, from 25th to 30th July 2019.
This summer we had an exhilarating Diocesan Youth Pilgrimage to Lourdes with a group of young people from Fareham, Reading and other parts of the Diocese together with nearly 20 FOCUS youth from the United States. We did all the usual pilgrimage exercises including Mass at the Grotto, the Torchlight Procession, the Blessed Sacrament Procession, the International Mass, going into the Baths, a trip out to Gavarnie etc. We are now planning for next year and we hope to have the FOCUS members plus about 30 of our youth, and together they will be leading the Pilgrimage. We will all stay together in the same hotel and share the same programme. The youth will invite the sick, the elderly, families and individuals to join them as pilgrims. It will be a five or six day pilgrimage in the week after the end of school term. So do save the dates: 25th - 30th July 2019. More details coming soon.
Last week, on all our behalf, I wrote to Harriett Baldwin MP, the Minister for Africa about a recent UK government statement released after the re-election of President Biya of Cameroon. You can read the government statement here. In my letter, I said “I am deeply concerned about the deterioration of security in [Cameroon]. Recently, a young seminarian of the Diocese in Bamenda was shot dead by the security forces. I would appreciate an update of how the Government proposes to follow-up the statement you made last month. I would also be grateful to know what pressure our Government is putting on the Government of Cameroon to address the crisis.” I also mentioned Fr. Cosmos Oboto Ondari, the Mill Hill Missionary priest, who was killed in Mamfe in Cameroon a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, on behalf of us all, I sent a note of sympathy and prayers to Fr. Liam Cummins and to Fr. Michael Corcoran, the superior of the MHMs in Maidenhead. It is crucial that we continue to pray for the peoples of Cameroon, for a change of hearts and minds, and for peace, reconciliation and justice. Please remember too our four wonderful Bamenda priests working in our Diocese of Portsmouth: Frs. George, Bernadine, Elijah and Emmanuel. They worry constantly about their families and friends back home.
For much of last week, I was in Ireland. I was invited to speak at a Transformed Parish Conference held in two places, in Maynooth and in Clonmel. The conference was organised by Tim Nichols, leader of Cine Catholic Leaders Network and by Alpha Ireland. I spoke in the morning and then a second speaker, Paul Donders of xpand International spoke in the afternoon. There were large numbers of people there, including several bishops, many priests, parish leaders, and others committed to the work of evangelisation, with prayer and worship led by NET ministries. There was a real buzz in the air. Last year’s speaker was Fr. James Mallon and he sent a short video message and greeting. Hannah Vaughan Spruce also sent a video message about the next Divine Renovation conference to be held in Birmingham next February. In the afternoon, Paul Donders spoke about pastoral leadership and how to build strong teams within the parish. I gave two talks, one on the Diocesan Vision statement Bringing People Closer to Jesus Christ through His Church and one on developing co-responsibility between laity and clergy. I spoke about “near” and “far” evangelisation and the proximate goal (the individual person) and the ultimate goal (baptising culture) of evangelisation. I also shared many of the things being done in the Diocese in relation to evangelisation, especially initiatives inspired by Sherry Weddell, Fr. James Mallon and Curtis Martin of FOCUS. Click here for the slides. The picture above is of the beautiful Glencomeragh House of Prayer near Clonmel, where we stayed overnight: you can click on the picture for a brief video about it. It used to belong to the Rosminians, but now the Diocese runs it as a place for a Youth Formation Community (18-30 year olds) and for those who wish to go away on retreat.
Last week, I attended a Mass of celebration with families in the parish whose child had been baptised over the previous year. After Mass, we had a party for the families; during the party, I saw a very small child, obviously new to walking, toddling towards her father, with a delighted look on her face. Her father, keen to avoid her falling over, moved toward her to shorten the distance between himself and her, but not all the way, so that she would have the pleasure of reaching him by her own effort. It was a beautiful scene, which put into my mind the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Note how God our Father grants us the resolve to run towards Him (and His Christ). We may be bringing "righteous deeds" with us, but our goal, to possess His heavenly kingdom, is dependent on our being "gathered at His right hand". It is God Who gathers us by His grace, but His will is that we should still run towards Him.It reminds us of another scene from scripture which involves running: the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The son had started his journey home, but "while he was still a long way away", the father "ran towards" the son (Lk 15:20). So let's ask the Lord for the grace, in this blessed season of Advent, to make a move back to Him. When we take those first hesitant steps, even if we still have a long way to go, we will find with joy, that He is already running towards us.
Stuck for Christmas present ideas, fed up with giving the usual Christmas socks or bubble bath why not give a life-changing gift instead! Each CAFOD World Gift has been chosen for the real and lasting difference it makes to families living in developing countries. There is something for every budget from Happy Queen Bee at £4 to Help a Refugee Child at £46. CAFOD World Gift catalogues are available in your churches or you can buy online.
This year we have new gift of Wonderful Worms only £10. By buying these worms you can help a farmer grow good quality tasty vegetables to feed their family. Razia from Bangladesh told us "The worm-produced compost reduced my hardship and now I can feed my family three meals a day.” Razia lives in Lebutala, Bangladesh. She has a small plot of land where she grows vegetables to feed her family. She used to struggle to grow enough food to feed her family even two meals a day. The soil quality was very poor and made worse by using chemical fertilisers. Razia’s life was transformed by some amazing squirming worms. CAFOD gave her a kilogram of earthworms and trained her how to make rich compost for her land with them. Today, Razia grows more than enough to feed her family and sells the extra vegetables at the market. And the worms have been so productive, she also sells the extra they make to local farmers! So this Christmas change lives around the world by giving World Gifts or why not consider fundraising together as a parish and raise money for one of the community gifts for example Marvellous Moo Cow £150, Community Water Supply £750 or Health Clinic £4000!
Here is another book I happily recommend to you. It’s by Fr. Norman Tanner SJ, who is nowadays a member of the Jesuit community with us in the Diocese in Bournemouth. For a long time, he was based at Campion Hall Oxford (1978-2003) and then the Gregorian University in Rome (2003-2015). His expertise is in church history and especially the Councils of the Church. His books, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (1990) and The Councils of the Church: A Short History (2001) I used to recommend to students when I was teaching at Oscott. In 2011, he produced a very easy to read and fascinating New Short History of the Catholic Church which subsequently came out in paperback, the cover of which you can see here. It gives a concise and balanced overview of the various periods of church history: from Pentecost to the fourth century, the early Middle Ages up to 1054, the central and late Middle Ages , then early modern Catholicism (1500-1800) and the last two centuries. I would recommend it for your bookshelf – and it would make a great gift for Christmas!
This year 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae – outling the Church’s teaching on the transmission of human life. One of the fruits of this encyclical was the development of natural methods of family planning and fertility awareness designed to help people (women of reproductive age, engaged and married couples) to discover more about the innate dignity of their bodies and the gift of fertility.
The Creighton Model FertilityCare system is a method of Natural Fertility Awareness and Family Planning which is very effective in achieving or avoiding pregnancy using standardised observations seen during a woman's monthly cycle. These same observations can be used to detect any gynaecological abnormalities and infertility, which can then be treated using NaproTechnology - a new science providing medical and surgical treatments which cooperate with and restore natural human physiology and sustain procreative potential.
For more information, or to book 1-1 NFP instruction, please contact Amanda on 07546 382 538 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thirty six Spiritual Directors from the Diocese met at St Peter’s centre on Saturday 17th November. The visiting speaker was Christopher Chapman and he presented a day in which he explored four movements which recur within Spiritual Direction, through which we can grow in God’s Life. He covered becoming rooted and grounded in God, emerging into being in response to God’s invitation, struggling towards abundance through resistance, and bearing fruit and being willing to fall. He gently used the imagery of the gardener through the seasons, to show the movement of the Holy Spirit and emphasized that the Spiritual Director is only God’s instrument in helping the individual person ‘...so that his or her whole concern should be to see where God is carrying them, and if he cannot, to leave them alone and not to disturb them.’ St.John of the Cross.
The day also provided an opportunity for those who work in the ministry of Spiritual Direction to meet friends old and new, and to share both the challenges and the joys of the work we do. Spiritual Directors work with very little contact with one another, and this day offered a forum to explore common ground and to plan ongoing needs for the development of the ministry. A valuable discussion began, and will be continued, concerning the use of language which describes what we do as Spiritual Directors. It is clear that there is some misunderstanding as to the meaning of the term ‘Spiritual Director’ and that many people do not know what is involved in a ‘Week of Guided Prayer’. The conference has opened up a dialogue to examine these terms and to make this ministry better understood.
Sarah Keogh, Lay Chaplain at Oaklands Catholic School and Sixth Form in Waterlooville writes...
On Wednesday 28th November, staff and students at Oaklands joined ACN’s Red Wednesday Campaign for faith and freedom. Staff all wore red and red balloons were displayed in classrooms, corridors and the main reception area. Students supported the cause with red hair accessories, jumpers/hoodies and wrist bands; while others wrote in red pen all day to raise awareness and to reflect upon our suffering brothers and sisters around the world. The day began with a Mass for Year 10, during which each tutor group had adopted a persecuted Christian for whom they were going to Mass on behalf of. 10 Clare went to Mass for Asia Bibi (Pakistan), who has caused quite a stir in the media recently. Fr Jeremy preached an extremely thought provoking homily on the persecution of Christians, even in our own lives. There was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for the rest of the school day, as staff and students were invited to go to adoration for someone who can’t. The whole of Year 7 came to Adoration, taking time out of their lessons to pray and reflect. In the afternoon, Year 6 students from St Peter’s Catholic Primary School came to the Oaklands Chapel to learn more about Adoration, reflect on what it means to be a martyr and to pray for persecuted Christians. A great effort was also made by many students to fundraise for Aid to the Church in Need, including a red cake sale and guess the number of red sweeties in the jar. In the lead up and on the day, the Oaklands Chaplaincy Instagram account was attracting a lot of attention and “regrams” from Aid to the Church in Need UK, really putting Oaklands on the map. A huge well done to all the staff and students for embracing the challenge and standing up for Faith and Freedom on Red Wednesday. Click here for some more photos.
The following article by reporter Rachel Adams featured recently in the Southern Daily Echo:
The youngsters from St Mary's Independent School were invited to the prestigious government chamber to learn about the importance of healthy relationships. Organised by education charity Explore the event was a chance for the pupils to discuss long-term relationships within the context of marriage. With married couples, the young people shared the ups and downs of long-term relationships and participated in a question and answer session about their views on life. They also talked about the pressures they are under to get good exam grades, the lack of authenticity on social media, and how they wish adults listened to them more. The event was part of Explore's 18th birthday celebrations. CEO Lisa Gagliani MBE said: “Children and young people today are just as likely to grow up with one parent, neither parent or both parents. Little wonder that many teenagers today do not believe or dare to hope that they could one day meet the right person, fall in love and that it could last a lifetime. We believe family breakdown is causing a great deal of anxiety and other acute youth mental health issues.” She added: “Our workshops help set a new framework about relationships and develops a sense of trust, commitment and the constant need for communication - skills which can be learnt, practised and reap benefits not just in romantic relationships but in all relationships - including peer to peer, client, customer and boss.”
The Vocations Promotion Team would like to invite you to keep one of our Seminarians close in prayer each month. They need our support. We must not underestimate the impact of their witness and example on others who may be exploring their own vocation. The Seminarian to keep in your prayers this coming month is Paul Nwune.
Paul is in his 4th year of Formaon at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh. He is currently on a pastoral placement at Christ the King and St Coleman parish in Bitterne, Southampton. Paul writes: “I am originally from Nigeria. I was born into the family of late Paul & Beatrice Nwune. I am from a family of six - all boys! I am the first born of the family. And I was brought up as a good Catholic. My desire to become a priest started at the age of 7, when I joined the altar servers' association of my parish. During my years as an altar server, I was inspired then by the Holy Ghost Fathers living in my parish at that time. They drew me closer to God through praying the rosary with a group of young people every evening. Through visiting the chapel for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, accompanying the priests as an altar server to visit the sick, and in the celebration of the sacraments. That sparked the first desire in my heart of dedicating my life to God and becoming a good and holy priest. This led me into entering the junior seminary of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Nigeria. ” Paul has asked that we especially keep his intention in prayer this month of December: “I just want us to thank God for all his blessings, guidance and protection.”
If you would like more information on the work of our Diocesan Vocations Promotion Team, to find out more about how you can help through prayer or maybe you are considering how to begin the process of discernment, please contact: email@example.com
or telephone: 01329 318 869.
Last week we bade farewell to Jackie Emmerson who has been a member of the Bishop's Office team since March 2014, giving support to the Bishop, Bishop’s Secretary and the Bishop’s PA. Her many duties included dealing with day to day finances for the office, processing Papal and Diocesan awards and updating the Bishop’s Office PAMIS system. One of her favourite past times is visiting National Trust houses in and around the local area which she hopes to have more opportunity for with her extra free time. She also hopes to undertake some voluntary work for local charities. I thank her immensely for all her support over these past four years and will miss her in my support team. We wish her every blessing for the future.
Her duties have now been picked up by my Executive Assistant, Deacon Craig Aburn.
Thursday 6th December
Trustees Meeting, Bishop's House, Portsmouth
Vicars General Meeting, Bishop's House, Portsmouth
Friday 7th December
Head of Communications Meeting, Bishop's House, Portsmouth
Various internal meetings, Bishop's House, Portsmouth
Saturday 8th December
Catholic Women’s Association Dedication, Reading
Parish visitation: St Joseph and St Edmund, Southampton
Sunday 2nd December
FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Diocesan Prayer: Parishes & Communities in the North Downs Pastoral Area
Monday 3rd December
St Francis Xavier, Priest, memorial
National Prayer Cycle: All migrants
Diocesan Prayer: Catholic Association of Young Adults
Tuesday 4th December
of the 1st Week of Advent
or: St John Damascene, Priest, Doctor of the Church, optional memorial
Diocesan Prayer: All Religious Orders which formerly served in the Diocese
Wednesday 5th December
of the 1st Week of Advent
Oxfordshire parishes: St Birinus, Bishop, memorial
Winchester: Ss Birinus & Hedda, Bishops, memorial
Diocesan Prayer: Parishes, Communities & Schools in the Thames Isis Pastoral Area
Thursday 6th December
of the 1st Week of Advent
or: St Nicholas, Bishop, optional memorial
Portsmouth parishes: St Nicholas, Bishop, memorial [secondary patron of city]
Diocesan Prayer: Bishop Emeritus Crispian; Children in the Diocese
Friday 7th December
St Ambrose, Bishop, Doctor of the Church, memorial
Diocesan Prayer: Immaculate Conception Sisters
Saturday 8th December
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Joint-Principal Patron of the Diocese, solemnity
Diocesan Prayer: Community of the Immaculate Conception, Sandhurst (dedicated 8.12.1985)
Sunday 9th DecemberSECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
National Prayer Cycle: For a deeper love of Holy Scripture [Bible Sunday]
Diocesan Prayer: Parish of the Immaculate Conception, Liphook
Sunday 23rd December
"The Magi are in a Muddle"
St Edward the Confessor, Chandlers Ford
Saturday 10th January 2019
Gifts, Service and Faith
The Royal Foundation of St Katharine, London E14
Wednesday 6th February 2019
Feast of St Josephine Bakhita
Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking
25th-30th July 2019
Pilgrimage to Lourdes
More information coming soon - save the dates!
Extraordinary Mission Month
8th-15th October 2019
Pilgrimage to Malta
25th - 30th May 2020Trip to Bavaria - Oberammergau and Lake Garda
St Joseph’s Parish, in Maidenhead is looking to employ a new Parish Secretary to cover a period of maternity leave for up to eleven months. This is a part-time post; five hours per day, Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 1.00pm. The ideal candidate will be experienced in a similar role, possess good communication skills and be IT literate. In addition, the successful candidate must have the confidence to manage and organize a busy parish office.
Closing date for applications: Friday 4th January 2019.
Interviews: Tuesday 8th January 2019.
Successful applicant will be expected to start on Friday 18th January 2019.
Archbishop Cornelius and the clergy and people of our twin diocese of Bamenda and for an end to the troubles there.
The repose of the souls of all who have died recently, for all those killed through acts of warfare, violence, terrorism and natural disaster. Requiescant in pace.
All affected by sexual, domestic and emotional abuse.
Peace in the world and for those who govern the nations that they may do so wisely and justly.
The work of the New Evangelisation across the diocese that we may all play our part in bringing people closer to Jesus Christ through His Church.
The work of the Apostleship of the Sea, Caritas Diocese of Portsmouth, Caritas Jersey, CAFOD and those with whom they work.
That all we do in the diocese may bring people closer to Jesus Christ through His Church.
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.
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