I wish you a very happy Advent, a season when we pray through the prayers of Mary and Joseph, for a renewal in our lives of the gift of hope. Hope is the conviction that with the light of heaven God is going to act with power in the dark areas of our lives and our world and make things new. The world seems very short of hope at the moment. Let us pray for new hope as we approach Gaudete Sunday this coming weekend - with Christmas now not far away! Let’s also keep in our prayers the peoples of Britain at this uncertain time of Brexit and also the clergy and people of our sister Diocese of Bamenda in Cameroon. More next week! God bless you.
Early one December morning in 1531 a Mexican peasant farmer set off to walk to Mass, but as he went along, he was suddenly distracted by lights and music, and a voice calling his name: Juan Diego! Juan Diego! He climbed the nearby hill, and there met a young woman bathed in light, dressed like an Aztec princess, who told him to go and tell the bishop to build a church on that spot. He hurried off to see the bishop, but he said he wanted proof. (He might have been wondering what on earth his Diocesan Trustees and the Property and Finance Board might say!) So Juan Diego went back and again met the Woman from Heaven, who told him to take the bishop some flowers. He wrapped the flowers in his cloak, but when he arrived and let them fall out, the bishop fell to his knees. For there, impressed on his cloak, was the beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Soon after, millions of Aztecs and indigenous peoples converted to Christ, and Guadalupe is now the biggest Marian shrine in the world, a place of prayer and many miracles.
Wednesday 12th December is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – do try to get to Mass on that day, if you can. To me, one of the remarkable aspects of this image is the belt Mary is wearing, an Aztec sign of pregnancy. It is the only image I know of that depicts the Blessed Virgin pregnant, carrying in Her womb the Christ-Child. This image of Mary carrying Jesus within is also a symbol of the Church which carries Jesus in her heart, presenting Him everywhere as the Saviour of the World, the Way, the Truth, the Life. It’s also an image for the task of every parish and school, and of each one of us as Catholics: to proclaim Christ, to call people to faith, to bring Christ to others, His life, His teaching, His values. Indeed, Mary, who was utterly dedicated to Her vocation to be the Mother of God, is a perfect model for us, a model of discipleship, a model of mission and evangelisation.
The people in this Sunday’s Gospel are “filled with expectation.” They believe John the Baptist might be the Messiah they’ve been waiting for. Three times we hear their question: “What then should we do?” The Messiah’s coming requires every man and woman to choose—to “repent” or not. That’s John’s message and it will be Jesus’ too. “Repentance” translates a Greek word, metanoia (literally, “change of mind”). In the Scriptures, repentance is presented as a two-fold “turning”—away from sin and toward God. This “turning” is more than attitude adjustment. It means a radical life-change. It requires “good fruits as evidence of your repentance”. That’s why John tells the crowds, soldiers and tax collectors they must prove their faith through works of charity, honesty and social justice. In Sunday’s Liturgy, each of us is being called to stand in that crowd and hear the “good news” of John’s call to repentance. We should examine our lives, ask from our hearts as they did: “What should we do?” Our repentance should spring, not from our fear of coming wrath, but from a joyful sense of the nearness of our saving God.
Read Scott Hahn's complete reflection for this coming Sunday here.
In the Gospel this Sunday, John the Baptist gives very good life-advice to the people who come to him. What is the point of this advice? What difference can good decisions make to a life that will end in death and oblivion anyway? Yet the Good News of the coming of God into the world, in human history, and in our personal history changes everything. Now human life does not have to end in death, but can be opened to God’s own life. John’s advice, which may have looked irrelevant faced with the reality of death, is given to us today to prepare for the new life that God is offering us in Christ Jesus.
We’ll reflect on:
Faith: How can we welcome the Good News today and understand its relevance for us?
Hope: How can we prepare ourselves to receive the Good News and be transformed by it?
Love: How can we proclaim the Good News today to others in words and deeds?
I was astonished at my last confession to be told that when our bishops were in Rome lately for the Ad Limina visit that the Pope had asked them how much time they spend in prayer. I had naively assumed that bishops (and priests for that matter) would devote themselves at least to the minimum which the saints tell us is necessary for progress, and had supposed that there was no need to ask a priest, still less a bishop, how long he spent in prayer, for there was at least a minimum – mass and the Divine office – which priests and bishops were bound to say. Either his Holiness thought this bare minimum was insufficient for growth in the love and knowledge of God which should be the aim of every Christian, or he suspected that some of his brother bishops were falling short of this minimum. And if our priests and bishops are not men of prayer, what is to become of us?
Read the full reflection here.
Over the next weeks, I hope to say a little about St. Oscar Romero who was recently canonised by Pope Francis. Romero was born in 1917 in El Salvador; he came from a poor family. Ordained in 1942, he was a parish priest, first in Anamorós, then for many years in San Miguel. Later he became rector of the seminary and in 1966, Secretary to the Bishops Conference and editor of the diocesan newspaper. He took a conservative line, uncomfortable with social action that challenged political leaders. Yet later, as Bishop of Santiago de Maria, he was shocked to find children dying because parents couldn’t afford even the most basic medicines. He began using diocesan resources, even his own money, to help, but he knew charity alone was not enough. In 1977, he was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador. The situation was becoming desperate, with opposing sides, the government, left-wing and right-wing gangs, killing one another and silencing anyone demanding justice, such as teachers, nuns and priests, including Romero’s good friend, Fr. Rutilio Grande. Romero began broadcasting weekly sermons that offered hope, reported what was happening, listed who was missing and advised Christians what to do. He also highlighted the plight of the poor, condemned wealthy landowners for exploiting seasonal workers, and took on the military for their terrorism. In March 1980, he appealed directly to soldiers and to the police: I beg you, I implore you, I order you ... in the name of God, stop the repression!” The next evening, saying Mass in Providence Hospital, this wonderful man was shot by an unknown assassin.
In one of his broadcast sermons he said this: Each one of you has to be God’s microphone. Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet. … Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.
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 weekend, I went back to Oscott College in Birmingham, to receive my diploma for the academic part of my diaconal formation. The ceremony marked the end of one phase of my formation, while I have already begun, since my ordination, a new phase of my vocation. It was therefore a day both to reflect on the past, giving thanks to the Lord for His guidance throughout my formation, and also to look forward to the future, in the hope of His continued grace.
A transition between two periods is implicit, in the gospel of the second Sunday of Advent: John the Baptist comes at the end of a line of prophets who heralded the coming of Christ, and he therefore prepares for the universal salvation of mankind, which will be instituted by Jesus (Lk 3:6). John is also a figure of transition geographically: he comes from the wilderness, and then travels restlessly through the “whole Jordan district”, bringing those from the towns and villages to come to hear his message. And the Baptist invites his hearers – including us, who read the gospel about him – to the most important transition of all: a spiritual change, of conversion, of repentance, in readiness for the kingdom of God. So we are all people of transition: a “pilgrim people on a journey”, as Pope Francis has said. In Advent especially, we reflect that, although Christ’s reign is already present in his Church, nevertheless the fullness of the kingdom of God is also yet to come. It will come "with power and great glory", when Christ the King returns to earth (Catechism 671).
How can we prepare for that coming kingdom? The apostle Paul gives us an answer in Sunday’s second reading: to increase our love for each other, and “never stop improving [our] knowledge and deepening [our] perception so that [we] can always recognise what is best”. This will help us “become pure and blameless” to “prepare [us] for the day of Christ”. We are called to a life of change, of continual formation into the image of Christ; as Blessed John Henry Newman said: “to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”.
But Paul also reminds us that the work is God’s: it is He Who has “begun the good work” in us, and He Who will “see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes” (Phil 1:6). Our part is to stay awake (Lk 21:36) and await the Lord with hope (Ps 130:5).
Sr Louisa Abid (Healthcare Coordinator for the Archdiocese) writes:
“The political situation is not getting better as you must be hearing from the media. People are so poor since being displaced they have no source of generating money but yet have to feed themselves. We are now seeing many children with malnutrition. Most families can afford only one meal for the day. With curfews restricting movement of people and vehicles from 6pm to 6am, many pregnant women and their born or unborn babies have died due to lack of access to healthcare. The health facilities are having it difficult with payment of medical bills for those who go to seek health care. Another big challenge is the difficult of transporting drugs to the health facilities especially when the roads are blocked. So it is very challenging leaving the health facilities open. Yet for the sake of continuing to the healing ministry of Christ, the health units must remain open. We have resolved to go to different parishes and organize free consultation to internally displaced people and prepare nutritional food supplements for the children. We are also planning to train community health workers who can access the population in hiding. Christmas is close and we just wonder how Christmas will be for the people displaced by the troubles. The Catholic health service is planning to organize a Christmas party for the displaced children aged 0-10 years around Bamenda and offer them Christmas gift just to bring them the joy of Christmas”.
This week it has been agreed to send a special one off donation from Bamenda Funds to support the work of Sr Louisa and her colleagues this Christmas. If you would like to help this or any of our other projects in Bamenda please use the donate button on our website www.bamendaandportsmouth.com or contact our treasurer.
Clare Simpson, Leader of our Diocesan Pre-Discipleship Team recommends this recently released DVD of Pope Francis “A Man of His Word”. It was on release in some cinemas for a very short time in the summer.
She says: "I watched it then and also today and think it is fantastic!" Clare suggests it as a possible good Christmas present - just £9.99 on Amazon! Click on the image for more details.
Maureen Thompson, our CAFOD parish volunteer in Emsworth joined others in Poland from 5th to 11th December to campaign in witness and prayer at the UN Climate Summit. CAFOD, as part of the Climate Coalition, continues to raise concerns about the importance of all working together to mitigate the effects of climate change on the whole world and highlighting how it is often the poorest people in the world who suffer most. In 2015 world leaders signed up to the Pairs agreement which committed countries to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees, ideally 1.5 degrees. So, at the UN climate conference in Poland this month we need to make sure world leaders follow through with the promises they made in Paris, and make sure they go further, and faster when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In October this year Climate Scientists known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produced a United Nations report, which stated that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require a huge global effort. They warned that we have roughly 12 years to do it. To achieve this, drastic changes are needed right now. Scientists understand more about climate change than they ever have before, and we now know that what is needed are increased efforts from individuals, communities and most of all leaders.
So, what can you do to reduce your carbon footprint? You could switch to renewable energy, eat less meat, reduce your car travel, use public transport, recycle more and reduce the amount you consume. Why not get together as parish or school community to do this by working towards achieving the livesimply award. It is awarded to communities who can show that they are living simply, in solidarity with the poor and sustainably with creation. At the moment we have 5 parishes in the Portsmouth diocese who have achieved the livesimply award and it would be great to have more! For more information go to www.cafod.org.uk/livesimply
Last weekend, I made the Pastoral Visitation of one of our premier parishes, St. Joseph and St. Edmund’s in city centre Southampton. Here’s a picture of me with the clergy, taken just before we began a magnificent lunch: Fr. Elijah, Mgr. Vincent Harvey (parish priest and Dean), Deacon Andrew and (on my left) Fr. Jaya (also the university chaplain). It was a wonderful visit. It began on Saturday afternoon with a long discussion with Mgr. Vincent about the life of the parish and his hopes for the future. We then went over to St. Joseph’s, the mother church of Southampton near the docks, for Confessions and for the 6.00 pm evening Mass. After that Mass, I met with a select group of parishioners to hear about their work, especially with the First Communion children and the Confirmation group. The next morning, I preached at the 9.00 am and 11.00 am Masses in St. Edmund’s and spent some time meeting parishioners as they left church afterwards. After lunch, I met with about a dozen of the Confirmation youngsters and their catechists, before celebrating a Holy Hour of prayer and adoration for vocations. There was a bit of a gap then before the 7 pm Mass, so I went over to visit and bless the new home of Mgr. Nick France, about 10 minutes walk away. Mgr. Nick, who retired this autumn, was of course for many years the well-loved Dean of Jersey, and indeed, before that, he was actually the parish priest of St. Joseph and St. Edmund’s. He has returned to familiar territory! It was an uplifting visit, and an opportunity to thank and encourage clergy and people for keeping the life of Christ and His Church so vibrant in Southampton.
The other day, I went up to Basingstoke to say Mass in Holy Ghost church which is just up the hill from the station and all the shops of the town centre. It is surely one of the most beautiful churches in the Diocese. Here is a picture of me with Fr. Chris Rutledge, the parish priest. The modern-day mission in Basingstoke began in the 1850s and Fr. Charles Paul began the task of building the chapel in the 1870s. However, it was Canon Alexander Scoles who completed Holy Ghost. He was a Clifton priest who had already built a couple of churches in his own diocese, including Holy Ghost Yeovil. He was also the architect of St. Swithun’s Southsea and St. Joseph’s Copnor, and he designed some later additions to our Cathedral here in Portsmouth. Holy Ghost Basingstoke was consecrated in 1903 and is an especially fine chapel. It was renovated for the centenary in 1993 although it could now do with some further redecoration and remedial work. Holy Ghost is united into one parish with the splendid modern church of St. Bede’s, about a mile away, and Fr. Chris looks after both. Currently, there are no Sunday Masses celebrated in Holy Ghost, but there are three or four weekday Masses there - plus many weddings. The church is open for prayer most days and is well worth a visit. Check the parish website for more details.
Last week I met with Fr John Lavers and Peter Morgan, AoS Port chaplains at Southampton and ship-visitors of the Apostleship of the Sea – Stella Maris at the Cathedral here in Portsmouth. I was promoting the need for all the faithful of the diocese to be thoughtful in their prayers as well as generous in their gift-giving to the many thousands of seafarers who visit the diocese each year.
Many of the seafarers will be away from home working on the high seas throughout the Christmas Season. This is a very lonely time for seafarers and I want to remind all of us to be extra thoughtful in our prayers and gift-giving this Christmas.
I went up to Our Lady of Peace and Blessed Dominic Barberi parish in Reading on Saturday morning, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, for a lively African liturgy in which we blessed and inaugurated a new organisation in our Diocese, the Catholic Women’s Association (CWA). The CWA is originally a Cameroon association. The idea of having our own branch here in the UK came from Evelyne Brooks on our 2016 diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes who suggested it to me. I asked her to gather together some like-minded women, which she did. They began their doctrinal formation under some of our Bamendan priests Frs. Bonaventure, Bernadine and George. Fr. Stan Gibzinski is the CWA chaplain. The initial members, all living now in England, come originally from Cameroon, Nigeria, Malawi, Ghana and Zimbabwe. One member is from India. The CWA is open to any Catholic woman over 18 years old wanting to join. Its members undertake daily prayer, the Rosary, Bible study and Eucharistic Adoration as well as performing charitable works in their parishes. I was very impressed with the enthusiasm and devotion of the group. It is also highly evangelistic in that each current member must promise to bring one new member into the CWA over the next year.
Fr Michael Peters, School Chaplain at St. Mary’s Independent School, Southampton, writes...
The English Speaking Union has begun a multitude of heats which will eventually culminate in the National Finals in Churchill College, Cambridge (April 2019). Schools who enter first must win through the Branch round, then the Regional, before that Finals Day arrives. Each occasion is very professionally organised because the E.S.U. in general is dedicated to helping people to realise their full potential by giving them the skills to communicate their ideas and share them with others. In particular it seeks to give students in Years 9, 10 and 11 to work within a team. To this end, each year must provide a Chair person (who has one minute to introduce and two for the summary); a guest speaker (five minutes) and a questioner (four minutes). Questions are also invited from the audience (two minutes) since parents, staff and friends are always welcome to come along. The adjudicators are highly qualified professionals who give their time so that the high ideals of the E.S.U. are upheld. St. Mary’s Independent School, Southampton, hosted and won their heat in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Branch and must to wait to hear of their next opponents.
On Thursday we had our last full Trustees Meeting for the year 2018. During it, we bade farewell to Alison Humphreys, who joined the Diocesan Trustees as a board member five years ago. Here is a photo of Alison receiving a vote of thanks from me on behalf of us all. We have fantastic Trustees in our Diocese, each with their own area of particular expertise and Alison contributed much from her own experience as a teacher and head of department to the work of our Education Vicariate committee. Alison, and her husband, Fr. John Humphreys, live in Emsworth and presently they have some particularly demanding family commitments, which she now hopes to be able to give more time to. She will be hard to replace and I will miss her practical common sense contributions to Trustees meetings. Presently, Trustees are looking at facilitating a five-year plan for the Framework and its teams based on the priorities set out in the Bishop’s Vision Statement Bringing People Closer to Jesus Christ through His Church. Besides its civil responsibilities relating to charities’ law, the Trustee body is also our Diocesan Finance Council. The Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops points out that its members should be “renowned for their honesty and love for the Church and her apostolate” (192). I am very grateful to Alison for her excellent contribution to the life and work of our Diocese. Please say a prayer of thanks to God for her work.
I have appointed Fr Tom Grufferty as my personal chaplain to Heads and Principals in our Diocesan Schools. He has composed this prayer based on ideas taken from Joyce Rupp:
Loving God enlighten me in every aspect of my life
but especially in those people in whom I am least likely to see you.
May my daily prayer and tasks, always lead me back to my ministry in
this school with trust, enthusiasm and dedication.
May I always recognise your pastoral fruits in my service,
and never be discouraged when they are not clear.
Help me to exercise compassion as a source of spiritual transformation
for all those I work with here and our pupils.
May the burdens and difficult things in my ministry as Head
be eased as I lean on the heart of your Divine power.
Enable me to give generously of time, energy and talents
and graciously accept the assistance others offer.
May thanksgiving and praise be always on my lips
and be frequently proclaimed in every movement of my being.
Equip me to walk faith filled and confident into each new day
so that everything is an adventure
and all those I meet continue to be very special.
Place on my lips the words of salvation, hope, love and faith
to welcome all into this special and holy place. Amen.
Wednesday 12th December
Clergy Day, Douai Abbey
Thursday 13th December
Bishop’s Council, Bishop’s House
Friday 14th December
School’s Academies Department Meeting
Sunday 9th December
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
National Prayer Cycle: For a deeper love of Holy Scripture [Bible Sunday]
Diocesan Prayer: Parish of the Immaculate Conception, Liphook
Monday 10th December
of the 2nd Week of Advent
Hampshire parishes: St Swithun Wells, Martyr, memorial
Diocesan Prayer: Parish of the Immaculate Conception, Portswood;
Parish of St Swithun Wells; Community of St Swithun Wells, Fair Oak
Tuesday 11th December
of the 2nd Week of Advent
or: St Damasus I, Pope, optional memorial
Diocesan Prayer: Community of the Immaculate Conception, Stubbington
Wednesday 12th December
of the 2nd Week of Advent
or: Our Lady of Guadalupe, optional memorial
Diocesan Prayer: Parish of Our Lady Immaculate, Westbourne;
Sisters of Mercy in the Diocese
Thursday 13th December
St Lucy, Virgin, Martyr, memorial
Diocesan Prayer: The Holy Father (ordained priest 13.12.1969)
Friday 14th December
St John of the Cross, Religious, Doctor of the Church, memorial
Diocesan Prayer: Discalced Carmelites and the work of Boars Hill Retreat Centre
Saturday 15th December
of the 2nd Week of Advent
Diocesan Prayer: Healing Ministry in the Church
Sunday 16th DecemberTHIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT (Gaudete)
Diocesan Prayer: “Life”
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.
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