A very Happy New Year to you - I pray that this will be a good one for you with many blessings from the Lord. Meanwhile, we've all just got back from SEEK2019 in Indianapolis, which was an amazing experience! I've put a note about it all below and over the next few editions of e-News I'll post some of the YouTube talks. Over the next days, however, I'm away, doing some walking in the Forest of Dean: here's a photo of the January setting sun over the Black Mountains. Many thanks to Deacon Craig for compiling this week's e-News. Please pray to the Lord for our Diocese this coming year that the Lord will grant us many blessings, especially gifts of deeper faith, hope and charity. May our Patron Saints, Mary Immaculate, St. Edmund of Abingdon and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati pray for us.
I wish a really happy and blessed New Year 2019, to you, your families and friends! New Year is a great time for making good resolutions and I invite every member of the Diocese of Portsmouth, whether you are a layperson, a member of the clergy or a religious, to take full part this coming year in the primary task of the Church in our Diocese of Portsmouth: mission and evangelisation. Our four diocesan priorities are: to go out on mission to all (think of the 3.129 million people who live across our area), to convert Catholics (think of the 9 out of 10 Catholics who do not practice their faith), to be totally dependent on the Holy Spirit (to be people of deep prayer) and to be outward-looking servants (people focused on service of others, especially the needy). We have three specific areas to focus on: youth (how can we hand on to the young our Catholic Faith?), vocations (how can we promote vocations to all states of life and ministry in the Church, but especially to the priesthood?) and resources (how can we prioritise our time, talents and treasure to serve the Church’s mission?). Above all, in 2019, we need to become holier: that is, to be less centred on self and more on Him. Jesus calls you and me personally to be His follower. How can we respond more intentionally to Him? How can we advance in the spiritual life? How can we grow in faith so that my discipleship of Christ is the most important thing in life?
I’ve just been at an extraordinarily uplifting conference in Indianapolis called SEEK2019, led by Curtis Martin and the leaders of the Federation of Catholic University Students (FOCUS: see https://www.focus.org). FOCUS Missionaries operate on 150 university campuses in the US, and also now in Dublin, Vienna, Graz and, of course, in Southampton, where they work with the chaplains Fr. Jaya and Sr. Valentina. In the picture is the delegation from our Diocese to SEEK2019 (click on the picture to see the whole group). This includes our whole Bishop’s Council (Canon Michael Dennehy, Canon Paul Townsend, Fr. PJ Smith, Mgr. Jeremy Garrett, Fr. Mark Hogan and Fr. Philip Carroll), along with Angela McGrory (our Safeguarding Coordinator) and Chris Smith (our Communications Director), the four Missionaries from Southampton and some students from the Southampton Chaplaincy. The Conference ran from the 2nd - 7th January and was attended by 17,000 youngsters, 400 priests and many others, mainly from across the US. It had some wonderful speakers including Fr. Mike Schmitz, Sr. Bethany Madonna, Chris Stefanick, Jason Evert, Scott Hahn and others, and over the next few editions of the e-News I will post some of the talks. The liturgies were celebrated with true beauty and dignity, especially the daily Mass and on the Saturday evening the Eucharistic Adoration and the Confessions.
I was asked to say the Mass on the first full day of the Conference. Click on the picture above for a recording of the Mass. You can read my homily here. It was a most amazing thing to say Mass for 17,000 youngsters! It was over a quarter of a mile from entering the stadium to the altar.
The Liturgy last week revealed the mystery of God’s plan—that in Jesus all peoples, symbolised by the Magi, have been made “co-heirs” to the blessings promised Israel. This week, we’re shown how we claim our inheritance. Jesus doesn’t submit to John’s baptism as a sinner in need of purification. He humbles Himself to pass through Jordan’s waters in order to lead a new “exodus”—opening up the promised land of heaven so that all peoples can hear the words pronounced over Jesus today, words once reserved only for Israel and its king: that each of us is a beloved son or daughter of God.
Jesus is the chosen servant Isaiah prophesies in the First Reading, anointed with the Spirit to make things right and just on earth. God puts His Spirit upon Jesus to make Him “a covenant of the people,” the liberator of the captives, the light to the nations. Jesus, today’s Second Reading tells us, is the One long expected in Israel, “anointed . . . with the Holy Spirit and power.” The word messiah means “one anointed” with God’s Spirit. King David was “the anointed of the God of Jacob”. The prophets taught Israel to await a royal offshoot of David, upon whom the Spirit would rest. That’s why the crowds are so anxious at the start of today’s Gospel. But it isn’t John they’re looking for. God confirms with His own voice what the angel earlier told Mary: Jesus is the Son of the Most High, come to claim the throne of David forever.
In the Baptism that He brings, the voice of God will hover over the waters as fiery flame, as we sing in today’s Psalm. He has sanctified the waters, made them a passageway to healing and freedom—a fountain of new birth and everlasting life.
Read Scott Hahn's complete reflection for this coming Sunday here.
He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire - Baptism of the Lord, year C – Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
When we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, we’re reminded of our own baptism. It’s easy to forget that we were baptised, or to dismiss the transformation that baptism and faith can bring about in our life. At the beginning of the new year, it’s good to reflect on the gift of baptism, and to return to the reality of God’s presence and transformative action in our life. Then we will be able to see and understand ourselves not by comparison with the standards imposed on us by society, other people or even ourselves, but as God sees us, filled with the potential which is his own gift.
We’ll reflect on:
Faith: What is baptism?
Hope: What difference does baptism make in a human life?
Love: How is baptism a sign of God’s love?
The Octave of Christmas used to be called unabashedly the feast of the circumcision. For of course, Joseph and Mary saw to it that the boy was circumcised; for circumcision was and is a sign of the covenant between God and the Jewish people. God commanded Abraham that he and all the males in his household should undergo this ritual, and it is by this ritual that a boy child is admitted into the household of Israel. For although every child born to a Jewish mother is a Jew, his share in the covenant is declared and ratified by circumcision. So it was an important day, an important moment in the life of Our Lord: he was fulfilling the Law which he came to fulfil. His complete fulfilment of the Law means that some external observances, including even circumcision, were made away with among Christians. In Christ, there is a new covenant, which does not abolish the old covenant, for God cannot break his promises, and Israel is still his first born. As St Paul discusses in the epistle to the Romans, God’s gifts are without repentance, and, since Israel’s loss (in failing to recognise Christ as the fulfilment of the promise) is gain to Gentiles, and the reconciliation of the world, then the receiving of them can be nothing else but life from the dead. I construe this as meaning that Israel’s conversion will bring us to the end of the age. We Gentiles, says St Paul, are like wild olive shoots that have been grafted into the stock: and warns us that we should not boast of our election, but fear lest like the natural branches we be cut off.
Read the full reflection here.
Sr. Bethany Madonna is a Sister of Life. The Sisters of Life were founded in 1991 by Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, after he had paid a transformative visit to the concentration camp at Dachau. He wanted workers to assist him protect and enhance the sacredness of all human life. Sr. Bethany describes her own vocation journey here. While attending the University of Central Florida, she described having had a profound encounter with the Lord. This experience drew her heart toward the vulnerable unborn and their mothers. After graduating in 2006, she worked for the Respect Life Office in the Diocese of Orlando. She entered the Sisters of Life in 2007, and made her final vows in 2015. Sr. Bethany currently lives at the community’s Motherhouse in New York, serving her sisters in the Novitiate Formation Program. She loves sharing the message of life and love.
She spoke at SEEK2019 on the evening of Eucharistic Adoration and Confessions. Click on the picture above for her inspirational account encouraging the young to take advantage of the Sacrament that evening. How does Confession play a significant role in our relationship with Jesus? Sr. Bethany Madonna, S.V. reveals it's up to you to say yes.
On the solemnity of the Epiphany, the Deacon (or cantor) has the privilege of making another announcement: of the date of Easter and other “moveable feasts”, such as Ascension, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. These celebrations take place on different dates each year, according to the date of Easter, whose occurrence was defined at the Council of Nicaea in 325 as “the Sunday following the first full moon (14 Nisan) after the vernal equinox” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1170). (Click on the picture to read the full text of the announcement.)
Most of us have paper or electronic calendars, or can find such dates using Google, so this announcement should not be seen as a communal diary-fixing session. Instead, this formal proclamation, early in the Church's year, is “in keeping with an ancient practice of Holy Church”, reminding us that all time is consecrated to the Lord. When chanted, the announcement uses the same tone as is used by the Deacon (or cantor) at the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil. Therefore, this announcement already looks forward to the Paschal Mystery, and especially the Resurrection, which “fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance” (Catechism, 1168). As Christ is “revealed” at the Epiphany as Light of the World (Lk 2:32, Jn 8:12; Isa 60:3), so we look forward to His being revealed as Victor over Death, when He “shed his peaceful light on humanity” (Exsultet at the Easter Vigil, Roman Missal, p390)
So, although this announcement is optional, it should be encouraged (even if it is read instead of being chanted), as a timely reminder of the centrality of the Resurrection of the Lord in the liturgical year, and throughout our lives. As the priest proclaims at the Easter Vigil:
“Christ yesterday, and today,
The Beginning and the End,
The Alpha and the Omega,
All time belongs to Him, and all the ages.
To Him be glory and power through every age and for ever. Amen.” (Roman Missal, p379).
Dr Adrian Treloar (Old Age Psychiatrist and Dementia Specialist, and author of 'Dementia - Hope on a Difficult Journey') talks with Mr John Smeaton (Chief Executive of SPUC) about the very emotive topic of dementia. In the late 1990s John's father, Jack Smeaton, was diagnosed with dementia. As Jack's physician, Adrian helped John's father and the entire Smeaton family through this difficult journey.
John's father, Jack Smeaton, died in 2003 fortified by the last rites.
At the end of a recent team retreat, we were pondering how prayer and hospitality are both at the heart of our work. Both are essential to the life of a Christian Community. Hospitality is so much more than simply providing food, it is an expression of welcome and openness towards everyone following the example of Jesus. In the same way prayer is so much more than simply asking for our needs, it is the means by which we come into a relationship of trust and friendship, just as the disciples became friends with Jesus. In prayer we too speak and listen to God as one friend to another. As Jesus says in John 15:15 ‘I have called you friends...’
Consider Rublev’s famous icon which depicts the image of three strangers enjoying Abraham’s hospitality beside the tree of Mamre. ( Genesis 18: 1-8) Abraham went out to greet these three men, who he did not recognise, and extended to them a warm welcome, providing food and drink, caring for their needs and befriending them in this desert place. He was unaware that he was entertaining God in the three strangers.
A homeless man who had recently received food and shelter from a church, spoke to my parish priest, not knowing him to be a priest, ‘They’re not bad these religious people you know!’. It is often through a small act of caring for another person that we can open their eyes to the love of God.
In our work for the diocese we welcome each person as a unique individual, each with their own needs and their own potential to live the life which God desires for them. We meet and greet you wherever you are, without asking you first who you are, where you come from or why you are there. Everybody is welcome. Being first grounded in prayer, we offer to walk with you and provide a safe environment in which you can meet Jesus Christ, knowing that he is the source of all love. Your meeting place will then become your own ‘Holy Ground’.
In 2019 the team will run Open Door Retreats, Weeks of Accompanied prayer and Prayer Workshops in the diocese. Through these events we will welcome all who would like to sit and talk to God beside the tree of Mamre.
For more information about the work of the Spiritual Formation Team please contact Chris Bryden.
Jo Lewry, Community Participation Coordinator for CAFOD Portsmouth writes...
What is your New Year resolution? Why not consider volunteering for CAFOD? We have many volunteering opportunities in the Portsmouth Diocese so if you would like to make a difference and help your brothers and sisters living in poverty overseas then please volunteer! Our fantastic parish volunteers help promote our Lent and Harvest family fast days in their parishes. Most parishes have one parish volunteer but would always welcome more! We would love to have parish volunteers at Holy Family Church Southampton, St Thomas More Iford, Sacred Heart Church Bordon, St Gregory’s’ Alresford, St Thomas More Stockbridge, Corpus Christi & St Joseph and Our Lady of Lourdes & St Swithun in Portsmouth. Other volunteering roles include school volunteers who go into Catholic primary and secondary schools to give assemblies about CAFOD’s work, campaign volunteers who get involved with our campaigns, MP Correspondents who write to their MPs a couple of times a year and office volunteers who help out in the CAFOD Portsmouth office in Aldershot. For more information on any of these roles please contact me (Jo Lewry) by email or telephone 01252 329385.
Click on the photo for the full group of parish volunteers at our Harvest fast day briefing in Southbourne.
Jo Overton from the Bamenda-Portsmouth Committee writes...
Our Christmas contribution (from Bamenda funds and some individual donations) of £550 was used to support the families internally displaced by the crisis. They enjoyed some Christmas festivities to normalise things and celebrate the feast and they also had access to some healthcare consultations and medications which they had been unable to manage because of the troubles.
Sr. Louisa Abid writes from Bamenda...
Happy New year and God`s abundant blessings on you and all the Christians of the Diocese of Portsmouth. We were able to celebrate Christmas despite the tense atmosphere around us. Thank you all for your prayers and constant support. We celebrated Christmas with about 200 internally displaced Children in the Cathedral parish. It was so wonderful seeing the children happy. I feel our goal of bringing joy to these sad traumatised children was achieved. Father Christmas (one of the female Religious) gave the children gifts of Christmas toys, biscuits, sweets and food stuff which we had prepared. We ended the day with a common meal. The children and their parents appreciated this gesture and send their gratitude to those who made it possible for them to feel human. The political situation is not getting better. We need your continuous prayers for God's quick intervention.
There are some photos of Christmas, Bamenda-style, here.
Paris Finnegan sends this good news story from St Teresa’s Wokingham...
The new Mini Vinnies team at St Teresa’s Catholic Academy have been working really hard to think of ways in which we can help our local community. This month we have worked alongside the St Vincent de Paul society within our Parish to help collect donations for our local foodbank. We have rallied around the cause and set up a collection point within the school. On Friday 14th December we sorted and packed up all of the items they had collected – one of the bags was so heavy it actually split. Stefan from our local SVP Society brought his car around to help us take the items over to the Foodbank. We loaded our collection in to the boot of his car and walked into town with Mrs Peters and Mrs Finnegan.
When we got to the Foodbank, we could not believe how many green trays there were! Carole the Foodbank manager showed us around and told us all about the process of handing out food to those who needed support, we were surprised to find out that the Foodbank also helps to provide gas and electricity to those in need as well as food. We could not believe that over five years the Foodbank has handed out over 75,000 meals! We were very pleased to see so many volunteers in the Foodbank. The work they do is fantastic and it really inspired us to continue helping them. We will do this by making sure we donate an item, every time we go shopping with our parents. Please look out for your local Foodbank collections.
Bishop Challoner School had a full church of students, staff and their families for their Annual Service of Carols and Readings on the evening of Monday 17 December in St Joseph’s Church, Basingstoke. The traditional Scripture Readings were interspersed with congregational hymns and performances of carols, festive songs and instrumental pieces by all those students who have singing or instrumental lessons in school and by the full School Choir with their ever-popular rendition of Sheep!. Fr Emmanuel Rinda, St Joseph’s Assistant Priest from Bamenda, opened and closed the Service with his beautifully worded prayers and blessing.
The retiring collection is usually for the school’s fundraising for its sister school, St Bede’s College in Ashing-Kom in the Archdiocese of Bamenda, but the Headteacher, John Wright, explained before the Service began that, very sadly, St Bede’s College is currently closed, owing to the crisis in the North West Province.
Whilst Bishop Challoner School continues to pray for the students and staff of St Bede’s and for the restoration of peace and justice to the region and to raise funds for the school’s future, in the short term, the greater immediate financial need appears to be for emergency healthcare provision in the Archdiocese, so the retiring collection of £342.43 was sent to the Portsmouth Bamenda Commission for their emergency activities.
Bishop Challoner’s Bamenda Student Leaders, Poppy G and Rhiannon S, are planning an extra fundraising activity in the New Year to respond to the emergency in Bamenda, but in the meantime, donations can be made here.
On Saturday 22nd December I hosted the annual Christmas gathering for our Seminarians at Bishop's House.
You can see some photos from the day here.
Please remember to pray for our seminarians, those responsible for their care and formation, for those responsible for Vocations promotion and especially for Our Lord's call to more good men to serve in the Sacred Priesthood.
Lord Jesus Christ, Shepherd of souls, who called the apostles to be fishers of men, raise up new apostles in your holy Church. Teach them that to serve you is to reign: to possess you is to possess all things. Kindle in the hearts of our people the fire of zeal for souls. Make them eager to spread your Kingdom upon earth. Grant them courage to follow you, who are the Way, the Truth, and the Life; who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Our Seminarian to keep in your prayers this month is Kevin Conmee
Kevin is in his 2nd year of Formation at the Beda College, Rome. He has links with St Peter’s Parish, Winchester - although originally from Birmingham.
Kevin writes: “I was raised in Birmingham in a family of 5 children, of first generation Irish Catholic parents. My mother ensured that we grew up in the faith, with daily rosary before the Sacred Heart picture; my three brothers and I supported the local parish as altar servers for many years. My life, however, was not always one of keeping the faith, for after a grammar school education at the Birmingham Oratory, I stopped going to Church when I went to Manchester University to study Maths. I continued to have a personal prayer life as I retained a strong sense of God in my life, but I could not relate that to the practice of going to Church on Sunday.
However, in my first year after leaving university when I began what I hoped would be a lucrative career working for an insurance company, God intervened in my life one day and said, “leave all & follow me”. The calling was quite emphatic and so was my response, but God never told me where I was to go. So my Abrahamic journey in faith began which was to last for the next 30 years until I arrived here at the Beda. Looking back it was a very interesting journey which also had its dark periods just like the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years; maybe that is why I like the psalms as they give expression to all the human emotions before God. My winding path led me through various Christian communities including L’Arche, monastic life and serving the Missionaries of Charity. When I wasn’t serving the Church directly I earned my keep as a Maths teacher in various secondary schools but I never felt that this was my vocation in life.
In 1996 I entered the seminary the first time for my home diocese of Birmingham. However, after 4 years I felt that I was not ready to go forward for Ordination to the Diaconate so I made the painful decision to leave. My journey continued for the next 12 years, which took me back into teaching and on to South America where I lived for 7 years in Peru & Argentina. Despite enjoying those years my heart remained restless and I knew that God was still calling me to serve Him in another way so I took a year out of teaching to give myself one last chance to discern a vocation - I was now 47 years old. That one year discernment period became a journey in itself lasting another five years until I finally found my place with the diocese of Portsmouth. I hope now to put down roots and serve the Church as a priest, while helping others to find Christ in their own journey of faith.”
Kevin has asked that during January we pray: “For the Pope’s intentions, for the renewal of the Church in the Holy Spirit, and for a family member who has been diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.”
Recently Deacon Paul Wilson was enrolled as Chaplain to the Eastleigh Knights of St Columba Council (393), and a Member of Honour in the Order. This follows on from the earlier enrolment of Bishop Paul Mason as Member of Honour in the Province. In conversation with Deacon Paul, he spoke about an example of good works highlighted in a Facebook group for his home town of North Shields, and so I discovered that not only did Bishop Paul and Deacon Paul come from the same town, they had both gone to the same Catholic School. This is clear confirmation that Catholic Schools are developing their students for many vocations in our world today.
To find out more about the work of the Knights of St Columba click here.
Pictured are David Martin, Grand Knight, Eastleigh Council 393; Deacon Paul Wilson; Michael Gallagher, Provincial Grand Knight, Portsmouth and Clifton Province 14.
Wednesday 16th to Thursday 17th January
Joint Anglican-Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Leicester
Friday 18th January
Meeting with Bishop Michael Bibi of Bamenda Diocese
Saturday 19th January
Farewell Mass for Little Sisters of the Poor, Jersey
Sunday 6th January
THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
Diocesan Prayer: Ethnic Communities in the Diocese
Monday 7th January
Monday of Christmastide after Epiphany
or: St Raymond of Peñafort, Religious, optional memorial
Diocesan Prayer: Judicial Vicar & work of Diocesan Tribunal
Tuesday 8th January
Tuesday of Christmastide after Epiphany
Diocesan Prayer: ‘Marriage Care’
Wednesday 9th January
Wednesday of Christmastide after Epiphany
Diocesan Prayer: Engaged couples
Thursday 10th January
Thursday of Christmastide after Epiphany
Diocesan Prayer: ‘Marriage Encounter’ & Parish groups supporting the Sacrament of Matrimony
Friday 11th January
Friday of Christmastide after Epiphany
Diocesan Prayer: ‘Called and Gifted’ Programme
Saturday 12th January
Saturday of Christmastide after Epiphany
or: St Aelred, Abbot, optional memorial
Diocesan Prayer: Catenian Association
Sunday 13th January
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD, feast
Diocesan Prayer: Those to be baptised this year, their godparents, families and catechists
Monday 14th January
Feria [1st Week in Ordinary Time]
BEGINNING OF ORDINARY TIME LECTIONARY FOR WEEKDAYS: Cycle 1 (Psalter Week 1)
Diocesan Prayer: Verbum Dei Communities in the Diocese
Tuesday 15th January
Feria [1st Week in Ordinary Time]
Diocesan Prayer: Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Chaplains and Personnel
Wednesday 16th January
Feria [1st Week in Ordinary Time]
Diocesan Prayer: Army Chaplains and Personnel
Thursday 17th January
St Anthony of Egypt, Abbot, memorial Mass of the memorial,
Diocesan Prayer: “Churches Together”
Friday 18th January
Feria [1st Week in Ordinary Time]
Today is the beginning of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity
Diocesan Prayer: Diocesan Committee for Christian Unity
Saturday 19th January
St Wulstan, Religious, Bishop, optional memorial
or: Our Lady on Saturday or: Feria [1st Week in Ordinary Time]
Diocesan Prayer: Parish of Holy Family, Southampton (dedicated 19.1.1983)
Sunday 20th January
SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Psalter Week 2)
Today is a Day of Prayer for Peace
National Prayer Cycle: World Peace
Diocesan Prayer: The Anglican Communion
Saturday 12th January
Gifts, Service and Faith
The Royal Foundation of St Katharine
Saturday 12th JanuaryThe Newman Colloquium
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Sunday 20th January
Friday 8th February
Feast of St Josephine Bakhita
Day of Prayer against
Saturday 23rd FebruaryPoetry Reading with Four Poets
This is an exciting new role, located in the Holy Family parish Southampton, in the Diocese of Portsmouth to promote, develop and coordinate social action projects within the parish.
The appointed person will work closely with the parish and Caritas to highlight priority areas for social action especially with regard to families and provide a high quality service of support in the way of setting up programmes and projects in the parish.
Closing date for applications: 23rd January 2019
Interviews to be held: w/c 28th January 2019
Anticipated start date: 1st March 2019
This post is part-time and subject to the completion of a successful DBS clearance and an initial 6 month probationary period.
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.
Please e-mail all news items by Friday for consideration for the following week's issue to Deacon Craig Aburn: firstname.lastname@example.org
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