Portsmouth Diocese e-News Issue 428

January 2nd, 2024
congdon nativity


Come Holy Spirit and draw all those who do not believe in Christ
to experience the great peace and joy of the
Nativity of our Lord and Saviour

Welcome to this edition of e-News, the last before Christmas. These days leading up the Feast are very precious. When I was in Aldershot at the weekend, I suggested three ways to prepare: to find some time each day for prayer and reflection, ideally using the Gospel from the weekday Mass; secondly, to put our faith into action by bringing hope and joy to the needy, the poor, the homeless; and thirdly, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that we try to get to Confession these next days in order to open the way for the Lord and thus to receive His graces and blessings. We have many reasons this Christmas to turn to the Lord in prayer, not least to pray for an end to the wars in the Middle East and in Ukraine. Let’s also pray for the new Bishop-elect of Plymouth, the families of the Neo-Catechumenal Way and their missio ad gentes in Portsmouth and all those who serve in our parishes as safeguarding ministers. Meanwhile, I wish you and your families and friends a very blessed Christmas when it comes. (Please note: the next edition of e-News will be on 9th January.)

19th December 2023

A new Bishop for the Diocese of Plymouth

From the Bishop

Bishop elect Christopher Whitehead
On Friday 15th December 2023, His Holiness Pope Francis appointed Canon Christopher Whitehead as the Tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Plymouth…

Bishop-elect Christopher Whitehead replaces the former Bishop of Plymouth, the Most Reverend Mark O’Toole who moved to Wales in June 2022 when he was appointed Archbishop of Cardiff and Bishop of Menevia. On hearing the news of his appointment Bishop-elect Christopher said:

“With complete trust in the gentle, guiding hands of the Lord, I take up the appointment that our Holy Father Pope Francis has entrusted to me. This is not something I could have ever imagined and willingly give myself to where the Lord has called me to serve and with all I have to offer.

“Like my own diocese of Clifton, Plymouth is such a beautiful part of this country, and I am truly happy to have the opportunity to make my home among its great people. Clifton has been my home for the 54 years of my life, and it is where I learned to walk in the ways of faith and where my priestly vocation was born and nurtured. For that I will be eternally thankful. So too for the teachers and guides who have shown me the way, the priests and religious who have inspired me, and all who have supported me with their love and prayers. I am where I am because of their love, their witness, their example, and their kindness.

“As I begin this challenging and exciting journey in the service of God’s Church and the people of the Diocese of Plymouth, I ask for the prayers of the children, women, and men of my new diocese. I need these and the prayers of my brother priests, and the religious communities, and all people of good will. Please pray that I may have the gifts of courage, wisdom, prudence and discernment, as your servant.

“Naturally I feel apprehensive about the ministry now entrusted to me, and so I place myself in the loving hands of our God, knowing he is always faithful. I thank God for his merciful love and pray that God’s most Holy Spirit may enable me to be faithful in all I do, remaining ever attentive to the Gospel and his love. I pray that I be a gentle shepherd to God’s people and a loving father to those I have been called to serve – wanting to ensure that the Church in the Diocese of Plymouth continues to be a safe and welcoming space for all.”

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Aldershot back in business

From the Bishop

gaudete aldershot

This last Sunday, I went up to St. Mary’s in Aldershot to say the 10.30 am Mass. It was as ever a joy to be with Fr. Rob and the parishioners, but this was a particularly joyful occasion, fitting for Gaudete Sunday. Over the last months, because of safety-issues, St. Joseph’s church has had to be closed and repairs took longer than everyone expected. The parish has two churches, and whilst St. Joseph’s was closed, everything was transferred to St. Mary’s on the other side of town. Happily, I was able to announce that at long last St. Joseph’s would be open once again and in time for Christmas! Already a big team of volunteers from the parish had turned up on Saturday to clean and polish St. Joseph’s to get things ready. St. Mary’s has not been without its problems either, and there has been a long running issue with the heating-system. First thing in January, this too will be fixed, so that both churches will now be back ‘in business.’ I thanked the parishioners for their patience and expressed gratitude to Fr. Rob and his helpers, the diocesan finance and estates teams, and the contractors for all their hard work. The task ahead, over the coming months, will be to rebuild the parish and to attract back those who have gone elsewhere. Please pray for Fr. Rob and the parish that the life and mission of the Church in Aldershot will once again flourish and indeed, power ahead.

Visit from the Families

From the Bishop

neocat group

Yesterday, Monday, I was pleased to receive our four Neo-Catechumenal Way families and support persons to Bishops House for an annual eve of Christmas gathering. This Missio ad Gentes initiative is centred in Paulsgrove and Cosham in north Portsmouth and comprises single laypersons and four families, who have willingly left their home and country in order to begin a new life on mission here in England. The mission has been running now for several years and many of the youngest children you can see in this photo are Pompey born and bred. The families are making a radical commitment on their part to the Lord and His Church. The Missio ad Gentes involves a life of prayer for mission, study of the Gospels, celebration of Mass and the sacraments, a pledge to live as a truly Christian family and a plan of intentional outreach to everyone they meet, such as people at work, those living on the same street, and fellow-students attending the same school. The whole family is involved. Our Christmas meeting yesterday enabled us to catch up on things and to offer them support in their endeavours, to invoke God’s blessing upon them and to assure them of the prayers of the clergy and people of our Diocese. I gave a brief catechesis about St. Joseph and his role as a truly good man who listened out for the Word of God in his life and put it into practice. Please pray for these families on mission. The Missio ad Gentes is a generational effort of extraordinary generosity. It may be many years before the seeds they sow daily germinate and by God’s grace renew the Church in this area.

News from Fr. Tony Sultana SDB

From the Bishop

fr tony sultana

This last autumn, a Salesian priest well-known in our Diocese, Fr. Tony Sultana SDB, retired after 28 years as parish priest of Our Lady and St Dominic, Farnborough. He is now living not too far away in the Salesian Community House. Fr. Tony wrote me a nice email the other day in which he said it had been “a privilege working for 32 years in the Diocese. First for four years at Our Lady Help of Christians as assistant parish-priest and then for 28 years as parish priest for Our Lady of Lourdes and after the merger with St Dominic Savio in 2003, as parish-priest of Our Lady and St Dominic.” Bishop Crispian appointed him parish priest in 1995, taking over from the Benedictines of Farnborough Abbey who had withdrawn from the parish. “I have also had the opportunity to work as part-time school chaplain at All Hallows, from 1993 to 1996 and visiting priest at Farnborough Hill from 1992 to 2022. I was governor at St Patrick’s for 3 years and at St Bernadette’s for 25 years, besides being priest responsible for St. Bernadette’s for 28 years.” Fr. Tony found things difficult after COVID and over the last two years, his mobility problems worsened. He had a bad fall in church during the Maundy Thursday Mass and so decided it was time to move on. “Happily Fr Provincial found a priest in Fr Anthony Lobo SDB.”

On all our behalf, I express our great gratitude to Fr. Tony for his years of generous service, and prayers for his good health and strength in retirement. “I thank God for the opportunity to work for so many years as a priest in the Diocese. I promise my prayers for you and the Portsmouth Diocese and ask for your blessing.” Let us continue to remember him our prayers. His ministry will continue to be greatly appreciated, and we will miss his Maltese smile!

St. Peter Canisius, Second Apostle of Germany


st peter canisius

This Thursday, 21st December, is the (optional) Commemoration of St. Peter Canisius (1521 – 1597), father of the Catholic press and so-called ‘Second Apostle of Germany.’ He was born in Holland and educated at the universities of Cologne and Louvain, where he studied canon law. The legal career and marriage which his father wanted for him did not satisfy him. He attended a retreat at Mainz given by one of the first companions of St. Ignatius Loyola and he decided to join the Society of Jesus. He underwent the novitiate at Cologne where he spent much time in prayer, study, teaching and the care of the sick. He published editions of the works of St Cyril of Alexandria and St Leo and after his ordination became a prominent preacher and teacher. Ignatius sent him to Ingoldstadt where he became rector and later, vice chancellor of the University, but in 1552 he was sent to Vienna to undertake a more general task of reform. There, he found many parishes without clergy; there have been no ordinations for 20 years; monasteries were deserted and many people had abandoned religious practice. In 1555, he published his famous Catechism which was subsequently translated into fifteen languages and became a model for other similar works. Having moved to Augsburg, he spent much time and energy reclaiming those lapsed from religion, converting Protestants and encouraging Catholics. He established schools and wrote many works for publication. He then took a leading part in founding Fribourg University. In his day he was reckoned the principal Catholic theologian of his generation in central Europe, and his influence led to much of the success of the Counter-reformation. Always courteous in controversy, he preferred in discussion with Lutherans not to argue about doctrines such as purgatory and indulgences which only became more divisive and instead to stress basic Christian doctrine. In 1925 he was declared a doctor of the Church.

A Saint from Poland


st john of kanty

This Saturday, 23rd December, is the (optional) Commemoration of St. John of Kanti (1390- 1473), a saint from Poland – although the liturgy of late-Advent and the eve of Christmas tends to obscure his feastday. This ‘humility’ of St. John, however, would be typical of his life and personality. Born at Kanti, near Oswiecim, of a fairly affluent family, he was educated at the University of Kraków and soon after completing this course was ordained a priest and appointed a lecturer of the university. He was successful as both a teacher and a preacher, and after a period in which for some reason he was removed from his post, he was nominated to the chair of theology. He became famous not only for excellence, but for his own extreme poverty and austerity of life, as well as for his almsgiving. He told his students to fight false opinions, but always to do so with moderation and courtesy. To this day his gown is used on degree days to vest each new doctor of the University. He died on the 24th December in 1473 aged 83. The Collect of the day expresses well our prayer: Grant, we pray, Almighty God that by the example of the priest St. John of Kanty, we may advance in the knowledge of holy things and by showing compassion to all, may gain forgiveness in your sight. Through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent


advent iv candles

This Sunday, 24th December, is the Fourth Sunday of Advent and the last day of a very short Advent season. You can find the readings for Sunday’s Mass here. We share here Mgr Canon Jeremy Garratt’s Commentary from our diocesan Liturgy Project website

The bible is wonderful. All life is there. Today’s Gospel is a case in point. The drama behind the words is worthy of a soap opera. The reading tells of Joseph’s turmoil at finding that Mary, the girl he was betrothed to marry, was pregnant – and he knew it was not his child. Now betrothal in terms of the time and culture was much more binding than engagement. It meant that the couple were actually married, but they had not yet come to live together, which simply means that Joseph had not yet brought his bride across the threshold of his house, formally taking her into his care and assuming responsibility for her from her father. This is the scenario behind the story of the ten bridesmaids.

Joseph had yet to arrange this ceremony of formal adoption of Mary as his wife when he discovered she was pregnant. He knew, of course, that he was not the father, so this was evidence of Mary’s adultery.  We can imagine Joseph’s turmoil.  His sense of betrayal would surely wrestle with his dismay and disbelief that this innocent, gentle, beautiful and demur girl could possibly have engaged in sexual congress with another man. But the evidence was irrefutable.

Read more…

Keep Christ in Christmas


Christmas Nativity Scene with animals and trees on starry sky

Next Monday, 25th December, is Christmas Day. You can find the readings for each Mass here. Fr Liam Cummins’ offers this thought provoking Commentary on our diocesan Liturgy Project website where you can also find some useful Liturgy notes from Paul Inwood..

What comes to mind when you think about the work of Christmas?

For most of us, I suspect, it’s things like shopping, wrapping presents, decorating, cleaning the house, buying groceries and cooking Christmas dinner. It’s getting ready for Santa and opening presents. It’s getting to church on time for the start of the Christmas Mass. I know for some it’s a lot of work just getting through these days. They’re hard days of grief, sadness, depression. For some the work includes planning the liturgies and preparing homilies. We do a lot of work leading up to and in anticipation of Christmas Eve.

And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if today, Christmas Day, after the child has been born and after the dishes have been done, there’s a collective sigh of relief that our Christmas work is done. But what if it’s really not? What if that’s when “the work of Christmas begins?”

Christmas is God continuing to give life to his people.

Christmas, says St. Gregory of Nyssa, is the “festival of re-creation.” It is God giving God’s own life to his people. It is as if God said, “I want humanity to see my face. I want them to hear my voice. I want them to touch me. I want them to eat my body. I want to live their life. I want them to live my life.”

Read more…

The Christmas Octave


nativity stained glass 4676161 1920 crop

Once upon a time, many significant days in the Church had an Octave associated with them, for example the Epiphany of the Lord, Pentecost and Corpus Christi. When the Calendar was revised after the Second Vatican Council, only two remained: Easter and Christmas. However, unlike Easter when each day is celebrated as Easter Sunday, the Christmas Octave is rich with a variety of celebrations of Saints for the first part of the day and reverts to the Christmas focus in the evening.

Tuesday 26th December: The Feast of St Stephen the First Martyr, patron of Deacons and Altar servers
Wednesday 27th December: The feast of St John the Evangelist, patron of our Cathedral and the only Apostle not to suffer a martyr’s death.
Thursday 28th December: we recall the Holy Innocents who gave their lives during the great slaughter by King Herod.
Friday 29th December: we celebrate the bishop and martyr, St Thomas of Canterbury, patron of the secular clergy and principal patron of the City of Portsmouth.
Sunday 31st December as the secular year draws to a close we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph when we recall the wonderful example of that family par excellence.

May all these holy men and women guide us and pray for us during this Christmas week.

Please pray for our Safeguarding Ministers


holy family 2

Sunday 31st December we rejoice to keep the Feast of the Holy Family. It is also our annual diocesan Day of Prayer for those in the ministry of Safeguarding. It is a day when we pray 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, let us offer the Rosary and pray that the Church in all her contexts will be a safe haven for our children and for the vulnerable. Let us thank God too for the work of our diocesan Head of Safeguarding, Ruth Attfield and her team, and for our Safeguarding Commission and its members under the chairmanship of Bernard Davis OBE. Above all we pray for all those across the Diocese who volunteer and serve so generously in our parishes as safeguarding representatives. Here is an intercession that could be used on the day:
On this Feast of the Holy Family, we pray for children and vulnerable adults, for the victims of abuse and for all who work in the ministry of safeguarding: that as Mary and Joseph created a safe home-environment for Jesus, so too the Church in all her contexts will be a safe haven for our children and for the vulnerable.

Prefaces of the Roman Missal (9)



We continue with the series on Prefaces of the Roman Missal by Canon Alan Griffiths. This week we look at Preface I of the Nativity of the Lord.

If we weren’t so used to it, this Preface might surprise us, since Christmas imagery is absent. No baby, no manger, no angel choirs, no shepherds. This text goes to the heart of Christmas, because it is about the Incarnation, the event that founds all the imagery of Christmas and Epiphany. It’s like the three Mass Propers for Christmas Day; it is not the Night or Dawn Masses but the Day Mass that is the most important, and for the same reason. For the Day Mass announces the whole rationale of Christmas: The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

This ancient Preface is found in the Papal mass books of the ninth century, but it has echoes in earlier texts, particularly those associated with St. Gregory the Great (CE540-604). Here is one, from Gregory’s ‘Moralia:’ Because the world was not able to see the invisible One who had created it, it beheld the man whom it acknowledged also as God.

A related text is found in the so-called ‘Rotulus of Ravenna,’ a 6th century collection of texts for the Divine Office, which appears now in the Ambrosian Missal as an Advent Preface: Your eternal Word adorned the face of heaven with splendour and, with the glory of the Incarnation, he filled the Virgin’s womb and made it fruitful, so that a new light in radiance might shine upon all, and that from Mary, Virgin and Mother, salvation might spring forth for the whole human race.

The Preface takes its main theme from John 1:4-9: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness … the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.

The light enables believers to see, in the visible Son of Man, the person of God. Moreover, that ‘seeing’ is a vision of not merely of intellect but of love, which ‘enraptures’ or makes us to be caught up through him in love of things invisible.

A text of St. Paul serves as a good reflection point on this Preface: It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Thought for the Week

Thought for the Week


“May each Christmas, as it comes, find us more and more like Him, who as at this time became a little child for our sake, more simple-minded, more humble, more holy, more affectionate, more resigned, more happy, more full of God.” (St John Henry Newman)

Blessing Couples in Irregular Situations

Vatican and World


Source: Vatican News

With the Declaration Fiducia supplicans issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope Francis, it will be possible to bless same-sex couples but without any type of ritualisation or offering the impression of a marriage. The doctrine regarding marriage does not change, and the blessing does not signify approval of the union. You can read the document here.

When two people request a blessing, even if their situation as a couple is “irregular,” it will be possible for the ordained minister to consent. However, this gesture of pastoral closeness must avoid any elements that remotely resemble a marriage rite. This is what is stated the Declaration “Fiducia supplicans” on the pastoral meaning of blessings, published by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope Francis. The document explores the theme of blessings, distinguishing between ritual and liturgical ones, and spontaneous ones more akin to signs of popular devotion. It is precisely in this second category there is now consideration of the possibility of welcoming even those who do not live according to the norms of Christian moral doctrine but humbly request to be blessed. 23 years have passed since the former “Holy Office” published a Declaration (the last one was in August 2000 with “Dominus Jesus”), a document of such doctrinal importance.

Fiducia supplicans” begins with the introduction by the prefect, Cardinal Victor Fernandez, who explains that the Declaration considers the “pastoral meaning of blessings,” allowing “a broadening and enrichment of the classical understanding” through a theological reflection “based on the pastoral vision of Pope Francis.” It is a reflection that “implies a real development from what has been said about blessings up until now, reaching an understanding of the possibility “of blessing couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples without officially validating their status or changing in any way the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage.”
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Happy Birthday, Holy Father!

Vatican and World

Small village and the Israeli West Bank barrier or wall separation barrier on the West Bank in Israel. View from Montefiore Windmill

Pope Francis turned 87 years old on Sunday, 17th December. David Watkins of Vatican News notes that “as he often does ahead of Christmas, the Pope spent a few moments with children and families assisted by the Santa Marta Dispensary, who presented him with a birthday cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday’. The Santa Marta Dispensary has provided medical assistance to children and families in need for over 90 years, and is based just a stone’s throw away from the Pope’s residence inside the Vatican. It was established in 1922 by Pope Pius XI. In brief remarks, Pope Francis thanked those present for their birthday wishes. He also urged everyone to prepare ourselves to receive Jesus as Christians celebrate His birth at Christmas. “We need to prepare ourselves for the great feast of Christmas, which will be next week,” he said. “It is the feast when we think and recall when Jesus came among us. He came to be with us.” The Pope invited the children and families gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall to close their eyes and think about what special grace they would like to ask Jesus for this Christmas. He wrapped up his words of greeting by extending his Christmas greetings. “Merry Christmas to you all,” he said. “Keep those smiles on your faces, and may the Lord grant you everything you desire. Thank you!”

The Great Story of Jesus Retreat

Upcoming events

GSOJ retreat Day January 2024

Liza Nahajski invites you to sign up for The Great Story of Jesus Retreat to be held at St Peter’s Pastoral Centre, Winchester SO23 9SR on Saturday 13th January 2024 from 10am-4pm…

Start the new year with this retreat delivered by Sr Margarida Mondral of the Verbum Dei Community. Refresh and reboot with a renewed appreciation of the core of our faith: the gift of the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Sprit to animate our lived faith. This may appeal to all who want to reflect more deeply on Jesus and how his life relates to our lives. Please apply for a place and more details:lnahajski@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk

Ananias Accompaniment Courses

Upcoming events


Liza Nahajski invites you to sign up for the next Ananias Accompaniment Courses running online from Wednesday 17th January 2024 from 7-9pm…

Liza will be running a 5 week online course commencing on Wednesday 17th January 7-9pm. Learn about accompaniment, the journey into a more fulfilling relationship with Jesus, and how this can help us to sensitively accompany others on their journey. Please contact Liza if you would like to join this course or to explore bringing this to your parish. lnahajski@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk


Upcoming events

Symposium Poster Final

Our next Symposium, What does it mean to be Human? Medical Ethics and Social Care Today will be held at The Arc, Winchester on Saturday 16th March 2024…

The Diocese is planning an exciting Symposium on Medical and Social Ethics. The Symposium will take place at The Arc (formerly The Discovery Centre) in Winchester (opposite St. Peter’s Catholic Church) on Saturday 16th March 2024 from 10.00 am until 4.15 pm. The Symposium features presentations from well-known experts and is led by David Wells, the popular motivational speaker. It is open to people of all faiths and none, specialist and lay, to students and to anyone with an interest in medical and social care. The aim of the Symposium is to bring the Christian Tradition and its values into a constructive and fruitful dialogue with those of other viewpoints. Tickets cost £20, including sandwiches and refreshments, and are available on-line via Eventbrite here.

There will be two keynote presentations: “What does it mean to be a Human Being?” (Mgr. Michael Nazir Ali) and “How significant is the Sexual Revolution?” (Ryan Christopher of ADF International). Participants can also choose two of six workshops on issues to do with the start of life and the end of life, spirituality and mental health, gender dysphoria, respect in healthcare and the value-systems in contemporary healthcare provision.

Christmas Crib Collection

Social Action

FHL Christmas Poster

Bishop Philip has asked that the crib offerings from Christmas will be donated this year to the Friends of the Holy Land (FHL). Thank you for your generous donations this year as our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering greatly. Click here for a poster to download and display to support the appeal…

While we celebrate the Nativity, Bethlehem in 2023 is in turmoil. All Christmas hotel bookings have been cancelled. Bethlehem has taken down its historic Christmas decorations in solidarity with those suffering, and all the usual celebrations and bazaars have been called off. Even the traditional tree lighting ceremony won’t go ahead this year in Manger Square.

Those suffering from chronic diseases are in a terrible situation, but also food, rent payment, water and electricity are a problem. Many were already poor, they had almost nothing, now they are in absolute destitution,” said Sami El-Yousef, CEO of the Latin Patriarchate.

Overall, the situation for our Christian family in the Holy Land has gone from very difficult to critical, and we face the possibility of the last members of the ancient Christian community leaving the homeland of our faith forever.

The FHL office in Bethlehem and contacts in Gaza, Israel and Jordan are well-placed to get urgent, direct aid to the families across the Holy Land most in need – we’ve done it before and we’re doing it again, powered by your help. After such a major disaster, we know that our aid is going to be needed well into next year as we help the community rebuild and recover.

Catch up on key publications from 2023

Social Action

young woman 3041464 1280

Jenny LeLean, Head of Charity, Caritas Portsmouth invites us to catch up on key publications from the past year…

The break over Christmas can be a great time to catch up on some reading so here is a list of key publications and statements that have come out this year.

Laudate Deum is the new apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis, following from Laudato Si’ in which Pope Francis calls for everyone to care for our common home.

Pope Francis’ message to people at COP28.

Love the Stranger is a a publication from the Department for International Affairs that presents a Catholic response to migrants and refugees. It places the human being at the heart of our pastoral outreach, looking beyond statistics and policies to the person – each with a name, a face and a story. Caritas Westminster, with the Mayday Trust, has been doing some work listening to those seeking sanctuary in the UK and have summarized their responses in a new report.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales released an Autumn 2023 Cost of Living Statement ahead of the Governments Autumn Statement. You can also read the response to the governments Autumn Statement from Caritas Social Action Network.

Together for the Common Good have launched a new Podcast ‘Leaving Egypt’, co-hosted by Jenny Sinclair and Al Roxburgh, they are exploring what it means to be God’s people in an age of unravelling.

Sign up to the Caritas Portsmouth newsletter for updates straight into your inbox.

Thank you from CAFOD

Social Action

world gifts

Jo Lewry would like to thank you for your support for CAFOD this year…

Thank you so much for your prayers, donations, campaign actions, fundraising and for taking part in our BIG Lent walk. Thank you for supporting our Lent and Harvest family fast days.

2023 has been a difficult year for so many people with rising food and energy prices, continuing war in Ukraine, floods in Libya, earthquakes in Turkey, Syria and Morocco, continuing drought in East Africa, conflict in Sudan and the Israeli – Palestinian Crisis.

Your love and concern for your brothers and sisters suffering due to climate change and conflict has been amazing so THANK YOU so much for supporting our emergency appeals.

This year over 70,000 parishioners in England and Wales signed Salina’s letter to the World Bank asking for the rights of small farmers to share and save their own seeds to be upheld. Also, parishioners in England and Wales have shared the Pope’s exhortation Laudate Deum, in which Pope Francis urges world leaders to commit to “the abandonment of fossil fuels” and urgently switch to clean energy sources to over 600 MPs.

Many thanks for your support for our campaigns this year. I would like to wish you and your families a blessed Christmas and a joy filled New Year and hope that you will continue to support CAFOD’s work in 2024.

Could this be you?

Social Action

youth volunteers

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) is looking for volunteers willing to help children put their faith into action. Bethan Townsend, Young Vincentian Officer asks, “Could this be you?”  

The St Vincent de Paul Society have primary school groups called Mini Vinnies, and volunteers would support teachers or youth leaders wishing to start a group in their school or parish. They will talk to children about how they can make a difference to those living in poverty and share resources to support the group. The role is flexible but does need people with some availability during school hours (at least 2 mornings or afternoons per month) who are willing to travel within the diocese (all costs are covered). If you are passionate about helping children discover how they can make a difference in their communities, please email Sarah for more information on youngvincentians@svp.org.uk.  You do not have to have previous experience of working with children as all training will be given. Our next initial training day is on Tuesday 27th February 2024.

Help those in food poverty in 30 seconds

Social Action

st lundi

Jeff Sendall, Headteacher at St Thomas More’s Catholic Primary School shares a 30-second way you can help those in food poverty this Christmas…

St Lundi is a successful Catholic recording artist (1.1m monthly streams on Spotify) and he has just released a charity single Alone Over Christmas with all proceeds going to the Trussell Trust/ Portsmouth food bank.

St Lundi, whose real name is Archie Langley, used to be a pupil at St Thomas More’s Catholic Primary School in Havant, and then attended Oaklands Catholic School.

St Thomas More’s have been supporting local food banks for some time now, so Archie returned to the school to talk to the children as well as to perform his new single. He then returned again this week to perform alongside the children in a performance to parents.

One easy way you can help those suffering food poverty this Christmas is to download the single from St Lundi’s website.

Closer to Christ campaign


st john the baptist andover

As reported in recent issues of e-News, thanks to the leadership of our priests in over 60 parishes and the extraordinary generosity of nearly 3,000 families, we are so pleased to share that we have now secured almost £11 million in pledges to the Closer to Christ campaign. This is a truly remarkable achievement and speaks to the genuine commitment to the future of our Catholic faith across our Diocese.

To date, nearly £600,000 in funds raised have been used to help fire up local initiatives and support parish projects. Here, four different parishes from across the Diocese talk about the difference that the money raised through the Campaign has been used for within their respective faith communities.

The parish of St John the Baptist, Andover is already undertaking a number of projects, thanks to funds from the Closer to Christ campaign. These include replacing lighting in the church and running an 8-week Bible Study Course for parishioners. The Finance and Property Committee have also given approval to conduct the following with the funds received:

  • Partial redecoration of the Parish Hall
  • Complete refurbishment of the Sacristy
  • Creating a more accessible entrance to the Parish Hall
  • Training for Catechists who deliver liturgy in 2024.

Advent message from FrassatiUSA



We share an Advent message recently received from Christine M. Wohar, Executive Director of FrassatiUSA…

Dear Frassati Friend,

I am definitely an Advent person. Someone asked me recently when I start listening to Christmas music. My answer was, “On Christmas Day, of course!”  Letting Advent be Advent and Christmas be Christmas gets harder and harder each year but swimming against the cultural tide is good for building a few spiritual muscles. And we know Blessed Pier Giorgio was all about building spiritual muscles.

One of the readings I look forward to hearing during the Christmas season has the unintended consequence of helping me stay spiritually focused during the Advent season. That may not make logical sense or chronological sense but it is true. It is part of the line found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, verse 12 at the conclusion of the story of the visit of the Magi to Baby Jesus. It is one of my most favorite lines in scripture. “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.” 
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And finally…Where is this?

And finally

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How well do you know our diocese? Each week we share a photo from somewhere in the Diocese of Portsmouth. Your challenge is to tell us “where is this?”…

Our challenge for you last time was to identify this distinctive floor tiling which is in the sanctuary of St Thomas’ church in St Helier, Jersey. Congratulations to Deacon Brendan Flaxman, Sarah Pendergast, Cheryl MacFirbhisigh, Delia Hardiman and Alan Hamel who correctly identified it, and thanks to our roving photographer for sharing the photo with us.

This week’s challenge, is to identify this distinctive railing outside a church somewhere else in the Diocese, but where is this? Just email your answer to Deacon Craig by Friday 5th January 2024 for a mention in the next issue.

When you write in with your guess, why not send a photo of a feature from your own church for us to use in a future issue to help readers get to know the diocese better?