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Between 1951 and 1961, 500,000 Irish people emigrated to the UK. The challenges that faced many of the immigrants gave rise to a network of support which came about largely through the initiative of the Oblate Fathers. They set up Welfare Centres in some of the major cites and Sisters in the Province worked with them.
One such place was the IWIC (Irish Welfare and Information Centre) in Birmingham where Sr Teresa Harmon worked alongside Fr Joe Taaffe in serving the Irish community. Earlier Sr Carmel McGowan and Sr Anne Carmel worked with the Irish Community. Out of these initiatives came others and one of these was the Family Housing Association in Birmingham. Among their works was a hostel for homeless Irish men. This closed later due to there being no longer a need and was used by the Family Housing Association for other purposes. The Irish Welfare still occupied some of the building too as accommodation for the Director of Plunket House and staff offices.
Having the Family Housing Association on the premises was a great help as at that time (early 80s) many families were coming to Birmingham from the North of Ireland to escape the Troubles there and needed accommodation. Mr Erik Pearce was the Director of FHA and arranged flats when requested by Irish Welfare.
The Salvation Army Hostel was opposite Plunket House and when a flat became available we were able to furnish it from the Salvation Army. It was a great example of cooperation.
Sr Teresa Harmon writes: “After all these years it was a pleasant surprise to receive from Mr Pearce an invitation to a Reunion in November of this year to be held in the Grimshaw Rooms, Saint Chad’s R C Cathedral, Birmingham to take place on the 18th. Sister Mary Teresa and I travelled by train to New Street the main Birmingham Station which has become part of the famous Bull Ring and to me an even bigger surprise was to find trams outside the station which would take us to Saint Chad’s. It certainly was a comfortable way to avoid the city centre and on arriving at the Grimshaw Rooms we were met and warmly welcomed by Mr Pearce. The Archbishop of Birmingham, Most Reverend Bernard Longley joined the group for an opening prayer and welcome after which there was a shared table as everyone attending was asked to bring something for lunch. As we shared lunch, enjoying a wide variety of savouries and desserts we chatted about ‘old times’. It was nearly thirty years since I left Birmingham so I found it greatly changed place but very enjoyable to be back. It was a pleasant afternoon.”
An Advent Prayer from Prison
I pray for the world and its people
That people will live in peace everywhere.
I pray for my family and friends
That they may remain happy and safe.
My prayer is also for my enemies
That they may understand me and forgive.
I pray for the Catholic Church
For our Pope and all in ministry.
My prayers are for all those in pain and also
I remember the homeless, the poor and old.
May they all benefit from this time of Advent.
My prayers also include all those who are without loved ones
this year, that they will be comforted
In the knowledge that the Lord looks after our departed.
Whilst we wait for the Birth of Our Lord,
We pray for forgiveness.
May our lives be touched and made better in this Advent and let the
joy of the Birth of Christ overshadow all sadness.
May we all rejoice in the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ
And the hope he brings to all. AMEN!
A Prisoner’s Thoughts at Christmas
Christmas is a time for new beginnings brought about by the birth of our Blessed Lord. It is a time for us to reflect on the year past and to look back on what we have or have not done in our lives. Could we have done some things better? Can we put things right? Should we have done some things at all?
Christmas is a time for forgiveness and mercy, to show others that we care and to show love to each other.
We are separated from our families and friends at a time that is devoted to family unity. Just as the birth of Jesus created the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph so Christmas is a time when families come together and the whole world feels united.
Do not be sad this Christmastide, but rejoice in the knowledge that we are closer to our families than at any other time, we are with them spiritually through our faith. They will feel our presence over the Christmas period and that will be stronger than at any other time.
As at Christmas we are all bound together by our Catholic Faith, let us all look to the coming year with great hope and joy.
Rejoice, the Lord is coming
Our sins are washed away,
Our Lives renewed! AMEN!
By kind permission.
For the past 20 years a Pause for Hope service has taken place at Liverpool Cathedral. Many people have been involved in the making. An organising committee with representatives of cancer charities and organisations in Merseyside such as, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, The Linda McCartney Centre, Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, Jospice International, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, The Lily Centre, The Lyndale Centre plan and prepare the Services. Similar groups have been established in Manchester, based at the University chaplaincy, and in Chester where the local hospitals and hospices support the services.
This year services also took place at St Chads, Birmingham, Motherwell Cathedral and St Mirin’s, Paisley as well as services tailored to local needs and facilities, in parish churches in different parts of the UK and the Isle of Man.
This service at the Cathedral in Liverpool was attended by families living with cancer and those who had lost loved ones from the disease.
Bishop Tom Williams, the auxiliary bishop of Liverpool, led the Service. Also present were representatives of various denominations, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other civic dignitaries.
After the Opening Prayer a very moving part of the service took place when candles were lit by members of the congregation for someone with cancer or in memory of a person lost to cancer, during which the choir provided an emotional accompaniment. This prayer, which was composed by Mgr Peter Cookson was used during the the lighting of candles.
Dear God, our loving Father,
The candles we have lit represent each and every one of us
whose lives have been touched and changed forever by cancer.
Their light also reminds us of Jesus Christ, your Son,
who is the Light of the World
and the light in our darkness.
Give us, we pray, comfort in our anxiety and fear,
courage and strength in our suffering,
patience and compassion in our caring,
consolation in our grieving;
But above all give us hope
Now and always,
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
A very poignant moment occurred when a poem was read which had been composed by a cancer sufferer who was unable to attend due to her illness. The poem was read on her behalf.
Joe Maguire Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Clatterbridge hospital gave a reflection on the part Hope plays in enabling people to live with cancer.
The beautiful Cathedral bells rang out at the beginning and end of the service first inviting and then sending the congregation on its way as they too filled the atmosphere with a rich note announcing hope.
Professor Ray Donnelly, the founder of the initiative, has stressed that prayer is a very powerful instrument in coming to terms with cancer, treating it and, eventually, finding a cure. “Through prayer we learn to accept, and even to love, his will for us and can face, with a calm peace, the trials and tribulations that we will meet as we deal with our diagnosis, treatment and results. It is consoling and of great merit to unite our sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross and to offer them for ourselves, our families or whatever intention we may have.”
Sr. Frances Pollard
“The title of this piece ‘Roman Catholic Prison Chaplains Conference’ hardly conjures up images of hilarity. Indeed, it was a sober enough experience but for all that I would describe it as an enriching and encouraging one.
The annual Conference took place at St Mary’s University, Twickenham in the suburbs of London. In all about 80 chaplains were present. It was a very busy time packed with lots to do and absorb as meeting many colleagues and receiving much information took place.
The conference lasted for two days. It began on the Tuesday after lunch, 5th September and finished at lunchtime on 7th and every moment was taken up. There were various aspects to the conference which included Prayer times – these consisted of Mass, morning and night prayer, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, then there was a period where we were introduced to new resources produced by Catholic publishers and chaplains who produced a book or course to respond to a need within the penal system. A morning was facilitated to help us to identify and value what we bring to our ministry and to explore the opportunities to further our own skills. We spent a lot of time sharing about our strengths and weaknesses as well as contributing to building up pictures of the many aspects of our role throughout the prison system. This was a very positive experience because it enabled each one to engage with several other chaplains and so build up relationships with colleagues working in the same ministry.
We were encouraged to engage with on-line courses especially those made available by chaplaincy headquarters for chaplains specifically.
We got some really good input too. One of the two talks that most impacted on me was from a woman called Dr Pia Matthews entitled ‘Issues arising from the Synod on the Family and Prisons’. This was an account of her time in Rome during the Synod on the Family from the time she was appointed by the Pope to attend as an expert to the time she completed this task. It was important to hear that because every chaplain has a concern for the family of the prisoner and when families become involved with chaplaincy every chaplain will do their best to assist them in their struggle with their relative being in prison.
The second talk was given by the lead chaplain and it was entitled ‘The Man of Sorrows and the Dignity of the Prisoner’. He made a comparison between Jesus, the Man of Sorrows and the often despairing, isolated and disempowered person in prison. He introduced us to a picture of the Man of Sorrows in which he said we can often see a likeness in prisoners. This talk, which brought the conference to a close was a perfect finish as we were left with an image to take with us to our ministries, of the Man of Sorrows and the many men of sorrows who abide in our prisons.”
Sr Nuala McGinley writes about the Hackney Carnival 2017 that saw 30,000 people line the streets between Hackney Town Hall and Regent’s Canal and where the first ever Carnival Elders bus, organised by St Joseph’s Hospice, made an appearance.
Sunday 10th September marked the day for celebrating difference in Hackney. We celebrated different countries, different colours, different cultures. There was spectacular colour, imaginative designs and unbelievable energy displayed by all who took part. It was a real showstopper, brightening the borough’s streets like a ray of tropical sunshine. For the first time St. Joseph’s Hospice took part. A beautifully decorated bus full of people, mainly elderly, travelled on an open-top bus to the Town Hall. Everyone entered into the fun. It was wonderful to see many of these otherwise lonely people having such enjoyment. They rose to the atmosphere of the occasion and had their faces painted and their hair coloured. Our bus was the second float of twenty three. We had pride of place as we were positioned right opposite the Town Hall. The costumes were fabulous. Many of them depicted flowers of every hue from daffodils to orchids, from daisies to sunflowers. It was so beautiful, really marvellous to behold. The dance routines were extraordinary as the dancers kept a steady rhythm in time to their particular drum beat. What I found really amazing was the dancers on stilts some of them as tall as ten feet. Gyrating did not seem to bother them much. It truly was breath-taking.
Along the way there was a minute’s silence to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire and those affected by recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. Most of the people taking part are of West Indian origin. It was really heartening to see how the people of Hackney supported and appreciated all the hard work that had gone into organising such an outstanding display of human solidarity and friendship. It was great. I was particularly impressed by the numbers of families who came out and lined the streets. Thirty thousand people attended. There were young children wearing brightly coloured outfits in keeping with the occasion, many of them waving flags. There was a wonderfully joyous atmosphere with many teenagers enjoying the fun. The camaraderie was palpable. I was so happy to experience so many teenagers enjoying one another’s company in love and peace. It was a big change from hearing of young people killing each other with knives as we have heard so often in the Hackney area in recent times. May this peace continue!
The weather held up quite well until the last float had performed and displayed their unique style of dress and dance. As we drove towards Ridley Road, drizzly rain started. Those who had been in the open area on top of our bus, quickly moved either down to the lower deck or to the covered area on top. When the procession ended, the carnival atmosphere continued with a finale in Ridley Road where live music was played, D.J.s performed and a host of food stalls were set up till 8pm. They say Hackney massive carnival event which is funded by the Council and organised by its culture team together with local carnival groups was the best ever this year.
‘Father, it is you who invites us into the future. Everything is in your hands, time, circumstances, all that is, our whole lives and what they have yet to become. As we deliberate on our future as a Congregation and Province guide us along the right path, reveal to us all that we need to know and consider. Encourage us and fill us with hope. In all of our deliberations remind us that you go before us and that you are a God of Mystery, Surprise and Transformation.
We make this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen’
To further share the fruits of our discerning and to gather in the harvest of those months we met as a Province in May, in Clydebank, for two days.
Each morning we began with an opening prayer. This was set around the account of the encounter with Jesus at Emmaus, as we were still in the season of Eastertide. It raised the questions: What things make us sad on our journey? What were we hoping?
After the prayer, we settled into a series of sessions which lasted the day. Over the two days we looked at our houses, past and present, our ministries and how they have developed, we recapped on our experiences, acknowledged change and its consequences and, in the light of all of that, envisioned the future.
We enjoy getting together and it appears that this time was special as Sisters expressed they found a level of honesty, openness and sharing deeper than before. There was a sense of ownership of our future together as we discussed possibilities and possible changes to facilitate the viability of the Province into the future.
At the end of the second day, after what had been a very intense, spiritual and prayerful couple of days together, the Sisters enjoyed a trip to Loch Lomond Shores, which is a beautiful shopping mall on the banks of the Loch. We all travelled by coach together down to Loch Lomond and then came back to Clydebank enjoying the scenery of Helensburgh and a lovely supper in the restaurant at St Margaret’s.
During the first week of July our prayer group went to Portugal on retreat. Forty two comprised the whole group. We joined forces with a similar group who meet in Wimbledon. A Nigerian priest named Father Ted led everyone for the entire week. He is a gifted preacher. The Prayer Group which is organised by David and Eileen has strong associations with a group of Indian Sisters who work in the field of medicine in India with extremely poor people. Two of them travelled to Castilo de Vide, where we made our retreat to meet the group and tell us about their work.
The programme each day was different. Some mornings the day began with breakfast while on others it was early Mass at 7.00 a.m. followed by breakfast. A constant each morning was recitation of the Rosary said outside at the shrine of Our Lady. That usually lasted about half an hour. The Rosary was prayed numerous times in the day. Father Ted has wonderful devotion to Our Blessed Lady evident by the way he spoke so naturally about her, usually addressing her as ‘Our Mother’. He also showed astounding devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. There was adoration every day for at least one hour. There were two chapels available for our use twenty four hours a day. We certainly had many opportunities for prayer. Mass each day lasted about an hour and twenty minutes. Some days it was longer. Two accomplished musicians provided the music, a guitarist and a keyboard player. The singing was usually charismatic in style. Thus there was a balance between the times of quiet prayer and those of a more exuberant flavour.
On the Sunday, we visited Fatima for the whole day. It was extremely hot there. It was also crowded. We enjoyed lunch in the Convent run by the ‘Daughters of Charity’. It is they who also administer in the Retreat Centre which is owned by the Lisbon Diocese.
Castilo de Vide is a little town about an hour’s drive north east of Lisbon. It is not far from the Spanish border. There is quite a Spanish flavour to the place with typical white adobe buildings and red, slate roofs. The Retreat Centre is owned by the Diocese of Lisbon. It is far from the nearest habitation. Whenever we travelled it was through quite mountainous terrain so although the temperature was high each day, one could feel rather chilly which was good. Yet one would not dream of sitting out in the sun, it was too strong. The cool, mountainous air caused hay fever to flare up for some of the group. There are numerous shrines to Our Lady dotted here and there, indicating the strong Catholic allegiance of the local people. I just pray that their faith may be strengthened.
Sr Nuala McGinley RSC
Sr Nuala McGinley shares with us her experience of being part of a committed group who meet in Central London every month to pray together:
“I am part of a group of practising Catholics who meet in the Church of ‘Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory’ in Warwick Street, Piccadilly in Central London on the last Saturday of each month, to pray. It is an excellent way of switching off from the distractions of everyday life and concentrating on the most important things of life namely, God and our relationship with Him. About fifteen to twenty people meet on each occasion but the actual size of the group is much larger.
The day begins at 11a.m. with Rosary. This is usually followed by a trained soprano singing ‘Panis Angelicus’ and ‘Gounod’s Ave Maria’. Next there is a time of intercessory prayer for anyone who needs special help from God, lead by David, the leader of the group. Mass comes next at midday followed by lunch down in the basement which has been redecorated recently. It is very bright, airy and spacious. Chatting over lunch is a good way to get to know each other. There is always someone new to the group. We come together again at about two o’clock when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. After a time of quiet prayer, Eileen, who organises the meetings with her husband David, leads us very beautifully in contemplative prayer. Occasionally she will break out speaking in tongues. It is most devotional. During this time of personal prayer, the leaders of the team assemble at various parts of the church. They will pray over anyone who comes to them and may need a listening ear for some particular problem which is bothering them. At some point in the day, David gives a talk which is usually quite challenging e.g. ‘are we as Catholics living according to the tenets of our Faith and the teaching of Jesus?’ One can come away quite chastened.
But the group is not only about prayer. From day one, I was most impressed by the way in which a gentleman who is about forty and is paralysed from the waist down, was incorporated into the group. In fact he is a member of the team even though his speech is affected as well as having his other disabilities. A small number of the group in their late thirties or early forties are always at his side ready to help him at every moment. Their demonstration of living faith is most impressive. Eileen and David have fought hard for Matthew’s social needs and finally succeeded in getting him a flat specially adapted to his needs near their home in Wimbledon. They have also persuaded the Council to supply him with two full time carers. Up to the time of his accident he had been greatly involved in all kinds of water sports and was regarded as second in the world at jet- skiing in water. He was also involved with Drama and had a small part in the television programmes ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘East Enders’ when they originally started. Overnight he became helpless. The situation is so sad in one way but so full of hope in another. His presence is a sermon in itself. He seems so full of joy all the time.
In July of this year we had a retreat together. Please click HERE to read all about it.
On Saturday the 24th June, the Union of Catholic Mothers (UCM) in the parish of St John the Baptist, Hackney, celebrated their 80th Anniversary. The Sisters in St Joseph’s Convent were invited to join them, as it was in the convent that their meetings began 80 years ago. Sisters Geraldine, Nuala McGinley, Anne, Angela and Barbara attended along with Sister Maria Porter who had travelled down from Scotland. Maria was the last RSC sister working in the parish, so her presence was important to the Mothers.
The day began with Mass celebrated by Fr David Evans PP. Members of the UCM did the Readings and Offertory Procession while Sister Maria and Sister Dolores the present parish sister, read the Bidding prayers.
A buffet meal followed which had been prepared by members of the UCM. Two Members from the National Branch attended, along with others from local parishes. Their was a wonderful atmosphere and a great buzz of conversation took place. There were so many memories of the past eighty years to talk about and people to be remembered. It was lovely to hear the names of past sisters who had accompanied them especially Sister Francis Aiden and Mary Alban and of course more recently, Sister Maria Porter.
A beautiful cake with the emblem of the UCM printed on it was presented and then shared with everyone present. Speech’s took place.
Before the sisters left, leaving the conversations to continue, Sister Geraldine gave a gift to the President to help with their continued work.
In a moving and inclusive Mass on the Feast of the Ascension, Canon Gerard Tartaglia, supported by Hospice Chaplain Frank Wilson, welcomed Professor John to our Church. Professor John’s wife, Sheila, attended the beautiful service, along with some of the Sisters, staff, volunteers and patients. Sister Rita, who has been instructing Professor for some time, was named as Godparent. It was a day of great celebration.
Professor John has, all of his life, put the Gospel values into practice. He has always been very close to the Lord and has a natural love for all people, but especially his patients. And in turn, his patients love him for the comfort, support and reassurance he provides to them at such a challenging time in their lives.
The Mass started at 11am, with the congregation observing a minute’s silence in memory of those tragically killed in Manchester.
The Entrance Hymn “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator, come” followed, with the singing led by Sister Margaret McGrath and Mr Stephen McGinley accompanying on the organ.
The first reading was from the Prophet Ezekiel and was read beautifully by Professor Welsh. Sister Margaret then sung the Responsorial Psalm – “My Soul is Filled with Joy”.
The second reading by Kate Nelson was from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians, and spoke of “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in all”.
The Holy Gospel according to Mark was read by Father Frank Wilson – “Jesus was baptised by John in the Jordan. Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. Immediately on coming up out of the water he saw the sky rent in two and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Then a voice came from the heavens:
“You are my beloved Son. On you my favour rests.”
In his Homily, Father Wilson stated “We gather on this happy and joyous day—the Feast of the Ascension, forty days after the Resurrection, the day when Jesus rose to heaven. This is a memorable day that almost exceeds the Ascension, for one of the most gentle, charming, and above all caring men you could ever expect to meet. Professor John Welsh will be receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing; and be joyfully welcomed into the Church.
In today’s Gospel we hear of Jesus’ Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan. John’s Baptism was baptism of water, of a mere cleansing, whereas Jesus would baptise with water and the Holy Spirit conveying the love of God and forgiveness.
When Jesus was baptised, the Father spoke and said “you are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you” When Professor John is baptised the Father will say over him, “You are my son, the beloved; my favour rests with you” Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit in the Jordan, and John will be anointed with the healing Oil of Salvation, and like Jesus he will receive the Holy Spirit when he is anointed with the Chrism, blessed by the Archbishop on Maundy Thursday.
And to complete his initiation, John will receive the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Professor John has been close to the Lord in his entire life, for he has a natural love for all people, especially those who are ill and worrying about death, realising there is no hope for recovery. He has a genuine interest in all his patients, having highly sensitive feelings for every patient, their symptoms, but also their emotional overlay; their anxieties about their families.
He has the gift of raising the patients’ spirits with an understanding of their spiritual anxiety and distress, their fear of dying and of the afterlife. His professional approach is with a quiet reassuring touch and an instinctive knowing of the love of God for all people. The Lord may say this day, “You are indeed my beloved son.”
May we wish Professor John, his beloved wife Sheila, and his children Stewart and Catherine every blessing in the years that lie ahead.”
Following prayers, the Professor was then anointed with the Oil of the Catechumens before Canon Tartaglia formally blessed the water. The Professor then Renounced his Sin and Professed his Faith before being formally Baptised. Sister Rita then placed the white garment on Professor John. This was a very moving part of the service symbolising the protection and care of Professor John and he being wrapped in the love of God. Sister Rita then lit the Baptismal Candle from the Easter Candle and presented it to John.
With special permission from Archbishop Tartaglia, Professor John was also Confirmed and received his First Holy Communion.
The Communion hymns were “I will never forget you my people” and “This is holy ground”.
After the final Blessing and the Recessional Hymn “Let there be love shared among us”, Sr Margaret sang the Blessing of St Francis of Assisi – a favourite of Professor Welsh.
May the Lord bless you and may the Lord keep you show His face to you and have mercy on you; turn His countenance to you and give His peace to you, may the Lord bless you wherever you go.
Where there is darkness His light is shining; where there is sadness He is true joy; when you are injured He brings you pardon, and should you doubt him, He has faith in you.
Following Mass, everyone gathered to congratulate Professor Welsh, and we all enjoyed tea and a light buffet in the Education Centre. Professor Welsh then cut his cake and shared it among the many people who were so pleased to be part of his very special day.