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“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.
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.
St Andrew’s Hospice Airdrie has reached another stage in its development. The plan to refurbish and reconfigurate the building and prepare it for the future has begun to be put into practice. But first the building had to be emptied. The patients, staff and equipment have been moved to a NHS facility one and a half miles away in Wester Moffatt while the work goes on at St Andrew’s. Its hard to imagine the organisation, planning and hard work that was entailed in ensuring that patients were comfortably transported to their new home and that everything that they would need to ensure their comfort and care was immediately available to them.
The decant to Wester Moffat took place in January. Twenty patients went there. One patient was too unwell to make the journey so she continued to be cared for at St Andrew’s.
Plans also had to be made for staff and visitors to ensure the least possible inconvenience in getting to the new location. Transport for staff and visitors is being provided and a mini bus operates several times a day to take staff and visitors from various bus and train stations to and from Wester Moffatt.
The work that has begun on the building will take over a year. It involves upgrading facilities and creating more single rooms which will be spacious, bright and look out onto the garden while giving access to the garden from each room. Some rooms will provide space for loved ones to stay overnight. In addition, a separate patient entrance will be created providing discreet admission to the wards. There will also be a small number of three bedded rooms which will also look onto the garden with access.
Significant changes in how hospice care is delivered is a key factor in why this major refurbishment is required to ensure the hospice can continue to provide safe and quality care for the next 30 years. The equipment and facilities needed to deliver modern hospice care have considerably improved since it opened in 1986 and take up much more space.
The cost of this undertaking is £9m. Just over half of the cost has been raised already and there is a dedicated team working to ensure the rest which must be raised by 2019.
We wish St Andrew’s – patients, staff and volunteers well during this time of transition and pray for the work being carried out, that all will go well and no unforeseen difficulties will occur so that all will be completed on time and to the standard desired. God bless St Andrew’s!
December days can be dark and cold but last December was brightened by evenings of beautiful music. Father Philip McGovern, Parish Priest in Our Lady’s Church is a member of the Oriel Singers and he invited the Choir to perform Advent and Christmas songs in the Church after Mass on Saturday December 2nd. It was an event the parishioners and friends looked forward to as the Choir had given a concert of Lent and Easter music earlier in the year. Although the attendance was small all enjoyed the performance and look forward the return of the Choir during Lent.
On the following evening December 3rd the Liverpool Bach Collective came to sing a different kind of music. The performance of the Bach Cantata 30 was wonderful. It was the Cantata for the second Sunday of Advent telling the story of John the Baptist. This Choir visits the Churches in Liverpool and Merseyside, introducing Bach music and have a large following for their concerts.
Father Bernard Forshaw, Parish Priest in Saint Anne’s, Rock Ferry invited the Birkenhead Operatic Society to come to Saint Anne’s on Wednesday 14th December for a Carol Service and Christmas music . On arrival we were entertained to hot punch or a cold drink and a mince pie which put everyone into a happy mode. After the Carol Service the music changed to songs from the Musicals as well as popular Christmas songs in which all joined in. The singing was magnificent and an enjoyable evening ended all too soon.
The proceeds of the evening was divided between Saint Anne’s and the Birkenhead Operatic Society. It is hoped for further musical evening later in the year.
Sr. Teresa Harmon
It’s a very common sight to see homeless people sleeping rough in our UK towns and cities. There are many charities throughout the country which aim to support homeless people in various ways. New initiatives are growing up beside long standing ones as the problem of homelessness and poverty grows in our society. Sr Mary Brennan RSC is involved in a charity which is a new initiative in response to the number of people living on the streets:
This is an event which is being pioneered by some of the St. Vincent de Paul members in the Birkenhead area at present.
It consists of the use of Thompson’s Mission building on a monthly basis to provide the Homeless people of Birkenhead with a 3 course hot meal and also warm clothing. All this is done by a group of volunteers and Sr. Mary Brennan is part of the group. The meals are cooked by the volunteers and most of it is brought into the Centre. It is an attempt to break down the social isolation felt by so many homeless people. Over the past few meetings about 35 people were given a hot meal and some clothing. Things are moving as the people get to know the volunteers and they are sharing their stories. They are very grateful and a lot want to stay and chat. There is provision for Official night Shelter in Birkenhead and this is well used, but it is during the day that the homeless experience loneliness having no where to go. Plans are now moving to develop the outreach.
Acton Homeless Concern
Another Sister of Charity, Sr Madeleine McCann, is also working with homeless people helping to provide meals for up to 200 people at the Emmaus Centre in Acton, West London. Acton Homeless Concern is a drop-in day centre for homeless people and people from other disadvantaged groups. There, the opportunity for a shower, clean clothes and advice is also provided.
This charity is twenty seven years old and so has developed a comprehensive strategy to try to meet as many of the needs of those it serves as possible.
Sr Brigid Kelly
Sr Nuala McGinley shares her experience of celebrating the Feast of the Presentation at Westminster Cathedral in London last month.
The 2nd February Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple is an important day for all Religious to celebrate the consecration of their lives to God through their Vows. Our community here at St Joseph’s honours this by attending the special Mass which is held at Westminster Cathedral annually. About three hundred Religious, men and women attended this year. That number looked miniscule in a building with a capacity for two thousand and more. In the school hall afterwards we seemed to be crowded. There were a big number of priests con-celebrating with Cardinal Vincent Nichols presiding. It was very impressive. Three of our community traveled by taxi, three chose public transport while one Sister could not attend due to demands of her ministry. It is remarkable how the number of Religious attending this beautiful celebration has diminished over the years. Most of us are nearing the Golden Jubilee stage of our lives. Yet it is remarkable how active the group is. The singing was good and pleasant on the ear with one of the men from the Westminster choir, a tenor leading us.
Bishop George Stack, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, gave the Homily in which he praised the work of the Religious of the Diocese of Westminster.
“It is my privilege on behalf of the Cardinal to give thanks to the Religious of the Diocese for your faithfulness to your calling. On behalf of the countless people you serve, to give thanks for the witness you give by the hope that lies in your hearts. Because you invest your time, your energy, your lives in those people you serve through your many different ministries and apostolates, you bring to birth the words of St. Irenaeus ‘The glory of God is humanity fully alive’.”
The Mass was attended by sisters from around 60 religious communities across the Diocese of Westminster and was followed by a reception in Westminster Cathedral Hall.
After the celebration we all proceeded to Westminster School Hall where we queued up for a warm ample lunch served by a group of young men and women. Our local bishop Nicholas Hudson queued up with us as did the Cardinal. The two course lunch was very acceptable on a cold day. There was a choice of meat or vegetarian food. The whole welcoming part of the celebration was very efficiently organised. Young waiters visited each group inviting each one to enjoy some more drinks. Wine flowed abundantly together with a variety of soft drinks. There was great chatter in the hall as many people became reacquainted with well-known friends of some-time in the past. Fr Jerry Galloway S.J. who had been our chaplain for a few years at the Hospice, came to greet us. It was a thoroughly enjoyable two hours spent in most welcoming company.