Monday, 22 December 2008

And so this is Christmas (almost)

We are quickly approaching Christmas and this office will be closed from tomorrow morning until 9th January. I hope everyone gets the opportunity of a break over Christmas. In Medieval England the holiday extended from Christmas Day to Plough Monday which this year would be 12th January. It was an opportunity for hard working people to have a prolonged break and celebration during the hardest part of the year. Perhaps we have something to learn from our medieval ancestors for as we know only to well some shops will be open again on Boxing Day and the consumer whirr will begin once more.

It appears in this office that we are almost replicating the medieval tradition above but in fact 6th-8th January is the annual meeting of the Schools and Pastoral Teams of the Southern Province i.e. Plymouth, Portsmouth, Clifton, Southwark and of course Arundel & Brighton which is being hosted in Eastbourne and which I will be attending. We will amongst other things be reflecting on hope as outlined in the Pope's last encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope). A copy of the encyclical is available from the Diocesan Bookshop via email on It will be good to begin the year reflecting on hope and how we might be messengers of God's hope in the work that we do in the Southern Province.
Wishing you all a happy and holy Christmas and blessed New Year:
Mark Woods - A&B Diocese Communications Officer

'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour' (Lk 1:46)

Friday, 19 December 2008

Looking to the Future

The latest Diosecan Directory has just been printed. The Directory contains information not only about parishes and clergy in the diocese but also about schools and all the diocesan offices. It is available now at the price £3.80 plus post and packing from the Diocesan Bookshop and can be ordered by emailing

A Directory, however, cannot give a full picture of the diocese as it is mainly contains facts and figures but the Bishop in his introduction gives a glimpse of the wider picture. He speaks of the positive signs for the future in the diocese with the beginnings of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the completion of a brand new Church in Woking and the young people who went to World Youth Day and Lourdes with him. He says of the new Church "it is a clear statement about our optimimsm for the future" and of the young people "a further cause for optimism."

Like Bishop Kieran in this season of hope and expectancy "I pray tht 2009 will bring you many blessings and enrich you with hope."

It is you, O Lord, who are my hope (Psalm 70)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Lourdes Jubilee Closes

The Jubilee Year celebrating 150 years of the appearance of the apparitions to St Bernadette in Lourdes in the south of France has just come to an end on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December. This is of course the most appropriate of feasts as part of the declaration of 'The Lady' to Bernadette was that she was 'The Immaculate Conception'.
Thousands of pilgrimages made their way to Lourdes in this Jubilee Year and it was for many a time of great blessing. One of the pilgrims was Pope Benedict who spent several days there in September. Bishop Kieran from this diocese also led a pilgrimage of over 1,000 people for a week of prayer, celebration and healing. The pilgrimage happens every year but for this Jubilee Year the numbers participating were greater than ever, and more people than ever were able to share in the joy of Lourdes on the diocesan pilgrimage.
Bishop Kieran will again be leading another pilgrimage from the diocese from 23rd - 31st July 2009 and application forms will be available for all those interested in going from January 2009 from the Lourdes Pilgrimage Office, School Lane, Storrington RH20 4LL - Though it will not be the Jubilee Year nevertheless the miracle of Lourdes will still be available for all who share in this pilgrimage.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A Time of Hope

Advent is of course a time of hope and expectation. In a world filled with darkness and evil, whether we look at Zimbabwe or the Congo or survey the financial crisis all around us then hope seems illogical. Yet it is at the heart of the Christian message. We are all called to be a people of hope, to hope even there seems no hope.

For instance people are often dismayed by the collapse in the number of those entering religious life in this country. Yet it is not a hopeless situation. This summer, for example I was in France and visited the Abbaye de Maumont which is a community of some 55 Nuns following the ancient Benedictine rule. They seemed to be of all ages from their mid-twenties to their nineties. Some communities clearly are still showing signs of vitality and life. In our own diocese we had a recent visit from the Community of St John to lead a parish mission and retreat in Rottingdean near Brighton. This is a growing community with over 500 brothers and 450 sisters across the globe and a couple of the brothers originally come from this diocese . Last summer also saw the simple profession of Sr Joanna Harrison (pictured above right) from Brighton in our diocese as a Cistercian Nun at Holy Cross Abbey in Whitland, Wales. There are many examples of new and ancient religious orders that are flourishing in this day because their charism responds to the needs of our time even as other orders diminish. These religious offer a life of hope in our hopeless world.

'Those who hope in the Lord renew their strength, they put on wings like eagles'. (Is 40:31)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Stella Maris - Star of the Sea

Well it has been over a week since the last blog entry and the excuse this time is not internet failure or conferences but illness. Deadly 'man flu' laid me low for the whole week and am now only just recovered.

There is a lot that has happened over the last week and many news stories to reflect on both inside and outside the diocese but one group of people came to mind especially as we approach the festive season. Many of the gifts and gadgets we will buy or buy for others and some of the food we eat over the few days will have travelled thousand of miles by ship to reach our shores. The people who bring all these goods, seamen from every part of the world often live a lonely and difficult life, far from home for many months. Some must also put up with poor pay and conditions. This is a good time of year to remember their efforts, and to help and support them through the Apostleship of the Sea, the Catholic Church's organisation and charity in England, Wales and Scotland which works all year round for seamen. It not only provides support for seamen through chaplainces in many of the ports but also acts as a voice for them by lobbying government and shipping businesses on their behalf. Please support them with your prayers and generosity.
The icon above is that of Mary, Stella Maris, patroness of the worldwide Apostleship of the Sea organisation.

Immaculate Mary - Pray for us
Our Lady, Star of the Sea - Pray for Us

Monday, 1 December 2008

St Lawrence Martyr and Deacon

This Sunday Pope Benedict was in the Basilica of St Lawrence (San Lorenzo fuori le mure) in Rome in order to celebrate 1,750 anniversary of the martyrdom of St Lawrence the Deacon (see icon right). The Pope speaking of St Lawrence remembered "his solicitude for the poor, his generous service to the Church of Rome in the field of charity work, and his faithfulness to the Pope to the point of following him in the supreme trial of martyrdom ". He remains an example and inspiration for the renewed diaconate in this age.
Last week was the annual meeting of Directors of Deacon Formation and Deacon delelgates in Leeds which reflects and considers the role of deacons in this modern age. Attending the conference was illumating as we heard about the forthcoming Directory on Diaconate Formation subject to recognito (approval) from Rome and the development of the diaconate in Ireland. The first 24 Irish students are this year beginning their training and preparation. There was a tremendously fruitful discussion on this and other issues and we all came away encouraged.
In this diocese there are some 32 active deacons with another 6 in training and vocations continue to grow to this aspect of ordained ministry. If you want to find out more about the diaconate then they are included on the Diocesan Vocations website.
Please pray for your deacons and those in training, and that more men, married and single will put themselves forward for this ancient ministry being rediscovered anew.

Jesus said "And I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 8:11)