Saturday, 28 December 2013

Bishop Kieran's Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Holy Family

Pope Francis with Bishop Kieran and Cardinal Cormac (Archbishop Roche in bkgrd)
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Arundel & Brighton, 

About a month before Christmas, one of the weekend papers must have asked the question, “What do we call the period between Christmas and New Year?” and fortunately the answer was given in a letter the following week: we call it Christmas. We are still celebrating it.

Christmas is a good example of how our own experiences, even our religious experiences, can be shaped and formed by the society we live in and the culture that surrounds us. We need to be attentive to what is being done to us, especially when we think that we’re not being influenced by it, and that we are immune to the effects of advertising and other things aimed at changing the way we think and behave.

Most families are probably still glancing -a bit more nervously now - at the remains of a turkey, a turkey that turned out to be just a bit bigger than was needed, just like last year. There are probably presents around somewhere that haven’t been looked at again since last Wednesday, and may never be looked at again. But we allow ourselves this extravagance because we are told, in another context that “We’re worth it.” And of course Christmas is ‘all about the children’ and you can’t do too much for them.

Christmas is not all about children, and you can easily do too much for them. Christmas is first of all about God, and ourselves and God. It is about what God wants for us and what God can quite reasonably expect of us, given all the he has done for us.

Putting children at the heart of Christmas automatically pushes the focus of the celebration onto families, and this is a very narrow focus. What about the other end of the spectrum of life, an older generation who very often are made to feel part of family celebrations, but not always, because they’re difficult and they’ll spoil things? What about people who do not have families and may be spending these days alone? Is Christmas not about them too? In fact, is it not possibly more about them, and including them?

Our own western society has a very limited image of family. It tends to present it as just two generations and in terms of parents and the number of children they have. If someone were to ask you, “How many are in your family?” would you think to include grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles? They are actually family, and if you do what they call a ‘family tree’ you can see this quite clearly.

Today the Church asks us to look again at a wider family, a much more inclusive family. The second reading, from St Paul’s letter to the Colossians, does talk explicitly about family, urging wives to be submissive and husbands to be gentle with them, in language that would get him a queue at the door after Mass today. But before that, he talks in much more general terms, asking us to examine our relations with all people. He asks us to be clothed or covered with compassion, kindness and humility, gentleness and patience, and in the same way as our ordinary clothes say so much about us, so should these things. People should be able to see straightaway our compassion, kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. These are the things that are drawing thousands and thousands to St Peter’s Square every week to welcome Pope Francis, a man wearing these qualities, his ‘heart on his sleeve’ and offering a very clear example of what the follower of Christ should look like. I was in one of our schools just before Christmas, for a day of reconciliation, when about one in five of the Catholic students went to confession. One girl came to me and said she wanted to come to me in particular: I didn’t know her and asked why, and she said, “Because you’ve met the pope.”

Paul goes on to say, “Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom.” This doesn’t mean lecture or correct, it means modelling behaviour that builds up and strengthens the bonds within our Christian family, and then finally outside our Christian family. This will only be done through compassion, kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.

I hope that the last few weeks have not been too much of a strain and worry for you, above all if you are on a low income. At this time we have to be particularly conscious of those who feel the same pressure to provide the whole Christmas package for their children, but who simply cannot afford it and may have slid into or gone further into debt.

I hope, too, that the year ahead is kind to you, and it will be all the kinder if we are kinder to one another.

This is perhaps the only opportunity I have to thank all those who very kindly sent me a card for Christmas; your kindness and gentleness gave me real support and strength. Thank you.

With all good wishes for a happy and peaceful 2014, and my prayers for you all.

+ Kieran

Audio version below:
Bishop Pastoral Letter 29 Dec 2013.MP3 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Students Transform Sussex Village into Live Nativity Scene

Students at St Leonards-Mayfield School in East Sussex held their annual Live Crib nativity procession last week, upholding a tradition dating back more than 50 years. Each year the school’s prefects organise a nativity procession through the village of Mayfield, with Mary and Joseph leading a live donkey through its High Street, being turned away at the local inn and a village house along the way, just like in the real nativity story.

The candlelit procession then made its way to the school’s medieval chapel, where they were joined by a packed crowd of members of the public for a carol service and readings from the nativity story. It is here that Mary were Joseph are delivered a real baby ‘Jesus’ to complete the nativity scene, played each night by a baby belonging to a member of staff at the school.

The event, which featured students from years seven to thirteen playing the parts of the three wise men, shepherds, angels and Mary and Joseph, took place from Tuesday 10th to Thursday 12th December and offered an unusual moment of calm in the frantic Christmas build up to reflect on its message. With reports in the news regularly occurring of schools scrapping their nativity plays in order to refrain from causing any offence to the public, students at St Leonards-Mayfield, an independent Catholic school for girls, urged the community to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Catriona Franck, Head Girl and a Year 13 student at St Leonards-Mayfield School, who played the part of Mary in two of this year’s Live Crib processions, said: “I look forward to Live Crib every year, and it was amazing to be given the honour of playing Mary in this year’s event. Live Crib is always such a magical occasion, which brings the whole community together. It was so lovely to see a packed audience each night singing carols and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.”

A collection at the Live Crib services raised £2,500 for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Philippines Typhoon Appeal and The Cardinal Hume Centre, which helps young homeless people and families in need.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

75th Anniversary of St.George’s Church, Polegate

Bishop Kieran and Fr Rory celebrate Mass
Children's Liturgy group leading Offertory Hymn
On the weekend of the 7th/8th December the Parish of St George's, Polegate celebrated in style the 75 years that the church has stood by the crossroads in Polegate. 

On the Saturday 7th they started with a Thanksgiving Service attended by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Mr Peter Field with his wife, and the Right Hon Norman Baker, MP for Lewes together with local councillors, clergy and members of our own congregations and from Churches together in the area. This was followed by the cutting of the celebration cake by the Lord Lieutenant and luscious refreshments and conversation in the Hall. There were exhibits in the Church and Hall describing the history of the Church and the work currently being done by parishioners for the community.

On Sunday December 8th, Bishop Kieran came to offer Mass for us and it was a joyful occasion. Our Children’s Liturgy Group sang a hymn at the Offertory and the choir, augmented by members of Southdown Singers, led the hymns and sang Anima Christi after Communion. We were able to bring some members who, through frailty, cannot normally attend our Sunday Mass. Following Mass we enjoyed a delicious home cooked chicken or beef casserole, with vegetables and a variety of desserts prepared by members of our congregation. The Bishop then cut a celebration cake made and decorated by two of our talented ladies.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Silly Hat Fun Run For Serious Cause

Silly Hat Fun Run - Does what it says on the tin!
The children in Sapphire class at Annecy School in Seaford had a Silly Hat Fun Run to raise money for the CAFOD Christmas Gift appeal. The class completed as many laps as they could within 30 minutes wearing their silly hats which they had been asked to make as a homework task. 

The children were sponsored and are expected to raise well over £100 from their sponsor money. The money will pay for much needed community loos in developing countries. The children had lots of fun fundraising for this very worthwhile cause.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Nourish-ing Others and Our Faith

Nourish Volunteers
Peggy from Wadhurst parish reveals the work of the Church for those in need. She says:
"Father Martin O'Connor our new-ish parish priest in Wadhurst recently challenged us to do something practical to help others and we are now involved with a local food bank, Nourish, and have a monthly collection of food. This initiative has led to interest from the other churches. 

So one Sunday evening one of the founders of Nourish, Olga Johnson came to talk to Churches Together in Wadhurst about the nitty-gritty of the organisation. She described the importance of a proper structure. Nourish has two co-chairs, a treasurer and six trustees who meet monthly. Nourish only provides food bags for families who are referred by authorised agencies such as the Citizens advice bureau and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. She described the kinds of situations which lead families to need this basic help, for example, getting into debt due to bereavement, being made redundant, fleeing domestic abuse or just because they are experiencing benefit changes or are in very low paid jobs. She also outlined some of the unexpected problems which dictate the most useful type of food to give as so many people just can't cook. They therefore decided to provide recipes with the food bags only to discover that in the most deprived areas 21% of people have poor literacy and cannot follow a recipe. 

Nourish Store Cupboard 
There are 40 volunteers and a paid part-time administrator. Clearly some of the volunteers are skilled in the gentle art of arm-twisting as last year Asda gave a ton of food, AXAPPP Staff gave half a ton of food, the Potato Shop give 50 kg per week and local schools, Churches and the public are continuously generous.

Some families are now given weekly £5 vouchers (Unforgeable!) donated by a local butcher and greengrocer. Nourish realise that increased fuel charges will increase poverty and their future plans include; Asking more GP surgeries to refer clients, increasing their voucher schemes, acquiring more storage space and being part of the new Resources Centre planned for 2014. Our parish are privileged to be able to contribute."

Monday, 16 December 2013

Heaven's Road - New Radio Station

Heaven's Road FM is a new Catholic Radio Station that is based at St John’s Seminary, Guildford. They plan to make and broadcast a wide range of enjoyable programmes to appeal especially to Catholics.

Their Mission is to celebrate our Catholic Faith – by broadcasting an online radio with a wide mix of interesting and original programmes, which showcase the creative talent within our Catholic community. You can LISTEN NOW.
Contact them: Heaven’s Road FM, St John’s Seminary, Wonersh, Guildford, Surrey GU5 0QX. Telephone: 0795 021 8322 - E-mail:

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Saturday, 14 December 2013

O Sing Joyfully - Gaudete Sunday

Cover of CD 
The Schola Cantorum of St Pancras, Lewes has released a first CD which seems good to consider on Guadete Sunday called ‘O Sing Joyfully’.

The CD was released on 27th October to raise funds for the work of the Catholic Church in Cameroon. The recording features music sung by the Schola during the liturgical year, including highlights such as: Justorum Animae by William Byrd, Exsultate Justi by Viadana and Beati Quorum Via by Stanford.

The Schola, which has 12 members, currently sings at the 9.00 am Mass on alternate Sundays during term time and for major feasts. Founded in 2009 by parishoners at St. Pancras, the Schola offered 3 Choral Scholarships to students from the University of Sussex in the academic year 2012-13. This year we have 4 scholars from the Universities of Sussex and Brighton.

To find out more contact Andrew Robinson, Musical Director or tel: 01273 480 868 or visit their website

Friday, 13 December 2013

Our Lady of Sorrows Church Effingham celebrates its Centenary

Bishop Kieran (centre) with Fr John Inglis (left) and Deacon Ian Wells (right) plus parishioners
Early this year Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, Effingham, celebrated the centenary of its consecration. Bishop Kieran, supported by Father John Inglis (Parish Priest) and Deacon Ian Wells, together with Kiltegan Father’s Patrick McCallion and Martin O’Connor (previous Parish Priest), celebrated Mass and joined the parishioners at a celebration in the Church Hall afterwards.

The cost of the church and the priest’s house was met in full by George Pauling who had made his name expanding the railways in southern and central Africa under his great friend and confidant, Cecil Rhodes. At the latter's request, George Pauling accepted the portfolio of Mines and Public Works for Rhodesia and became a Member of the Executive Council, holding office from 1894-1896.

While in England in 1897, Pauling settled at the The Lodge at Effingham. In 1912 Pauling was granted the privilege of a private oratory in The Lodge by Pope Pius X and Mass was celebrated in his home until he built the church of Our Lady of Sorrows. The church was consecrated on 8th October 1913 by Archbishop Amigo of Southwark.

For more on George Pauling see the parish website.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Pupils Sing Out Loud to Celebrate Britten 100 at St George’s College

Choirs singing for Benjamin Britten's centenary
Recently St George’s College, Weybridge, welcomed over 160 primary school children from 7 local schools to celebrate Benjamin Britten’s centenary. The event took place on Britten’s birthday itself and repertoire included Friday Afternoons, a song cycle dedicated to the composer’s brother, who was Headmaster at a school whose choir rehearsed on Friday afternoon each week.

Under the direction of Tansy Castledine, Director of Music, the day began with some singing warm-ups in Chapel before groups dispersed to rehearse the music being performed in the concert. In the evening concert all the groups joined forces to create a vast choir. The audience even had an opportunity to join in with one of the songs from Jenny Gould’s Songs of Imaginings which took its influence from Friday Afternoons.

John Mann, Head of Strings, said of the event: “The children performed superbly, each group having an opportunity to take the spotlight and perform a song from Britten’s cycle on their own. At the end of the event, audience and performers alike left in high spirits, having gained much enjoyment from the experience”.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Race Night - Parish Jockeys for Charity

'Horses' on the start line!
The 14th annual Race Night was held at St Thomas More’s Church Hall in Patcham, Brighton, on 12th October and £605 was raised for the Cabrini Children’s Society.

Tickets for the event were a modest £10 and included a glass of wine and a fish and chip supper. More than 50 racegoers packed the Hall and patrons could buy and name their own horse for an extra £5. Betting odds were calculated by computer and there was a rush to place bets before each of the evening’s six races began.

The horses may have been wooden but the jockeys certainly were not. Frankly, it was less Ascot, more wild west show, as the jockeys urged their steeds on, whooping and waving their caps. No-one fell off, although there was some gentle nudging, and the crowd was rather exuberant at times. Progress down the racetrack was decided by the roll of dice and the races were closely fought. The winning owners were awarded a certificate and bottle of celebratory bubbly.

It was a fun evening and a marvelous example of what ingenuity, a little craft skill, imagination, dedicated volunteers and a lot of hard work can achieve. Congratulation to Peter and Jo Cropp and their colleagues from St. Thomas More Church.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Praying at Mass for the Holy Souls in Hailsham Parish

Fr Rory at Mass for the Holy Souls
Lorreta Fry from the St Wilfrid's Parish Breavement Team reports:
During the month of November, to commemorate the month of the Holy Souls, St Wilfrid’s Bereavement Team organised a Memorial Mass on 17th November, at 3.00pm in St Wilfrid’s Catholic Church, Hailsham.  Prior to this invitations had been sent out to bereaved parishioners and also to relatives who lived elsewhere but whose loved ones had contact with our church.  The event was advertised in the Parish newsletter and also to other churches in the Deanery, including Eastbourne. The Mass was celebrated By Fr. Rory Kelly assisted by Sophie Wake as Altar Server.  We were accompanied by Peter Robinson on the organ/keyboard.
During the service of prayer and liturgy all present were asked to come forward to light a candle and to write a message for their deceased loved ones on a small ‘heart-card’ which was then suspended on a branched ornament. These was left in  under the altar for the month  of November.  (Other parishioners subsequently added more during the remaining days.).

After the Mass all were invited to refreshments of tea, coffee, cakes, biscuits and ‘light bites’ in our rather small parish hall, the tables having been decked with flowers in vases.  During this time the Bereavement Care Team circulated and spoke to visitors and community, giving support where necessary. 
From the feed-back received from visitors and our members, it has been a recorded success and people expressed how it helped them and that they enjoyed the whole atmosphere.

So it is here, we in the Bereavement Team extend our thanks to all who attended and to all members who helped in the event.  We thank Fr. Rory for his commitment and guidance.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Grandparents Week

Grandparents event at Annecy School
Many schools and parishes in the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton recently celebrated Grandparents Week. Below is a brief report from one school that did:

Annecy School celebrated Grandparents week with a hugely popular and successful series of tea parties hosted in turn by every class in the school. Many grandparents of children at the school participated and parishioners who were grandparents also attended.

Several parishioners kindly volunteered to help serve the refreshments and parents and volunteers provided a delicious selection of cakes for the celebration.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Mandela by Cardinal Napier of South Africa

Nelson Mandela - United Burundian Media News.
Bronwen Dachs, from the Catholic News Service, Cape Town, South Africa reports on the death of Nelson Mandela:
Cardinal Napier says iconic Mandela had touch of humanity. Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle to replace South Africa's apartheid regime with a multiracial democracy, died Dec. 5 at his home in Johannesburg. Mandela, 95, became the country's first black president in 1994. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. One of the world's most revered statesmen, Mandela had a touch of humanity rarely seen in political leaders, said Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa in an interview with Catholic News Service earlier this year.

Cardinal Napier represented the South African Catholic Church in discussions between Mandela and church leaders beginning in 1990, following Mandela's release after 27 years in prison, until he retired from public life in 2004. Cardinal Napier said he came to treasure Mandela through regular meetings church leaders had with his African National Congress in the transition from apartheid to democracy. "I always felt we should introduce ourselves to him again, but it was never necessary," said the cardinal, who was president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference from 1987 to 1994. Mandela "remembered names and faces and always gave us a hearty welcome," he said. "I came to realize that if he had met someone he had no trouble remembering their names or where they were from. To him, people mattered because of who they were, not the position they held," he said. "That's what I really treasure about the man."

Negotiations between Mandela and South Africa's apartheid regime began in 1989 while he was still imprisoned. The late Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban told Catholic News Service at the time that he was "astonished" to hear that the notoriously intransigent former President P.W. Botha had approached Mandela to discuss negotiating an end to the armed struggle against apartheid. The negotiations were fraught with difficulties, and Mandela frequently called on the country's church leaders to help overcome the deadlocks, Cardinal Napier said. "When there was a problem, Mandela would say exactly how he saw the problem," he said, noting that the South African leader was a "direct man and it was easy to engage with him." Mandela's humility and self-deprecating sense of humor were other qualities Cardinal Napier said he valued.

In February 2001, when Cardinal Napier was inducted into the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II, Mandela was in Mozambique. "He tracked me down to St. Peter's to congratulate me. He said, 'Archbishop Napier, how wonderful that you've been promoted to this esteemed position and you still have time for all of us back home.' I called him Mr. Mandela and he said, 'No, it's Madiba.' He wished me luck and asked me to pass on his greetings to everyone there."

Mandela, who was born in 1918 into the Xhosa-speaking Thembu people in a village in South Africa's Eastern Cape province, was often called by his clan name 'Madiba.'

Cardinal Napier recalled a 1991 meeting at retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu's Cape Town office, where church leaders and liberation movement leaders were introducing themselves to each other. "I could see Mandela quite clearly from where I was seated, and when the Methodist bishop's turn came to introduce himself Mandela said, "That's my bishop.' He's the only political leader I've known who's ... allowed himself to be defined in terms of his faith, not just in terms of political allegiance," the cardinal said.

After serving one term in office, Mandela became a high-profile ambassador for South Africa and helped with peace negotiations in other African countries. Mandela was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001 and, three years later, at the age of 85, retired from public life. He made rare public appearances after that, but helped to secure South Africa's right to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.

On his 80th birthday, he married Graca Machel, the widow of the former president of Mozambique. After his official retirement, his public appearances were primarily connected with the work of the Mandela Foundation, a charitable fund he founded.

On July 18, 2007, his 89th birthday, Mandela formed The Elders, a council that aims to tackle global problems. In honor of Mandela's birthday in 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama called the South African leader "a beacon for the global community and for all who work for democracy, justice and reconciliation."

Two years earlier, the U.S. and 192 other U.N. member states created Nelson Mandela International Day to honor the African leader through acts of community service.

Every July 18, people around the world take up Mandela's call for citizens to "take responsibility to change the world into a better place" by donating 67 minutes of their time -- one minute for each year of Mandela's struggle against white-minority rule -- to helping others.

The parishioners of Regina Mundi Church in Soweto are among thousands of South Africans who have heeded the call, said Oblate Father Benedict Mahlangu, a priest at the parish.

On July 18, 2011, members of the Catholic Women's League were at the church at 6 a.m. to prepare a special meal for unemployed and homeless people in and around Soweto, Father Mahlangu said, recalling that Mandela came to a service at the church to celebrate his birthday in 2010. The church, the largest in Soweto, served as a refuge for anti-apartheid activists for decades. Bullet holes in the ceiling and the broken marble altar have been preserved and serve as reminders of the apartheid era. -

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Celebrating Social Communications - The Golden Jubiliee of "Inter Mirifica"

Irish Bishop Brendan Leahy speaks about Inter Mirifica in the video.

Below is a brief reflection on the document the bulk of which comes from Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ: December 4th 2013 is the Golden Jubilee of "Inter Mirifica" (the Decree on the means of Social Communications) which is a key document in the life and message of the Second Vatican Council. Inter Mirifica focuses on the role of communications and the responsibility of the Church to monitor it. "The Church, our mother, knows that if these media are properly used they can be of considerable benefit to mankind. They contribute greatly to the enlargement and enrichment of men’s minds and to the propagation and consolidation of the kingdom of God. But the Church also knows that man can use them in ways that are contrary to the Creator’s design and damaging to himself. Indeed, she grieves with a mother’s sorrow at the harm all too often inflicted on society by their misuse." (#2)

Vatican II with "Inter Mirifica": for the first time designated for the Universal Church a special day and that is the observance of a day for communications. "To make the Church’s multiple apostolates in the field of social communication more effective, a day is to be set aside each year in every diocese, at the bishop’s discretion, on which the faithful will be reminded of their duties in this domain." (#18). This was later changed to ‘World Communications Day’ (normally the Sunday before Pentecost). The document not only ensured the establishment of an Office for Social Communications in the Church, but also for very powerful and relevant messages issued by the Holy Father every year, which is released to the world on January 24th, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron of Church Communications.

In September last, Pope Francis while addressing the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in Rome said "the Decree (Inter Mirifica) expresses the Church’s solicitude for communication in all its forms which are important tools in the work of evangelization". He went on further to say, "the world of Communications, more and more has become an ‘environment’ for many, one in which people communicate with one another expanding their possibilities for knowledge and relationship. I wish to underline these positive aspects notwithstanding the limits and the harmful factors that also exist and which we are all aware of."

This blog and similar are part of that attempt to communicate with the world and use the modern means of social communication to advance the Gospel.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Farnham Fivers Lunches

First Fivers Lunch at Farnham
Great Fundraising idea from Farnham parish. Shilelagh Flanagan reports:
"As part of raising money for Saint Joan's refurbishment fund a new venture has been started, i.e. inviting members to a FIVERS LUNCH. This involves each host inviting 5 guests to a very simple lunch such as Bread And Cheese and Soup  - Asking for a suggested donation of £5 and, in turn, asking each guest to invite a further five guests to a similar meal. This creates a snowball effect and a good amount of money has to date, been raised.

The idea came, in these difficult times for us all moneywise, of doing something which would not demand too much -and an enthusiastic  launch began earlier this year. This first FIVERS LUNCH started things rolling with Cecilia Woelwarth, Sheilagh Flanagan, Anne Cheesman, Sheila Potter and Peny Hearn. Many thanks to those five concerned"

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Damascus in Guildford - Date for Next Year's Diary

Bishop Kieran with Young People on Damascus Camp
This happened some time ago, but thought it would be good share and people can always put the date in the diary for next year:
 Aseel Gilbert, Youth Coordinator for the Guildford Cluster reports - "When I joined the DAMASCUS team for the first ever camp 8 years ago I didn't realise just how much those few days would impact on my life. I know it sounds dramatic and a bit cliché but it's true. So what is it about DAMASCUS that makes it so special for me and I know lots of other people?

First of all, Wintershall Estate, in Bramley is beautiful. The views from the campsite are stunning, particularly the sunsets. It's so peaceful and walking round the estate is a real treat. The cross on the hill, outside Holly Barn that we occupy, lights up at night and there have been some really special prayerful moments that have happened there. For me, that first summer in 2006 by that cross I felt most clearly a call from God into full-time youth ministry, which is now what I do for the Guildford Cluster.

Second, the workshops have been so inspiring. They give us an opportunity to reflect and express our faith in lots of different and creative ways. The teachings through the bible and Church teachings are those moments that lead us to worship. They open our eyes to new things and prepare our hearts to sing and praise God together in the barn and back in our parishes.

Thirdly, the music worship led by our youth band is a real highlight of DAMASCUS. Those times when we reflect on the lyrics, we sing, jump, dance and lift our hands, when we let go of the world for a moment and praise God in that barn with our brothers and sisters is something else. Brothers and sisters... Oh please! I hear you say. Yes another cliché. But there are so many young people that come to DAMASCUS on their own and from different places but by the end of the first day, you wouldn't know.

We were so blessed this year to be joined by Bishop Kieran who gave an inspirational talk on trust through art and walked with the young people around the estate. Fr Alex Hill gave us an animated talk on the cross that led to a night walk round the estate that finished with prayerful silence by the cross. Martin Brown, from CAFOD A&B, joined us on Saturday morning and presented a thought provoking talk on human dignity, CAFOD's work and world hunger. This led straight into Mass where we prayed for those areas of the world most in need. Being DAMASCUS summer camp, before every meal together we prayed especially for the young people of modern day Damascus, Syria.

DAMASCUS summer camp is rather a special place. There is something about the atmosphere, the young people and the Spirit of it that brings everyone together and by the end of the four days we don't want to go home!

DAMASCUS summer camp is for young people aged 14-18. Join us next year: Thursday 28th-Sunday 31st August 2014  see 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Beer Brewing Monks Spread the Gospel

Beer and the new evangelisation seems a great combination as this report from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia shows:
"Even before retired Pope Benedict XVI set up a pontifical council for new evangelization and convoked a world Synod of Bishops on the theme, a new group of Benedictine monks was using Latin and liturgy to reach out to those whose faith was weak or nonexistent. 

Now they’ve added beer to the blend, and people are flocking to the monastery in Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, about 70 miles northeast of Rome in the Umbrian countryside.

But for the 18 members of St. Benedict’s monastery, life is still about prayer.

“If the prayer doesn’t come first, the beer is going to suffer,” said Father Benedict Nivakoff, director of the Birra Nursia brewery and subprior of the monastery.

The monks in Norcia initially were known for their liturgical ministry, particularly sharing their chanted prayers in Latin online– — with people around the world."

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Youth All-Night Vigil for Youth Sunday and CAFOD's Philippines Appeal

Prayer Vigil for the World in St Erconwal's, Walton on Thames
In a first for the parish of St Erconwald's, Walton on Thames, 23 of their young people took part in an amazing all-night vigil on 23-24 November, culminating in Mass on the Sunday morning to celebrate National Youth Sunday. 

The event took place in church, in the hall and around the town and involved lots of activities, fundraising and bearing witness. The group built a shelter outside the church to find out more about what life is like for the homeless. They baked cakes, decorated gingerbread houses and made cards and decorations which were sold after Sunday Mass, raising over £180 for CAFOD's Philippines appeal

At midnight they walked around the town, stopping en route to pray for the local community before returning to church to spend time in the shelter. Through the night they were woken in shifts to spend an hour spending time at various ‘prayer stations’ as well as keeping watch in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Mass on the Sunday morning was, according to one parishioner, one of the most moving and powerful masses he had ever witnessed. The group enacted Christ's crucifixion during the Gospel and led the congregation in prayer and song. Their confirmation candidates were also enrolled at this mass. After selling their wares and running a raffle, and after tidying up the church and the hall, all went home to their families for a well-earned sleep!

Friday, 29 November 2013

New WHY? course from the Catholic Truth Society

New course from CTS
What would we say if we had three hours at most to explain the Catholic faith to someone who is unconvinced about the existence of God, knows almost nothing about Jesus Christ and has had never studied anything about the Church? To address this need, the Catholic Truth Society (CTS) has just published the WHY? course, written by Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Andrew Pinsent of Arundel and Brighton diocese, and with three short films produced by St Anthony Communications covering the questions, “Why God? Why Christ? Why the Church?” 

To present the truth with a certain spontaneity and freshness, these topics have been addressed on the course DVD by means of edited interviews of men and women of faith and knowledge, including many young people. The accompanying booklet contains transcripts, background information, and answers to sixty of the most difficult questions that people often ask, such as, “Why should I care if God exists or not? Hasn’t modern science shown that human beings are just clever animals? Why is Jesus Christ special, among the many ‘messiahs’ of humanity? Isn’t organised religion, including the Church, the source of much evil? Can’t I live a good life without going to Church?” By means of beautiful illustrations, the course book and films also convey a sense of the way in which the Catholic faith, dedicated to gathering humanity to heaven, has also contributed so much to the flourishing of life on earth.

The CTS hopes that this course will be a major new contribution to evangelization, apologetics, and catechesis. Others who might benefit include Catholics wanting refresher courses, parish and school discussion groups, those preparing for marriage, First Communion parents, and Confirmation groups. 
You can obtain copies from the Diocesan Bookshop.

For further information, see

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Joy of the Gospel - Pope Francis Speaks to the Church and the World

The first Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis was published on Tuesday 26 November 2013, entitled Evangelii Gaudium - The Joy of the Gospel.

“THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.” – Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium).

The document is well worth reading and is a further glimpse of how the Pope wants the Church to be i.e. centred on Christ.

You can read the full text on the Vatican Website.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Bishop Kieran receiving the cheque from Patrick Burgess, chairman of The Friends of Arundel Cathedral
Recently Bishop Kieran gathered with many people from the diocese to celebrate the diocesan patronal feast of St Philip Howard with Mass in Arundel Cathedral. Afterwards they, together with the Knights of St Colomba and The Friends of Arundel Cathedral continued the celebration with afternoon tea in the Cathedral Tea. 

Following this, The Friends had their annual general meeting.  At this, the chairman, Mr Patrick Burgess (currently High Sheriff of West Sussex) presented Bishop Kieran with a cheque for £45,000 towards the ongoing maintenance of the Cathedral and its associated properties. 

This coming year they aim to rebuild the Blessed Sacrament Chapel roof to stop the constant ingress of water, to rebuild some of the external walls at the rear of the cathedral and give better access to its gardens.  They also aim to provided better and safer access to the cemetery and make a start on the five year plan to re-lead the south facing stained glass windows.

Story and picture Canon Tim Madeley

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Catholic Charity Event in Hove

View of Catholaity Fair in full flow
Brighton and Hove’s premier Catholic charity event, the 55th annual Catholaity Fair, took place on Saturday November 9 in Hove Town Hall.

Despite single-digit temperatures and heavy rain showers, hundreds of keen shoppers queued outside the Hall before the 10.30am opening.  Inside, more than 50 stalls were occupied by a variety of groups; these included ten church parishes, national charities like the SVP and Mary’s Meals, the A&B Deaf Service, the Scouts - including a Polish Scout Group, and local charities like St. Teresa’s Kenya Project and the St. Anne’s Day Centre. Outside, a musical duo entertained the waiting crowd.

Once Brighton & Hove’s Mayor, Councillor Denise Cobb, declared the Fair open everything was for sale. There were books, DVDs, games, bric a brac, tombola stalls, Christmas cards, bottles, cakes, clothing, shoes, wooden gifts, groceries, lucky dips and Polish doughnuts. To supplement the usual sweets and chocolates, this year Anna Hayward and her daughters from Sacred Heart Parish organised a candy floss machine (a temptation that proved irresistible to many, including her parish priest - who gallantly offered several parishioners a taste of his purchase).

The Fair is really about something much more important than raising money and awareness. It is about recognising, sharing and celebrating the selfless spirit that leads people to undertake charity work. The many young helpers at Catholaity felt its magic, and I am sure they will grow into caring people who give their time and talent to help others .          

Photos and story from Harry Robertson

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A&B Girl Wins National Prayer Writing Competition

Winner Erin with Bishop Kieran in Arundel Cathedral
Each year the Knights of St Columba hold a Prayer writing competition. This is a national competition with prayers being presented by pupils from across the country and is judged at the knight’s Supreme Council Meeting which took place in Glasgow at the end of October.

This year the theme of the prayer was “A prayer to the Holy Spirit for Guidance in Life”

For the first time this year 83 students from St Philip Howard Catholic High School, at the instigation of the Bognor Regis Council of Knights composed prayers to be entered for this competition. Two were selected from those and were then entered with a further 80 entries from across the country.

The outright winner was from St Philip Howard Catholic High School. Many congratulations go to Erin Glenys Wade.  She was presented with her certificate and prize money at Arundel Cathedral by Bishop Kieron after the Mass for deceased Knights which took place on Sunday 10 November. Erin was then invited by the Bishop to read her prayer to the congregation.

Read her prayer here:
A Prayer to the Holy Spirit for Guidance in Life
Dear the Lord above and the Son of God.
I pray to you for all the good and the bad;
Achievements, failures and even small worries.
I pray to you for everything and anything for I know you listen.
As I grow older, you stay.
As I follow my dreams, you support.
Even when I lose faith, you never stop loving me.
As I come forth to confirm,
I pray for your faith and support.
I pray that you will lead me onto the right path
I pray that with your help I will achieve happiness and be able to live my life.
After everything; obstacle, celebration, breakdown and cheer,
 I promise to keep my faith to you,
I promise to keep my love pure
I promise to never hold grudges.
And I promise to help others in times of need
For I know
That is what you would do.

Article and photo by Charles Yarham

Friday, 22 November 2013

Philippines in Need - Diocesan Schools and Parishes Respond

Sr Mary Andrews having her nails painted at the Towers Fundraising event.
Many schools and parishes in Arundel & Brighton Diocese have responded generously to the appeal by CAFOD for funds for the disaster in the Philippines. Below is the story of one schools efforts to raise money:
"Sisters, staff and pupils at the Towers Convent School galvanised in to action to raise money for The Philippines. An emergency mufti day was swiftly organised in response to the desperate needs of the people in The Philippines since last week’s typhoon.

The theme was the colours of the Philippine national flag, which inspired the whole community to raid their wardrobes in search of red, blue and yellow garments. Pupils instantly sprang in to action arranging games, activities, face painting, nail polishing etc - activities which were all held in the gym over lunchtime. Staff and Sisters entered in to the spirit, having their nails brightly polished or being adorned with temporary tattoos or hair braids. Quite a sight to behold!

During morning break a cake sale magically appeared and by lunchtime we had raised over £1000 from cakes and pupils’ generous donations. By the end of the day a grand total of £2000 had been made and was ready to wing its way to relieve some of the suffering currently being experienced by the poor people of The Philippines."

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Homily for the Mass for the Victims of the Typhoon Haiyan

Prayers for the Philippines
Archbishop Vincent Nichols recently gave the following homily at Westminster Cathedral about the recent Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Many Filipinos living in this country were present:
"My brothers and sisters, this evening we gather to pray for all who have lost their lives or been caught up in the horrific devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as Filipinos call it. It blasted central regions of the country last week killing thousands and leaving millions in a desperate state. There are, I’m sure, many family and friends of Yolanda’s victims here this evening. I offer you my heartfelt condolences and prayers. We are with you in our hearts.

I long to be able to reach out to all those who are suffering. That is not easy. The Philippines is far away. You cannot go to express your love and support. I cannot go. But I have asked Bishop John Arnold to go to the Philippines as soon as possible, to go on my behalf, to go on your behalf, to carry our love and our prayers to your country in this time of need. Bishop John will go next week. We thank you, Bishop John. May God strengthen you for this journey and fill your heart with our love and prayers.

At this moment we readily feel powerless, unable to help. And yet help is being given by people and governments from all around the world. The Government of this country and our own Catholic community here, together with many, many others, are sending help. And so we should for you, the Filipino community here, enrich our country greatly by your faith, your prayers and your work. We salute you all you do here and we stand by you in this hour of need. I thank in a special way our own Catholic aid agency CAFOD for its impressive response. We pray that this help may speedily reach those most in need. Where there is help there is hope for the future.

Hope for the future was beautifully symbolised by the lovely pictures of baby Bea Joy. As you probably know, Bea Joy’s 21 year old mother, Emily Sagalis, still heavily pregnant, was swept away by a huge wave and feared lost. But her husband, Jobert, found her floating among the debris. Soon after, Emily gave birth to her daughter amidst the rubble: new life emerging from the abyss of destruction.

Such hope for new life is so evidently carried in the hearts of very many of those suffering the effects of the typhoon. In fact, more than anything we can give them, they offer us an inspiring witness to the power of hope, a hope deeply rooted in faith.

I find it especially remarkable that their trust in God has not been crushed by the terrifying winds which flattened everything else, including so many churches. For others, this kind of natural disaster, far from manifesting the “author of beauty” [as we heard in the first Reading], gives reason to reject belief in God. But, instead, what have we witnessed? As Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, said: we see “Faith in the midst of ruins.”

It was humbling and encouraging to see people last Sunday, despite everything they’d suffered, gathering for Mass close to the remains of their beloved church buildings which had crumbled before the elemental forces. At Loboc, for example, the Parish Priest, Fr Andres Ayco decided to hold three Masses, whereas others in the area held just two. Why? Because he had not been able to announce that the 8:30 am Mass was cancelled! That’s real pastoral care. Fr Andre knew that those who turned up for Mass would be severely disappointed if there was none. They needed it, desired it. For as Fr Andre said: “Behind their suffering is their faith in the Lord.”

In this same parish, the Children’s Choir sang hymns to uplift the community’s spirits. One of the Choir members, a fifteen year old girl called Carmel Mae, explained that though still frightened herself by the aftershocks she didn’t want fear to prevent her from giving “hope and inspiration to the people…so that they will no longer be afraid.” Just one instance of the love shared amongst those who have lost so much.

Certainly, this admirable hope, faith, and love flourishing in the face of the grievous pain of loss, this cleaving to God despite the horror experienced, encourages us to strive for the same remarkable and unreserved commitment to God’s providence; to the God who from all bad things has the power to bring out good, even from the suffering wrought by Typhoon Yolanda. Nowhere do we see this power of God more clearly than in the Crucifix. In every darkness, we are gently invited to look to the Crucifix, and from its silence discern God’s response.

When Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in our cathedral, he directed our gaze to “the great crucifix dominating the nave, which portrays Christ’s body, crushed by suffering”. He spoke eloquently of Christ uniting our sufferings to the infinite merits of his sacrifice. He assured us that we are caught up in Christ’s eternal oblation, the source of life itself. In the Crucifix we see the very presence of God in human suffering and death: the Word now silent promising healing and resurrection. We cannot exclude God from this awful situation because God has chosen to be in the thick of it, transforming it from within! Look at Christ crucified and see the people of the Philippines embraced in that ultimate Love which is the source of their sure and certain hope. From the silence of the Cross, hear the reason for their faith.

Mary stood by the foot of that Cross. Devotion to Mary brings great comfort to people afflicted by the typhoon. Processions with statues of Our Lady tangibly express their firm conviction that the Virgin is with them, giving birth to her Son amidst the rubble, giving birth to Hope, to new Life, even where death appeared to triumph. In the parish of Barangay Napu, dedicated to Birhen sa Kasilag, Our Lady of Light, the statue of our Blessed Mother survived destruction. In the Masses celebrated in the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda, and at every Mass, the Light who is Mary’s Son, God-with-us, shines brilliantly, casting out the darkness of despair from people’s lives.

At this Mass, and at every Mass, we are most intimately bound in love to all the victims of the typhoon, and they to us. We believe that in offering Mass for them, the most powerful assistance is given. We pray that those who lost their lives may be gathered into the outstretched hands of the dying Christ, who breathed into our world the very breath of Life, the Holy Spirit. By the power the Holy Spirit, may all who died in Christ be lifted up to the Father, raised to life everlasting. We pray for those who mourn that they may know the consolation of Christ who wept at the death of his friend Lazarus, and who weeps with them. We thank God for our Filipino brothers’ and sisters’ inspiring example of hope, faith and love amidst such devastation. We express our gratitude for their great witness to the life-giving power of the Mass.

Pope Francis, at the Angelus last Sunday, assured the population of the Philippines of his closeness to them. The Holy Father then invited everyone gathered in St Peter’s Square to pray for a moment in silence and afterwards to join him in praying the Hail Mary for the victims of the typhoon. Looking to the Crucifix, looking to Mary standing by her suffering Son, standing by those suffering in the Philippines, let us now do the same.

Hail Mary, full of Grace the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

You can donate online with CAFOD - the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development part of the Caritas Internationalis.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Bishop Kieran Issues Pastoral Letter for End of Year of Faith

The Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Kieran Conry has issued a pastoral letter to mark the end of the Year of Faith which was read in all churches in the diocese at the weekend.

Bishop Kieran reflected on the nature of faith and the need for it to be first and foremost "a personal response to God’s love and an acceptance of that offer of God’s friendship."

The heart of faith for the Bishop is that "despite me and my mistakes, God loves me intensely and without reservation or condition. Faith is believing what the basic gospel message is: it’s not, “Do this,” but see what God has done. God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for us and free us from our sins."

To read his letter in full or listen to the audio version go to the Diocesan website.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Philippines Disaster Foremost in Mind of Church at the Moment

We continue to pray and raise funds for the disaster in the Philippines. In this Arundel & Brighton Diocese we are able to support the work of our own Caritas Internationalis member CAFOD.

But as you can see below and in the video this is a worldwide Church effort from the Vatican to the Philippines itself says: The death toll is estimated at 10,000, but expected to grow. There are millions affected, and nearly600,000 people displaced, after Typhoon Haiyan battered the Philippineswith 150mph winds and 10-foot tidal waves.

Patrick Nicholson, Communications Director, Caritas Internationalis:
“People who've flown over the area say they haven't seen similar to this since the Asian Tsunami in 2004 or the Haiti earthquake, so we're talking about a massive catastrophe.”

Such comparisons are proof of the destruction, and the need for immediate assistance. Catholic groups stepped up right away.

Pope Francis, through the Vatican's Cor Unum Council, agreed to send $150,000 to the Catholic Church in the Philippines. The money will be distributed among the dioceses hardest hit by the storm.

Meanwhile the Vatican's official aid agency, Caritas Internationalis, created a special fund where people can donate to support aid efforts. They also have aid workers on the ground, assessing the damage and helping out victims.

Patrick Nicholson, Communications Director, Caritas Internationalis:
“In a disaster of this magnitude, disease can spread very quickly. We're seeing lots of dead bodies on the street, so that's a real concern. So getting water that is clean, and hygiene set up is really key.”

Caritas Internationalis is coordinating with its local affiliate in the Philippines, as well as U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services, and the country's government.

The network of Catholic dioceses and churches in the devout Pacific nation has allowed Caritas to reach victims almost immediately. But the challenge in the coming days is helping out people living in more remote areas.

Patrick Nicholson, Communications Director, Caritas Internationalis:
“Our immediate reports are, again, of whole communities being washed away, and the levels of destruction being very high. So those are our real concerns at the moment, to reach those places, which haven't yet been reached, and to provide the assistance the survivors there really need.”

Besides hygiene, the other priorities for Caritas are ensuring people affected by Typhoon Haiyan have access to food and water. They also see an immediate need for housing and counseling.

And while long-term reconstruction efforts are also on their minds, Caritas Internationalis said the focus, at the moment, is on saving lives.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Catholic Church to Play Key Role in Helping with Philippines Disaster

Reuters/Erik De Castro - Courtesy of alertnet
The Catholic church will play a vital role in responding to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan says CAFOD, as it launches an urgent appeal for funds to support the work of its church partners in the Philippines.

Donate to CAFOD's Philippines Typhoon Haiyan appeal >>>

CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the Church in England and Wales alerted people to the so-called “super-typhoon” which has been described as the most powerful storm ever to make landfall, striking the central Philippines on Friday 8 November with sustained winds of 235 kph.

With power lines and phone lines down, the full impact of the typhoon is not yet known, but it is clear that it is had a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions of people. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in Tacloban city alone. Hundreds have been killed elsewhere, and there has been widespread destruction of homes, schools and roads.

Crucial role of the church
In a country where 80 per cent of people are Catholic, CAFOD is working with Caritas Philippines and its American sister charity, Catholic Relief Services, to provide the most urgently needed aid: food, emergency shelter and essential household goods –– like pots, pans, blankets and cooking equipment – for people who have lost everything. With water supplies disrupted in many areas, the agency is also planning to provide clean water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.

In the longer term, CAFOD will help people to rebuild their homes and to make a living again. Because of the scale of the flooding and because roads have been blocked, some parts of the country remain difficult to reach – but the agency’s Church partners are rapidly reaching out to the worst hit and most remote areas affected.

No time to waste
CAFOD Director Chris Bain said: “However distressing the images of devastation and stories of suffering caused by Typhoon Haiyan, we cannot waste time on despair or shock – not when there are still lives to be saved, and communities in such desperate need of help.

“We are launching our emergency appeal in response to the hundreds of schools, parishes and individuals up and down the country who have contacted us to ask: ‘What can we do?’, showing the generosity and compassion that is always the hallmark of the Catholic community in times of crisis.

“The best way we can all help is by supporting the charities and church groups who are already operating in the worst hit areas, responding to their immediate needs for food, water and shelter, beginning the hard work of rebuilding the communities that have lost everything, and keeping them constantly in our prayers. Together, we can bring new hope to those who today face utter desolation.”

Shocking scenes
Local aid workers have described devastating scenes in the aftermath of the typhoon, particularly on the island of Leyte.

Rey Barnido, an aid worker from CAFOD’s partner Caritas Philippines, said: "Patients are overflowing from the regional hospital in Tacloban. There are dead people everywhere. There is no water or power. Volunteers are trying to manage the disaster. It looks as if nuclear bombs were dropped."

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of CAFOD’s partner Caritas Philippines, said: “It’s the first time the Philippines has experienced a disaster of this magnitude. Despite the precautions, this was beyond all expectations. We really need all the help we can get.”

CAFOD has immediately deployed an emergency support team who will be working alongside Caritas Philippines and Catholic Relief Services.

The typhoon hit some of the same areas that were affected by an earthquake in October, adding to damage to houses and hampering aid efforts. Thousands of people on Bohol island, where CAFOD was responding to the earthquake, are now living in tents, makeshift shelters and evacuation centres. CAFOD is continuing to supply food and shelter to those who most need it.

Over the next few days, the typhoon is likely to cause more devastation in the Mekong River basin as it hits the coast of Vietnam. It may also add to the flooding in Cambodia, where more than 140,000 are already homeless.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Diocesan Advent 2013 Reflection Materials Now Available

Our Lady of Advent, Gate of Heaven © William H. McNichols
During this year's programme of reflections for Advent (Year A), each week will focus on only one of the readings for that particular Sunday. This will be followed by an excerpt from the document The Gift of Scripture.

This opportunity to reflect on The Gift of Scripture connects the Advent programme with the Diocesan Jubilee programme (see above), where we are invited to enter more deeply into our understanding of God's Word. You can either order direct from the Diocesan Bookshop or download copies from here.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Eastbourne Parish Fundraising to Keep Warm this Winter

Fr David (left) and Fr Rags (right next to Dr Nick) with Dr Nick (centre) at the end of the Marathon 
Face with expensive repairs both to the church and presbytery boiler, the church of Our Lady of Ransom took up fundraising with a vengeance inspired by Dr Nick Woodall. He started the ball rolling by running the Beachy Head Marathon. 

It was Nick’s initiative which inspired so many other parishioners to launch their own fund-raising evenings including a successful Filipino Evening, and the parish priests Fr Rags Hay-Will and Fr David  King are so grateful to everyone for becoming involved in this way. 

It has also been a great opportunity to bring many of the church community united together socially, in a cause which affects all of them.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Catholic Deacon Helps to Bring Voice of Syrian Christians to UK

Patriarch Gregorios with Deacon Richard Downer and Fr Dominic Robinson SJ
Deacon Richard Downer who is a Melkite Greek-Catholic Deacon living in A&B Diocese was recently instrumental in arranging for the visit in October of Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III to the UK. He is President of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in Syria.

He came at the special invitation of Aid to the Church in Need to speak about the situation of Christians in the Middle East and especially Syria which is his home, living as he does in Damascus on Straight Street which St Paul walked down nearly 2,000 years ago. The Patriarch made a presentation in Westminster Cathedral Hall which you can see on the ACN website as well as meeting government ministers and others.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A&B Group in Rome with Pope for Pilgrimage of the Families

“Holy Family of Nazareth reawaken in our society the awareness of the sacred and inviolable character of the family, an inestimable and irreplaceable good….”

Pope Francis and Cardinal Paglia with children of the pilgrimage
These were Pope Francis’ concluding words that encapsulated the theme of the inaugural pilgrimage of families to the tomb of St Peter. Tens of thousands of people, from across the world, gathered during the weekend of October 26th and 27th in response to the Pope’s call to come together on pilgrimage. Amongst them were a group from England and Wales representing the Catholic Grandparents’ Association including several from Arundel & Brighton Diocese.

Saturday’s event was extraordinary in its informality. Helium balloons waving in the air greeted the pope on his arrival and gymnasts and acrobats entertained us.

A variety of families were introduced to the Pope; Young engaged couples came forward to explain how they longed for their marriage and the start of their families. A couple who had been married for 50 years came forward with their children and grandchildren, they said the secret to a good marriage was to say yes to each other and to put their marriage first. A young Syrian refugee spoke to share his belief that politicians won't solve the problems of war; he said we need to pray for peace and he thanked all the families of the world for praying for peace in Syria.

The atmosphere was one of a happy family party as children moved freely around the top of the steps hugging the Holy Father and holding his hand.

Everyone joined together to make a profession of faith and the balloons were released into the sky; a very visual statement of the joy and faith of the people gathered.

In his address Pope Francis said “The life of a family is filled with beautiful moments: rest, meals together, walks in the park or the countryside, visits to grandparents or to a sick person… But if love is missing, joy is missing, nothing is fun. Jesus always gives us that love: he is its endless source and he gives himself to us in the Eucharist. There he gives us his word and the bread of life, so that our joy may be complete.”

The Pope reflected on the icon of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple, He highlighted that it depicts three generations that come together to fulfil a single mission: the elderly persons represent faith as memory, they have the wisdom and he reminded us of his affection for his own grandmother. Mary and Joseph are the family, their lives enriched by the person of Jesus.

He stated firmly that there are three words every relationship needed; Please, Thank you and Sorry. He stressed that these needed to be said everyday and accepted with a good heart. He acknowledged that life is not easy and we all have problems in our relationships but insisted that if we used these phrases well we would be at peace with each other and could continue to grow in love.
He concluded that the Lord is the fountain of all love and if you are short of love, His love and love for another, then your lives are poorer.

The crowds gathered again for Mass on Sunday and the Pope repeated his theme of the importance of families. He said “Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well... True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world; it is the leaven of society.” Full texts of the pope’s speeches can be found at

His recognition of the importance of the family has resulted in him calling an extraordinary synod in October 2014. Everyone is invited to participate in putting forward their views by going to