Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Bishop Richard Moth Interview

© Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk
Bishop Richard Moth is well used to travelling hopefully. As bishop of the forces, he has literally been around the world and back in the last year – journeying some 26,000 miles in 12 months. But, although Pope Francis last month appointed him the fifth bishop of Arundel & Brighton, his travels are not at an end.

While Bishop Richard said he is ‘blessed’ to be in a part of the country he knows, his immediate plan is to get to know the diocese better – and that means a lot more travelling, although, rather than Camp Bastion, his visits will be throughout Sussex and Surrey.

Asked what he saw as the priorities for A&B, Bishop Richard said: ‘I am looking forward to getting around and meeting everybody, getting a feel for everything…The key thing is to listen for a while.’

While acknowledging that vocations to the priesthood are an issue, he said: ‘It is key for any bishop…For me it applies across the board and also involves supporting marriage, the religious life and fostering people who think God is calling them to a single life.’

Bishop Richard will be installed at Arundel cathedral on 28 May and is very much looking forward to the 50th Jubilee celebrations in July.

‘It is a wonderful opportunity for the diocese going forward,’ he said. ‘We must be open to the influence of the Holy Spirit coming out of the Jubilee.’

The 56-year old bishop said he has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the welcome he has received, since his appointment was announced.

‘I’ve had a fairly huge amount of correspondence,’ he said. ‘And I have been made extremely welcome. It has been quite overwhelming.’

Bishop Richard was born in Zambia in 1958, when it was still known as Northern Rhodesia. His father worked there for Anglo American, the mining concern. But the bishop actually grew up in Edenbridge, Kent, just over the border in the archdiocese of Southwark.

The young Richard attended the prestigious Judd grammar school, in nearby Tonbridge, from 1979 until 1976. He was keen on the arts, rather than the sciences, and his favourite subjects were history and English. But he knew from the age of 13 that he wanted to be a priest and, rather than going to university, he went straight from school to the seminary.

‘I finished at the Judd in the July,’ he remembered. ‘And I went to St John’s seminary [Wonersh] in the August.’

According to Bishop Richard, he had been greatly influenced by their local priest in Edenbridge: ‘He was such a good example.’

After that, he said: ‘I went on various retreats and, when I was leaving school, I applied to Archbishop Cowderoy to go for formation.’

An 18-year old would not be accepted today, would they?

‘I think it is important to look at each individual,’ said Bishop Moth, who was formerly vocations director for Southwark. ‘Sometimes, people have said someone is too old. I think it is right to look into each case. It is not just teenagers, we should be open to older people and to those interested in the religious life.’

He also emphasised how essential it is for all those in religious life to offer a good example for those considering a vocations.

Bishop Richard’s parents accepted that the priesthood was ‘right’ for him, although he was an only child and it meant there would be no grandchildren.

At Wonersh, Bishop Richard particularly enjoyed canon law – taught by Fr Peter Smith, who would go on to be Archbishop of Southwark and was, until recently, apostolic administrator of A&B. After Ordination, the then Fr Richard worked in parishes in the London area – first at Clapham Park. He was to go from there, after two years, to study canon law in Ottawa. This led to Bishop Richard’s long involvement in marriage tribunal work: the process of applying for annulments through the Church. And when he returned to a parish in Lewisham, he also worked as a canon lawyer.

From there, Bishop Richard went to be secretary to Michael Bowen, the then archbishop of Southwark. He was very much a jack-of-all-trades during this period, acting as vocations director, press secretary, vice-chancellor and president of the appeals tribunal.

After his time as secretary to Archbishop Bowen, Bishop Richard became vicar general of Southwark, then chancellor of the archdiocese until in 2009, until he was called to be the bishop of the forces. It is an unusual position, he explained: ‘It is an Ordinariate, canonically. It functions like a diocese but it is defined by its people rather than by physical boundaries. Wherever British forces are, that is the diocese.’

It was during this period that Bishop Richard’s travels really began. He visited Germany, Cyprus, Gibraltar, the Falklands, Afghanistan, America and the home nations. He also spent time on HMS Illustrious, as a guest of the Royal Navy.

Bishop Richard said he felt privileged to work with the forces and their chaplains: ‘It’s a fascinating work to do, there are examples of great faith…I learnt a lot.’

He maintained that ‘chaplains are held in high esteem’ by everyone connected with the armed forces – whether are people of faith or not.

‘It was wonderful to see the support that the armed forces received from their chaplains,’ he said. ‘At all sorts of levels, the support is there, from somebody to chat to right up to the sacramental role. Chaplains are living alongside service personnel.’

Although leading a conventional diocese has different challenges, Bishop Richard rejected the idea that civilian society does not have as much time for religion or religious values. He said: ‘I tend to feel, in the grand scheme of things, that there is a recognition of the value of religious life, even if that is something people cannot articulate. People are still searching for something.’

In addition to his ‘day jobs’, Bishop Richard has long been involved with two other faith organisations which have been and still are influential in his spiritual and personal life. During his time with Archbishop Bowen, Bishop Richard was made a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. This has seen him travel some 27 times to the Holy Land with pilgrimages of the order and he is hopeful that, maybe, this might be a future destination for an A&B group.

And, since his days as a seminarian, Bishop Richard has also been linked to the Benedictine religious order for 37 years as an ‘oblate’ of the Scottish monastery of Pluscarden. According to Bishop Richard: ‘I have found it a huge benefit to have the support and prayers of the community and to feel part of it. To live something of the Benedictine Rule [St Benedict’s guidance to monastic communities] is to have a sense of family. It has been a huge support. It is a place I go on retreat and I know the community well.’

He maintained that it comes into his life in many ways – and quite often into his homilies as well!

‘The Benedictine Rule is a very balanced, insightful document…I hope it gives a sense of balance to the way I live my life,’ said the bishop. ‘It is not uncommon for diocesan priests to be oblates of monastic communities. I have often come across similar kinds of attachments.’

Looking ahead, A&B’s new bishop said the next few months are going to be ‘hectic’. But, it is clear, Bishop Richard is bringing with him a military energy and a monastic commitment to his new role in Arundel and Brighton.

Article by Sarah Whitebloom

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A&B Golden Jubilee Souvenir Magazine inc Festival 50 Programme

A&B Golden Jubilee Souvenir Magazine with Festival 50 Programme and information is now out in parishes and schools.

Join us on 5th July at the Amex Stadium in Brighton. For more information go to www.dabnet.org/Festival50

For additional copies email Festival50@dabnet.org

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Nuns on the Rise - Vocations Sunday

Carmelite Nuns
© Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk
The number of women entering convents in England and Wales has hit a 25 year high. From a low point of 7 in 2004, the numbers have steadily increased to a high point of 45 in 2014. Religious life is an attractive choice for an increasing number of educated and dynamic young and older women.

Sr Cathy Jones – Religious Life Vocations Promoter at the National Office for Vocation explains why she thinks this is so: “A key reason for this increase is the growth of a culture of vocation in the Church. Young Catholics are asking themselves ‘What is God’s plan for my life?’ and they are availing themselves of opportunities to meet with experienced guides to consider their future in the context of prayer, discussion and scripture.

“It is also significant that in recent years many religious congregations have grown in confidence in proposing their way of life, both through offering taster weekends and by participating in youth festivals, enabling potential ‘discerners’ to easily encounter religious and take the first steps to find out more about religious life.”

Fr Christopher Jamison, Director of the Vocations Office adds: “There is a gap in the market for meaning in our culture and one of the ways in which women may find that meaning is through religious life.”

Theodora Hawksley, 29, until recently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh, joined the Congregation of Jesus a couple of months ago. She is now living in their house in North London and is taking the first steps towards making vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. She says: "Entering religious life was a decision born of love. It was an acknowledgement that my life has slowly and concretely rearranged itself around the love of God, and around that relationship as the one I prize above all else.”

The Congregation of Jesus is an apostolic order working outside the cloister in a wide variety of different fields - in education, healthcare, evangelisation and more besides. Both ‘enclosed’/’contemplative’ and ‘apostolic’ orders are on the rise in terms of numbers – there has been a ninefold increase in the number of active religious sisters and a fourfold increase in the number of enclosed sisters in England and Wales.

The General Superior of the Congregation of Jesus, an Englishwoman, Sister Jane Livesey (Theodora’s boss) says about the rise and the role of women religious: “We have been delighted in the English province to have admitted a postulant at the start of this year and to have a further candidate actively discerning her vocation with us at the moment, both attracted in particular by our Ignatian charism and by our foundress the Venerable Mary Ward, the pioneer of women’s apostolic religious life, who as long ago as 1612, told her earliest members that ‘women in time to come will do much’.”

Mary Ward's vision of an active, apostolic role for women in the Church met with opposition during her lifetime, but it finds an echo now in Pope Francis’ call for women to play a more ‘incisive’ role in the Church. In The Joy of the Gospel, he writes, ‘The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess.’

Sr Jane believes that religious life is one place where women can make just such an incisive contribution:
“It is historically the case that it is religious life that has given women a clear and recognised place in the Church and an opportunity to contribute very fully to the Church’s mission to be at the service of the people of God – whether ‘churched’ or ‘unchurched’. In our case in this country our current ministries include university and seminary teaching, hospital chaplaincy, spiritual accompaniment of all kinds, child psychotherapy and others besides. And we are only one group – there are many other congregations making equally significant contributions who are as grateful to God as we are that he continues to call women and men to follow him in the consecrated life, which, at the invitation of Pope Francis, the Church is honouring and celebrating in particular during 2015, the ‘Year of Consecrated Life’.”

Sunday 26 April is Vocations Sunday – a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. The strapline for this year’s day is ‘Change a Life’ - pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. A Vocations Sunday poster will run at a bus stop in Fiveways, Liverpool as from Thursday inviting people waiting patiently for their bus to ‘Change a Life’ by praying for vocations.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

From Fiesta to Festival - From Peru to Brighton

Fr Kevin Dring enjoying a Peruvian Fiesta
One of the features of Festival 50 on 5th July at the Amex Stadium in Falmer, near Brighton will be the presence of Bishop Dan Turley from our sister Diocese of Chulucanas in Peru. Below Fr Kevin Dring reflects on his own personal experiences of Chulucanas and what effect it had on his early life – including the fiestas!

"I picked up the “Peru bug” back in 1982 when I went for part of a gap year, as a nearly-18-year-old, and spent some months in Chulucanas with Ian Byrnes, Jeremy Lear and Hugh Dutton. I just fell in love with the people, their simple but lively faith, their warmth and openness ... and their almost insatiable desire to celebrate! My vocational seed was definitely sown in those months and like a homing pigeon I was destined to return all of 23 years later as a priest. Once I arrived it felt like only a few years had passed, everything was instantly so familiar. I share a remembrance of one of so many fiestas, which I celebrated in my three years in the Andes.

They love a good fiesta. I thought the Spanish had the prize for wholehearted ‘Fiesta-ing’ but the Peruvians go a step or two further. In November 2005 we went for 2 days to help with and join the Fiesta of the Patrona of Sapillica, La Virgen Pura y Limpia. The fireworks, the processions, bands, music and dancing all day and into the early hours, 100's of baptisms, football competitions (first prize being a huge bull for the lucky winners ... not the easiest prize to share among a team!), singing competitions ... and all going on without interruption for 5 days. Yes – 5 DAYS!! I asked a priest from another parish what his fiesta was like. Having described it to me I said "you must feel tired at the end..." "ILL" he said "I'm always ILL afterwards!" He said it with a smile - confident of recovery in time for the next Fiesta no doubt! I grew to experience the ‘ill’ – recovery cycle many times over those the ensuing years!"

We are certain that Festival 50 will make no one ill and it will be a great day of Fiesta and Jubilee with our new Bishop, Richard Moth.