World Day of Peace

In England and Wales Catholics, are invited to make today (January 20th) a day of prayer for peace and to reflect on the theme Pope Francis has chosen for the annual World Day of Peace with the challenging title ‘Good politics serves peace’.

Today also we begin the annual week of prayers for Christian Unity so that Christ’s prayer, “That they all may be One” becomes reality.  It will conclude next Sunday with an ecumenical service in the United Reformed Church at 6pm.

13th January 2019 – The Baptism of the Lord

Dear Parishioners,
                            – a few extracts from Pope Francis’  comments on prayer at his  general audience last week .

It is in Luke’s Gospel that the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. And from this request is born Christ’s teaching on the words to use in addressing God. He is to be addressed as “Father.”

Jesus explains also some things to give us confidence. They emphasise the attitudes of the praying believer.

For instance, there is the parable of the importunate friend, who goes to disturb a whole family that is sleeping, because a person arrived suddenly from a trip and he has no bread to offer him. What does Jesus say to this man who knocks on the door and wakes his friend? ‘I tell you, though he will not get up to give the bread to him because he is a friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him whatever he needs'(Luke 11:9).”

There follows the story of the father and hungry son, in which Jesus suggests that a father would not give a serpent to a son who is hungry and asks for a fish. Thus, God will not forget his children.

But why is it that sometimes prayers seem to go unanswered? “We’ve all experienced this — how many times have we knocked and found a closed door, Pope Francis asked. “In those moments, Jesus recommends that we insist and not give up. Prayer always transforms the reality — always. If the things around us don’t change, at least we change, our heart changes. Jesus has promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to every man and every woman who prays.”

“We can be certain that God will answer. The only uncertainty is due to the timing, but we must not doubt that He will respond. Perhaps we’ll have to insist our whole life, but He will answer.”

Fr John

6th January 2019 – The Epiphany

Dear Parishioners,

Today we welcome Fr Joseph Archibong to make the annual mission appeal on behalf of the Kiltegan Mission Society. The St Patrick’s Missionary Society, to give its official title, was founded by an Irish diocesan priest, Fr Francis Whitney, who in response to an appeal made by the famous Irish pioneer Bishop Shanahan in 1920, volunteered to help the mostly French Spiritan priests in their mission in Nigeria.

There Fr Whitney witnessed the enthusiasm of the Nigerian people to the call of the Gospel. The urgent need for more priests gave him the idea of recruiting volunteer Irish priests and seminarians to work in in Nigeria.

The idea grew and the Kiltegan Fathers were established on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March 1932 and began training its own priests at Kiltegan in Ireland, hence the name. The Society then recruited qualified Irish laity, men, women and religious, to join them and help found and run desperately needed hospitals and schools.

The fledgling society rapidly grew and Rome asked the Kiltegans to take on missions in Kenya and later in Brazil. Propelled by the spirit of their motto ‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos’ (The love of Christ urges us on: 2 Cor 5:14) that growth continued and St Patrick’s Missionary Society priests now work in in Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, South Sudan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil and Grenada.

ln 1997 African students were accepted by the Society to train as missionary priests and in 2007 as Kiltegan celebrated its 75th anniversary the first African members were ordained as full members of St. Patrick’s Missionary Society. As their numbers have grown, they represent a new beginning for St. Patrick’s Missionary Society changing it from a largely Irish organisation to a truly International Society.

In the 21st century their work concentrates on building up the local church through the establishment of small Christian communities within parishes, supporting families, training lay leaders, formation of young Christians, alongside their priority mission to the marginalised and the poverty-stricken in the teeming shanty towns of Africa’s growing cities. In South Sudan they work especially among the huge numbers of refugees.

Fr Joe will tell us more…

Fr John

Global Healing

GLOBAL HEALING A big thank you to all who came to the well-attended Laudato Si film and meeting on Wednesday. In keeping with the Live Simply campaign we didn’t use any plastic plates or cutlery and everybody seemed to engage with an important aspect of our faith whilst enjoying themselves in good company. See photo and full report on the parish website.

Christmas Cards

CHRISTMAS CARDS  We would welcome parishioners’ help again in delivering Christmas Cards.  Even if you have helped in previous years please confirm with Janet  (for St Michael & St John’s) if you are still willing to help.  We hope to have them ready for delivery by next weekend 15/16 December.

2nd December 2018 – 1st Sunday of Advent

THANK YOU ALL…

Recently, all parishioners were invited to complete a questionnaire entitled “Offering my Time and Gifts” as part of the Hope in the Future initiative.

On the 4th October 2017 Bishop John launched this initiative for the renewal of the Diocese of Salford. Earlier in the year, three meetings were held in all three churches in our parish to help us reflect on how to follow the example of St Francis of Assisi in rebuilding our church, by recognising and celebrating our gifts in the service of the church and  others.

Following on from these meetings the questionnaire was launched to look at harvesting our gifts. The questionnaire invited each parishioner to confirm which parish groups they already volunteer for and which parish groups they would be interested in knowing more about with a view to volunteering. The response to the questionnaire has been amazing and a big thank you must go out to all those who returned their questionnaire.

Out of the 350 forms taken over 80 were returned. These showed the vast number of people that already volunteer for the numerous parish groups we have and they also showed just how many of our parishioners want to volunteer.

Every parishioner who returned a questionnaire stating their interest in a parish group will in due course be contacted with further information. Due to the overwhelming response this will take a little time but be assured contact will be made.

Out of the 71 parish groups listed on the questionnaire, interest was shown in relation to 54, with many groups having several volunteers. Some of the groups already exist in our parish but many are new, which will hopefully represent exciting times for our parish moving forward. Sadly, we received little response to the youth groups, which with dropping numbers of teenagers and young people attending church is something many parishioners have raised as a concern.

If you have not yet returned your questionnaire, it is not too late. They can be returned to the Presbytery at any time. Spare questionnaires are still available at the back of church after Mass, so if you have not yet had one, please feel free to take one.

As already stated, those who have shown interest will be contacted in due course and for now, we thank those who already volunteer and those who have shown interest.

Hope in the Future Steering Group

Christ the King – 25th November 2018

Dear Parishioners,

(An interesting extract from an article written by the respected journalist John Allen)

Over the last three weeks, Christians and others concerned with religious freedom have been watching the drama play out in Pakistan, where Asia Bibi was finally released from nine years on death row on a blasphemy charge only to be forced into hiding inside the country with no clear exit strategy for asylum.

Bibi, an illiterate Catholic mother of five, at least has the good fortune that her case has become something of an international cause célèbre, so it garners steady media and political attention. Yet hers is hardly an isolated story, with most other victims of religious persecution around the world languishing in silence.

In this context, it’s worth revisiting a landmark study released in the spring of 2017 by “Under Caesar’s Sword”, a joint partnership between Notre Dame (Catholic University in Indiana) and the Washington based Religious Freedom Institute, which is devoted to understanding global Christian communities. In this case, the study focused on Christian responses to persecution in 25 nations, generally those where anti-Christian oppression is the strongest and most violent.

Although there are several annual reports on religious freedom violations worldwide, few focus specifically on anti-Christian persecution, and this is the first to ever ponder not merely the fact of oppression but how Christians respond to it.

In terms of why the focus on Christians, the study couldn’t have been clearer: “In short, Christians are the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally.”

Further, the study noted another compelling reason for the focus on Christians: “Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this persecution is the lack of press coverage it receives … the mainstream media and human rights organizations give it little attention.”

As an example, the study noted that during a period from 2008 to 2011, Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s most respected watchdog groups, devoted just 2.5 percent of its reports to religious persecution of any sort, and fewer than half that number included Christians. This despite the fact that the low-end estimate for the number of Christians killed for their faith around the world every year works out to one new martyr almost every hour of every day.

Fr John

33rd Sunday in Ordinary time – 18th November 2018

Dear Parishioners,

As you may be aware, on 18 June 2015 Pope Francis published a letter called Laudato Si which emphasises our responsibility to care for our common home, planet earth, which faces a dire future if present trends continue.

He speaks to the whole world about the increasing damage we are inflicting on our environment and challenges us all to make the connections between our lifestyles and the damage they do to the planet.  He encourages us to learn to recognise the choices we have in our lives to help or hinder our planet’s health.  Every drop of water we drink, every strand of cotton we wear, every word we write on our computers affects the environment in some way or other. And need I add: plastic bags?

His letter has been received positively by other churches, environmental groups and governments

He calls us to recognise our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork, as an essential aspect of Christian living. We must all take responsibility to safeguard God’s creation.

In our parish this Advent, we are launching a short course called Global Healing on 5 December, which will continue with two sessions after the New Year. Bishop John has recommended it to the diocese.  It starts with an evening of film, discussion and a multicultural meal.  In the spirit of our “Live Simply” parish initiative, the 30-minute film illustrates practical responses from dioceses, parishes, families and individuals around the country. The film includes interviews with Cardinal Nichols and specialists in environmental questions.

Seven people have already volunteered to provide a choice of meals from around the world. But it would be good if more volunteered to join them! Please contact any member of the Live Simply (Laudato Si) group, or ring Anthony Brown on 01200 422811 for further information.

Also, volunteers from the group will be outside after Masses who will be only too glad to answer your questions and offer tickets (so that we have an idea how many will come, to ensure sufficient meals with no wastage of food).   The tickets are free but please only take one if you intend to come, and return it if you find you can’t.  Please feel welcome to invite family and friends.

Fr John

Further information: – http://www.olotv.org.uk/parish-groups/laudato-si

31st Sunday in Ordinary time – 4 November 2018

Dear Parishioners,

I’m writing this on Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows eve, the eve of All Saints Day.

So, maybe a few thoughts about the most critical moment of life: Death. Death is life’s moment of truth when we shall see and recognise ourselves for what we are. It is then that God waits to accept us into his infinite loving embrace. Some may fall into God’s arms immediately. For others the embarrassment of fickle, imperfect, vacillating love may prevent an unconditional acceptance of God’s embrace until love is purified and refined. Sadly, some may be so full of hatred and denial of everything good that they turn their face forever away from love, from God. An eternity without love is simply Hell.

On the other hand, Heaven is an endless moment of love. Nothing more separates the saints from the God whom they have sought their life long. Together with the angels they rejoice eternally in and with God. (Observe a couple in love) oblivious to the world as they look into each other’s eyes or a suckling baby looking up to its mother’s face — then you have some inkling of Heaven. To be able to see God face to face is like a single, never-ending moment of love.

Purgatory, often imagined as a place, is actually a condition. One who dies in God’s grace but whose frail and wavering love is in need of purifying of selfishness is in the state we name: Purgatory. After Peter’s betrayal, Jesus looked at him but Peter could only turn in shame to weep bitterly — he withdrew, unable to accept Jesus’ forgiving gaze of love. Just such a purgatory, a purification of love probably awaits most at death — the Lord will look at us full of love but on our side burning shame and remorse for past faithlessness and unloving behaviour will hold us back. Only after purification will our love rush us into God’s loving embrace in untroubled heavenly joy.

We, who are baptized, both the living and the dead, are united in one family, in one communion. So we pray for each other — we ask the saints to intercede for us and in turn we intercede for our dead. Our example is St Thomas More who wrote to his daughter Meg on the night before his execution: “Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you, and for all your friends, that we may merrily meet in heaven.”

All Saints is the day we praise God for his miracles of grace. All Souls is the day we remember and pray for our departed family and friends.

Fr John