Coronavirus is not going away easily and it seems that in the near future we may be asked to make still more sacrifices. I sincerely hope that these will not affect our freedom to keep the present limited timetable of Masses available.
Indeed, during the Zoom meetings with my European confrères this week, it became apparent that in some places on the continent they are now able to leave their churches open for private prayer as well as for the occasional liturgies. I hope we will soon be in a position to do the same, but, as yet, we have not received any directive that his will be possible without a team of people to keep the church cleansed at all times.
On the bright side, we can rejoice that so many of our children have now made their First Holy Communion and that in the next couple of weeks those who have been waiting since Easter will be able to be baptised and/or received into full communion with us.
I renew my thanks to all our catechists and administrators who have worked so hard to ensure that we have been able to move on so successfully.
May I just reiterate what I said last week and assure you that I will try and have a conversation with our finance teams as soon as possible:
Finance is another of the mountains I am aware of and It is heartening that many people are concerned about the situation after almost six months without regular collections. Kindly some of you have sent cheques or planned giving envelopes to the Monastery and a number of you have switched to standing orders with the bank. I am very grateful for all of this. The challenge remains as to how to proceed. Those of you who Gift Aid your contributions will soon be receiving a letter to confirm the amount you gave during the last financial year, the end of which almost coincided with the Lockdown.
Meanwhile, I can only suggest that if you wish and are able to bring your contributions up to date, that you send a cheque (with all the necessary details) and we will continue to keep accurate records. At the same time I see no point in resuming collections at the Sunday or even the Weekday Masses until such time as we can return to something closer to normality and enlist our counting teams again.
THE FUTURE FOR THE REDEMPTORISTS:
During the coming week each morning I will be involved in Zoom Meetings with my Redemptorist confrères across northern Europe as we plan a path for the future. There is no denying the fact that for all of us the challenges are enormous. The common pattern of a serious lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life mean that continually we are having to reassess the options. It is comparable to the process taking place in the wider Church and most notably in the Synod process in our own Archdiocese. While Covid 19 can hardly be viewed as a positive, in a perverse and paradoxical way, it has forced all of us to stop and analyse our priorities.
As I mentioned in my last Thursday message, when I met for prayer at Strawberry Field on Wednesday, we focused on the need to spread good news and Kip Crooks from St Peter’s Woolton introduced the notion of synergy. Essentially the word speaks to us of the value of working together and like Kip I sought a spiritual connotation and found this:
“A distinctive element in the Orthodox understanding of how the Holy Spirit works deification within us is the doctrine of ‘synergy’ – ‘working together’. This working together is the collaboration of God’s grace and a person’s will.”
Please pray with me for that gift of the Holy Spirit in our Redemptorist meetings this week and in all that we continue to strive for in our parishes at this time.
Finance is another of the mountains I am aware of and It is heartening that many people are concerned about the situation after almost six months without regular collections. Kindly some of you have sent cheques or planned giving envelopes to the Monastery and a number of you have switched to standing orders with the bank. I am very grateful for all of this. The challenge remains as to how to proceed.
Those of you who Gift Aid your contributions will soon be receiving a letter to confirm the amount you gave during the last financial year, the end of which almost coincided with the Lockdown. Meanwhile, I can only suggest that if you wish and are able to bring your contributions up to date, that you send a cheque (with all the necessary details) and we will continue to keep accurate records.
At the same time I see no point in resuming collections at the Sunday or even the Weekday Masses until such time as we can return to something closer to normality and enlist our counting teams again.
For the time being it will not be possible for me to visit the schools and indeed they are not able to have assemblies, which usually provide me with the opportunity to keep in touch with all the children. Therefore, I am arranging with the staff to use the new technology and periodically to record some messages for the different age groups. One mountain tentatively approached!
SETTING NEW GOALS:
In an attempt to assess where we are now, I sense that we have reached a plateau on which we seem to be making some progress, but there remain some mountains ahead which still need climbing. By all accounts the return to school seems to be going well and we are making real progress with the First Communions. Likewise, the interim timetable is providing many of you with an opportunity to get to Mass from time to time and we are planning to baptise and receive into the Church those who took part in the Journey of Faith.
THE RETIREMENT OF DEACON JOHN KEELEY:
After 33 years of faithful service to our Parish and the Archdiocese, John Keeley has asked Archbishop Malcolm to accept that this is the time for him to retire from active ministry. He graciously continued for five years after the official age for retirement and on everyone’s behalf I want to thank him for the wonderful way in which he has served the Lord in our community. An inspiring preacher, utterly reliable, gentle, thoughtful in reaching out to others, he has touched the lives of generations of parishioners and I have been blessed with his support during the past nine years.
Our thanks also go to Maureen and the family who have supported him on every step of the journey.
We will look for an opportunity to mark the occasion of his retirement as soon as the coronavirus crisis has passed.
BACK TO SCHOOL (But not back to normal!)
I am sure that there is some apprehension among the governors, the staff, the parents and the children as we prepare to reopen our schools in the coming week. However, I think we also sense that this is a watershed moment in the whole coronavirus saga. If we can manage this successfully, it will strengthen the conviction that we are beginning to overcome the challenges with which we have been presented in the last few months. I suggest that this weekend we unite our prayers around this cause.
And this leads me to remind you of my invitation on the day before the children broke up (20 March!): namely that we try to set a few minutes aside for prayer each evening at 7.00pm. I encourage you to renew your commitment to this way of staying united as a family in the Lord. It has also given us, the Redemptorist Community here at Bishop Eton, a focus for our prayer in union with you all.
At the same time, I realise that the restrictions on us in every walk of life mean that we are nowhere near returning to what we were used to and there is no immediate prospect of us being able to return to our regular way of celebrating in the church. However, the fact that we have found a way forward with the First Communions and are hoping soon to baptise and receive into the Church those who took part in the Journey of Faith, is further evidence that we are managing to find imaginative ways of meeting the challenges. And so to my final reminders: because of the numbers the 11.00am at St Mary’s on the next three Sundays will have to be reserved for the First Communicants and their families; the Mass times in both Bishop Eton and St Mary’s will remain as they have been during the past few weeks and I will continue to record a weekend Mass for the foreseeable future.
EVERY BLESSING FOR THE COMING WEEK
FR JAMES PRESTON
Fr James returns to Oscott College this coming week: on behalf of all of us my sincere thanks for all his and Fr Andrew Robinson’s help during these past weeks. We assure them of our prayers as they help to form the next generation of clergy.
FINAL PROFESSION AND DIACONATE
We congratulate the Rev Michael Taylor, CSsR, who has close family ties with both parishes, and who will make his Final Vows as a Redemptorist at a ceremony in Bishop Eton at 5.00pm on Monday evening. He will be ordained a Deacon by Bishop Ralph Heskett at noon on Tuesday. You will understand that, because of the circumstances, these will have to be private ceremonies with a few family members and friends.
Please pray for Michael and the Redemptorists.
We hope that he will be ordained to the Priesthood at Bishop Eton on the 8th December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and celebrate his First Mass at St Mary’s the following day.
Page 1 of 48