Talent Auction Bid List updated ahead of this evening’s auctionRead More
Talent Auction Bid List updated ahead of this evening’s auctionRead More
Talent Auction Bid List released ahead of auction 13th July 7pmRead More
A group from the parish headed across the Trough of Bowland to visit the archives and special collections at Stonyhurst College. Stonyhurst has a long Catholic history, reaching back into Recusant times and has been involved in Catholic education for many centuries. Amongst its alumnae are several saints and beatified men. Through the centuries, the school gathered an array of beautiful books and objects which brought our faith alive. We were warmly welcomed by Jan Graffius, the curator of the collections, who gave us a wonderful tour of the collections and told us about the history and life of the school.
The visit to Stonyhurst was concluded with a very pleasant pub lunch at the Bayley Arms.
This past Autumn St Joseph’s parish was chosen to pioneer a new national initiative from the National Vocations Office, Called Beyond. The aim of the week’s event was to build up a momentum within the parish, helping everyone to realise that we all have vocations. By emphasising the universal vocation to holiness, we were challenged to see how the ordinary everyday lives that we lead are in fact charged with the grandeur of God. By raising the sense of universal vocation within a particular parish, the National Vocations Office hope that the initiative will in turn encourage people to see their lives in terms of a vocation, something calling them beyond themselves. Surely it is in nurturing this desire to listen to what God is calling each one of us to that our communities will become seedbeds for vocations to the priesthood, religious life and marriage, and that we will all grow together in the call to holiness.
After much planning, St Joseph’s organised a series of events each evening over the course of a week, beginning with Mass, sometimes in different locations, followed by a time of hospitality and fellowship, and a short talk. Each of the talks reflected a different vocation. Besides a parish celebration on the feast of All Saints which focussed upon the universal call to holiness, one evening offered testimony from three marriages, exploring what it meant ‘for better, for worse… till death do us part’. Another evening was held in the beautiful and serene setting of Hyning Hall where Sr Michaela spoke of life in the cloister. Sr Michaela shared her life as a Bernardine Cistercian sister and Frances Dawbarn spoke of her call to share something of the Cistercian life as a lay oblate in the outside world. On the final night, three priests and a deacon spoke of their vocations to Holy Orders and revealed something of what lay behind the collar.
There were many laughs, and many incredibly inspiring stories, but above all, we were all left feeling as if there was much to ponder. What surprised many was the idea that we all had a vocation. What surprised others was how similar many of the struggles were between being a priest, a married person and a nun, the revelation that we were all poor human beings, struggling to hear the call of the Lord in everyday life.
Called Beyond was a great parish event, bringing together many people. The parish was so grateful to the organising committee who had spent time with the National Vocations Team, preparing for the occasion, putting together the programme, organising publicity and social media, displays and even a set of trump cards. The parish was also grateful to the choir and servers for helping us to raise our minds and hearts to God in celebration of Mass, our youth group for preparing a play for the All Saints celebration, the many parishioners who prepared food and refreshments, and all our intrepid speakers who shared their lives with such inspiration.
Anyone entering St Joseph’s church will have to walk around a tall cross, surrounded by bedding plants in the front garden. It marks the burial ground of Margaret Coulston (1823-1909) – a woman of considerable means and a woman without whom there would be no St Joseph’s church, no Presbytery, and no St Joseph’s school. A small photo taken of her towards the end of her life shows her to be a formidable woman.
Margaret’s family wealth had accrued through the nineteenth century through land acquisitions, and through dividends from her family's banking and railway shares. With the death of her brother, Margaret became the sole heiress to this fortune. She outlived her seven siblings, one of whom was a priest, another was a Carmelite nun (Mother Mary Francis - more on her and her influence later), and another died in the Austrian Army in 1833.
Another line of business for the Coulston family had been the tanning trade. Using land which had been the Syke Tanyard, Margaret commissioned Pugin to design the school-chapel in 1896, before having her own house (the present presbytery) built in 1898 and St Joseph’s church in 1901.
Amongst the books at St Joseph’s, a young parishioner called Carina, recently found a copy of Margaret Coulston’s prayer journal. From the outside it was indistinguishable from the other books on the shelf, but upon opening it, the young person found a treasure trove of prayers and devotions, all beautifully written with quill and ink, which reveal much of Margaret’s spiritual life, and giving us a unique insight into the strength of faith of this woman who desired to give everything she had to the service of God and the building up of His Kingdom.
Margaret had a particular devotion to Venerable Mother Margaret Mostyn (see above), perhaps on account that this abbess shared her own name, but more likely on account of the fact that her sister, Mother Mary Francis Coulston, was a successor in Darlington to the Venerable Margaret Mostyn. Margaret Mostyn’s life takes us back to the dark times of repression and persecution for Catholics. Her indomitable faith led her on an eventful journey via Weymouth and Le Havre to Antwerp, leaving the shores of England in the mid-seventeeth century in order to found a Carmelite community in Lierre in the Netherlands which remained there until times when it was possible to found the house in England. Mother Margaret Mostyn had many mystical experiences and visions, and her fortitude in the face of persecution and faith in times of adversity was clearly an inspiration to Margaret Coulston, especially at a time when Catholicism was attempting to re-establish itself in Lancaster, long renowned for its execution of Catholic priests and people.
Within Margaret Coulston’s prayer journal, there is clear evidence of the powerful influence of her Carmelite sister’s spirituality with a transcription of the Carmelite Rule and the history of the Lierre community together with a litany to St Teresa of Avila. The European background of the Darlington Carmel is shown by a wealth of quotations from many northern European saints who would have been popular in the Netherlands and continued to be so with the Carmelites in Northern England: St Gertrude of Helfta and St Mechtilde of Magdeborg who both fostered devotion to the holy souls in Purgatory. Indeed the Sacred Heart side altar at St Joseph’s has a statue of St Gertrude to remind us to pray for the holy souls.
In the journal, there is also evidence of the influence of English convert Fr Frederick William Faber of the Brompton Oratory and Faith of our Fathers fame and many of the traditional devotions to the sacred infancy of Jesus, the passion and wounds of Christ, the sorrows of Mary, the Sacred Heart, the Divine Will, together with a novena to St Mary Magdalene, excerpts from the writings of St Francis Xavier and St Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, litanies to the angels, prayers of offering and consecration, prayers for the conversion of England, and prayers for virtues, particularly that of humility. Of particular significance to Margaret Coulston are prayers to prepare oneself for a happy death.
In the Journal, there is even a special prayer for the parish priest, which I can only recommend: ‘Vouchsafe, O Lord, I beseech thee to adorn his soul with all those virtues which form a holy priest. Grant to him the faith of St Peter, the charity of St Paul, the zeal of St Charles, the firmness of St John Chrysostom, the evangelical liberty of St Ambrose, the piety of St Bernard, the penitential spirit of David, the amiableness of St Francis de Sales, the humility of St Vincent of Paul. Direct him in all his actions that after being here a prudent and faithful dispenser of thy mysteries that he may receive from thee that bright crown reserved for a priest whose whole life has been consecrated to thy glory, to the salvation of souls, and to his own sanctification. Amen’.
And finally, and mysteriously, one of the things that dropped out of the journal when it was first examined, was a prayer card (first edition), with a picture of Blessed John Bosco, who was beatified in 1929. I wonder what our four-legged friend would make of that, all these years later?
And so, when you pass that cross on the way into the church, pause and spare a moment to pray for Margaret Coulston, our benefactress, and thank God for her kindness and generosity which has done so much to help to build up God’s kingdom in Skerton. And may we be inspired by her example to commit ourselves to a life of prayer and almsgiving, devotion and service to those around us.
Eternal Rest, grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.
In the week of Divine Mercy, a group from the parish ventured to Poland. Most of us were expecting some Spring sunshine, but icy winds were blowing across the Silesian prairies, and snow banked up on the exposed hillsides. But nothing dampened the hearts of our merry band of pilgrims. The pilgrimage was not always easy to bear. On our first day we lived once again the experience of the cross, visiting the concentration camps of Auschwitz. Despite the darkness of that place, it was wonderful to be able to pray at the cell of St Maximilian Kolbe and to remember that love could never be totally extinguished, even in that dark hellhole. Our hearts were revived by visiting the shine of the Divine Mercy where we learnt about the apparitions of Our Lord to St Faustina, and a visit to the shrine of the Black Madonna at Czestochowa where we were able to entrust all our prayers and intentions before the Blessed Mother. The experience of pilgrimage is a beautiful one, growing together, learning from each other and praying together.
One of the pilgrims, Bernadette, reflects upon the week: "On Monday 17th April, parishioners from St Joseph’s church, Lancaster set out at 6am, heading for Krakow and a memorable five day visit to this historic and beautiful city. During this week of Divine Mercy, it was a great opportunity for us to visit the shrine of the Divine Mercy, celebrating Mass in the small basilica, where St Faustina had worshipped, and to hear about not only the life of this amazing nun, but also to listen a member of her order today, speak about the wonderful compassion of Our Blessed Lord. We were also very blessed to celebrate daily Mass in the small but beautiful chapel of the Kopernika Convent on our arrival in Krakow, and at St Peter and Paul Basilica on the Tuesday evening, after a very sad day spent at Auschwitz Birkenau extermination camp. It was fitting that this day was very cold, wet and blustery, which helped us to focus on the extreme conditions that the people transported there had suffered. We were warmly dressed and well fed, they weren’t, and many silent prayers were said during that day. We also visited Czestochowa, and the shrine to Our Lady on another very cold and this time a very snowy day, and again celebrated Mass together. During the week we had opportunity for some sightseeing around the city itself, the covered market being a favourite venue as well as the many fine and inexpensive restaurants from around the world. Finally on Friday we celebrated early Mass in the basilica of St Florian, where Father Wojtyla, now St Pope John Paul, had been a curate between 1949 and 1951, and where there isperpetual adoration throughout the day, with people coming and going all through this time, ad no need for a rota! This was a fitting end to a memorable week, and a week where we were able to experience the difference in being in a Roman Catholic country, where the Faith is truly evident in daily life, from the very young to the not so young. Thanks must go to our spiritual leaders, Father Philip Conner, Canon John Gibson from Our Lady of Lourdes, Carnforth and Deacon Stephen Pendlebury, for their uplifting and thoughtful sermons, and to Paulina our tour guide for the week".
At the heart of our faith is the Triduum, the three days that reach from Maundy Thursday, the Mass of the Last Supper, to Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. At St Joseph's everyone comes together to offer God the best that we can in prayer and worship. For months beforehand, the choir is rehearsing, the brasses are being polished, the flowers planned and arranged, the readers rehearsed and the altar servers practised.
On the 11th March 2017, a group of pupils from Our Lady’s Catholic College Lancaster travelled to the SSE Arena in Wembley to join 8,000 other young people at the National Catholics Youth Congress, Flame2017.
The day started extremely early (4:30am in fact!) as the very generous Mr Seddon drove the group to Salford on our school minibus and from there we made our way with a large group to Wembley Arena.
We arrived in London at 10:30am and the event began with song, drama, prayer and an opening address from Mike Pilavachi who inspired everyone gathered to really know our own worth. He used a memorable anecdote about the price of a bride in certain cultures; that even the most wonderful bride ever would cost 5 cows. And how that we, as children of God, have received a much greater price paid for us, in Jesus’ sacrifice.
The theme of Flame this year was 10,000 reasons to be thankful, inspired by a song from Matt Redman who sang live throughout the day. Many of his songs were very inspiring and were about becoming closer to God.
The event had a strong emphasis on social justice, with Cafod volunteers Ryan and Leah sharing about their time visiting refugees in Lebanon and Fr Augusto Zampini Davies encouraging us how to make a difference. Rise Theatre Group presented a wonderful drama focusing on the Refugee crisis and encouraged us all throughout the day to go to the front of the arena to have a close look at the refugee boat which had sailed from Lampedusa to London. This was a powerful imagery and really brought home the reality of our brothers and sisters across the world.
We were lucky to sit in the sun over lunch and meet up with Cardinal Vincent Nichols. There was also a powerful address from Cardinal Charles Bo, From Myanmar, encouraging us “Hope has no expiry date”, and to place our hopes in God’s hands.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols closed the afternoon by leading over 8000 people in prayer and adoration and it was a powerful experience to bring an arena full of people to total silence, before the presence of God.
It's fair to say all of the staff and pupils thoroughly enjoyed their experience at Flame. One student said, "It was a great atmosphere. It made me feel closer to God and has inspired me to help others". Another said, "It was a fun experience and brought young people together. Towards the end, nearly 8000 people put their phone lights into the air as a sign of hope- that was a memorable experience".
In light of attending Flame 2017, we would like to bring back a range of things from the experience to our school, parishes and communities. This includes "Different ways of praying and more acting and singing in liturgies" and to "bring young people together more". We would also like to look into ways that we can help and support the charities that we heard about during the event.
We would like to thank our local parishes for their kind donation of travel expenses, we are most grateful and you are definitely on our list of 10,000 Reasons to be thankful to God.
Last year we had a wonderful celebration with 15 children making their First Communion. The programme was delivered by Sally Lee at St Joseph's Primary School after school. Any child in Year 4 or above can be enrolled in the First Commuion Programme. Letters will be being sent to children at St Joseph’s Primary School, but if there are any children who are not at the school but who would like to make their First Holy Communion this Summer, please contact Fr Philip as soon as possible. The preparatory programme will begin at the end of January and will include sessions at school exploring what it means to be part of God's family, the Church, how we celebrate the sacraments, and specifically, preparation for first Confessions and the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life.
This Wednesday, 23 November, Aid to the Church in Need has organised a day in which Christians, Muslims and Jews will be coming together in an act of solidarity with those around the world suffering persecution because of their faith, and standing up for faith and freedom. Across the country, key religious buildings will be flood-lit in red. ACN are inviting everyone to wear red – as a symbol of the suffering today of people of faith
A few weeks ago we were privileged to welcome to St Joseph's Primary School Sr Annie Demerjian from Aleppo in Syria. Sr Anne was able to share from her experiences the tragedy of persecution and conflict.
Sr Annie spoke of the events in Aleppo, a place we have got to know through the news. But to meet someone who lives there brought the whole tragedy of war to the fore. She spoke of the shrapnel embedded in people's bodies as they go about their everyday tasks, the difficulty of learning how to live without legs and arms, the reality of death everywhere, the sounds of ambulances, shells, missiles, the smell of fear. Families are divided because of death and displacement. In these desperate times the Church is providing the basis of a welfare state, coordinating food distribution, caring for the elderly, helping where she can. Sr Annie even brought with her some pictures that some of the children from her school had drawn of the traumatic events that they had witnessed.
On Wednesday 23 November ACN are sponsoring an event called Red Wednesday to remember all Christians and other faith groups who suffer for their beliefs. ACN is asking everyone to stand up against religious persecution and to make a stand for peace and tolerance by wearing an item of red clothing on the day.
In August, two of our young people, Carina and Polly, joined other young people from the Diocese at the World Youth Day event in Krakow in Poland. There, they were part of a crowd of over two million other young people from every nation of the world, all sharing and celebrating their faith with Pope Francis.
Gathered together for a candle-lit vigil in a field outside Krakow, the Pope exhorted young people not to go into 'early retirement', not to 'throw in the towel even before the game has begun'. 'It saddens me to see young people who walk around glumly as if life had no meaning', young people who are bored with life and who have confused happiness with a sofa, retreating to the comfort of a sofa, hiding behind a computer screen and holding the world at bay. This 'sofa happiness' is 'the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis which can cause the greatest harm to young people'. Pleading with the young people, Pope Francis said that 'we didn't come into the world to vegetate, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on!' He added that it also saddens him to see young people who have gone after 'peddlars of false illusions... who rob you of what is best in life' and who end up in 'nothingness'.
The fulfilment that we all yearn for, Pope Francis said, cannot be bought, and is not a thing or an object, but a person. His name, he declared, is Jesus. He is the only one who 'can give you true passion for life' and inspire us 'not to settle for less, but to give of the very best of ourselves'. And then the Pope exhorted young people to leave a mark, to have the courage to 'trade in the sofa for a pair of hiking boots' and to get out and to 'set out on new and unchartered paths, to blaze trails that open up new horizons', and to follow the 'Lord of Risk' in encountering him 'in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned', 'to build bridges rather than walls'. Using a football analogy, he declared, that the 'times we live in require only active players on the field, and there is no room for those who sit on the bench'.
Asked to share their favourite memories of the whole experience, Polly said she enjoyed 'meeting people from around the world and just talking to them as friends' because we 'knew that we had at least one thing in common, our faith!' She said she enjoyed the mixture of fun too, 'singing Mamma Mia on the coach, praying a few cheeky decades of the rosary, and becoming really close friends with the other pilgrims from the Diocese, and laughing in the rain when we were soaked to the skin'.
Carina added that she had enjoyed being part of the crowd and 'just being able to see millions of people who were around my age, all gathered for the same thing was extremely touching. The people were so friendly and each individual added to the atmosphere. I am glad to say that I have made so many new friends, not only from England but also from around the world. I met people from countries such as Brazil, America, South Korea and Indonesia. Over 100 countries came together in Blonia Park to welcome the Pope and it was amazing to see so many different flags, many of which I didn’t recognise at first like that of Kazakhstan!'
The next WYD will take place in Panama in 2019.
We are delighted to welcome Fr Sony Joseph who has arrived from Kerala in India. Fr Sony completed his studies in Rome. Earlier this week, Fr Sony swore his oath to Bishop Michael and he is now appointed to be the Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Lancaster. He will be the assistant priest here at St Joseph's for the coming years, and we hope that he will be very happy here.
Have you ever wondered why the month of May is dedicated to Our Lady? In many churches, statues of Our Lady are crowned and wreathed with flowers and there are processions to honour Our Lady. Cardinal Newman speaks of May as the 'month of promise and of joy'. May is a time of Spring, when 'the earth bursts forth into its fresh foliage and its green grass... blossoms are upon the trees and the flowers are in the gardens... The days have got long, and the sun rises early and sets late'. After the bleakness of Winter, the promise of something new. The prophet Isaiah spoke too of this hope: 'There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise out of his root'. After the long wait, hope springs again: the bursting forth of nature provides a metaphor of God's life bursting forth into our world through Mary's Yes.
Gerald Manley Hopkins, the famous nineteenth Century Jesuit Poet, writes these beautiful words in his poem, 'May Magnificat':
MAY is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—
Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.
Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—
This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.
Over the past few weeks, there has been alot of celebration in the parish: fifteen children made their First Holy Communion and two parishioners were Confirmed in the Cathedral by Bishop Michael. There are many photos on Facebook, but here are just a few of the highlighted ones. We would like to thank all those that were involved in the preparations and catechesis, and those who made the celebration so joyful.
Philip Wrigley arrived at St Joseph's at Easter and he has recently been accepted by the Bishop to begin to train for the priesthood at Oscott Seminary. Here, he shares with us something of his journey so far...
I was born and raised in Carlisle with my brother Matthew. My family parish is St. Edmund’s, Carlisle. Canon Dewhurst was parish priest when I was a boy, and he asked me if I was interested in serving on the Altar. I was shown the ropes and started serving for many years before I moved to University. During my time at St. Edmund’s I helped with Benedictions and Funerals. One of my highlights was Altar serving with the late Bishop John Brewer on his parish visits. I remember one Sunday we were waiting in the sacristy just before Mass and he asked me if I ever considered joining the priesthood. Without thinking, I quickly answered “No”, shy that the Bishop was actually talking to me. This was the first seed being planted in my heart. Bishop Brewer smiled at me and said “Trust in the Lord, as you do not know what he has planned for you”. Bishop Brewer was correct in his statement, I didn’t think my life would turn around like this. I believe this seed has grown within me, and reminded me of my trust in Jesus.
In Newcastle I was finishing off my last year, of a three year H.N.D course at Northumbria University (Years 1 & 2 were in Carlisle), then I stayed an extra year, to top it up to a degree studying B.Sc. Applied Business Computing. I continued with my faith and started going to a nearby Catholic Church - St. Andrew’s parish. After I graduated from University I was offered a job at Dumfries Royal Infirmary as a Technical Support Officer. I met lots of good friends, especially Dr John Rutherford an Anaesthetics Consultant who taught martial arts in Aikido, so I started going for lessons with him and passed many examinations.
I moved to Lancashire Teaching Hospitals in Preston with a job promotion. My Grandparents and cousins lived around the area so I didn’t feel too far from home and this gave me the opportunity to visit them more regularly. I started going to English Martyrs church and enjoyed the whole atmosphere; the sermons from Fr. Singleton (who was P.P at the time) opened up the Gospel message, and explained it easier for me to understand. I was asked to join the church choir as there were a limited number of male singers, so I agreed and started singing with them on the following Sunday.
I started thinking more deeply about my life’s direction, praying to Jesus for His guidance and grace, trying to determine whether a vocation to the Priesthood was my calling. I felt a desire in my heart to start going to Mass more often, because I felt one Mass on Sunday’s wasn’t adequate. I started going to a few daily Masses and I restarted my Altar serving duties. I loved getting more involved and becoming an active member of the Parish – Chair of the Liturgy sub-committee group, Altar serving, Sacristan, Reader and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Taking Communion to a nursing home “Kenmure Lodge” every Sunday and seeing their faces light up was a real privilege.
I have been on three diocesan pilgrimages to Lourdes, and on my last trip I helped as a Brancardier. I met so many new friends on these pilgrimages, assisting the VIP’s either by pushing them in their wheelchairs, or spending time with them at their hotels. The schedule is busy and requires early starts when working on the rota, but it is very rewarding seeing everyone enjoying themselves.
After two unsuccessful attempts getting through the interview stages for the priesthood, I was looking into the Benedictines at Belmont Abbey, then I had news about a placement opportunity with the Lancaster Diocese, so I had to pray and decide which path to explore. My commitment has always been with the Diocese, so I accepted a ten month pastoral placement with the Lancaster Diocese, in order to develop my Human Formation. I was sent to the parish of “Christ the Good Shepherd” in Workington, with Canon Paul Swarbrick, Fr Paul Harrison and Sister Eleanor Gilligan. During my time in Workington, I have been visiting and working closely with three primary schools (St. Gregory’s, St. Mary’s, St. Patrick’s), and St. Joseph’s Catholic High School. Spending time with the children in the playground and classrooms was really enjoyable which I wasn’t expecting. Seeing the pupils on a weekly basis over seven months made me relate with them on a more personal level. My other activities were to help train the junior Altar servers, and becoming a Catechist for both the Confirmation and the First Holy Communion programs, visiting the sick and housebound and giving them Communion. I really enjoyed my time in Workington and it came as a surprise to be given a second placement opportunity to assist Fr Philip Conner at St. Joseph’s parish, Lancaster. Saying goodbye to everyone in Workington, especially the children was the hardest part of the placement. I arrived at St. Joseph’s Lancaster after Easter (2016), and I am currently enjoying my time here. I have been introduced to my new parishioners at the church and visiting the housebound. I had an interview on 5th May with Bishop Michael Campbell, including six people on his Advisory panel. I was told shortly afterwards that I was accepted for priestly formation and that I would be joining Oscott Seminary College in September. Until then I will be based at St. Joseph’s Parish, Lancaster gaining as much experience as I can. I am really looking forward to see what the future holds, and the vocational path Jesus has in store for me.
The Bishops of England and Wales have issued a message for the forthcoming Referendum. It runs as follows:
Reflecting on the forthcoming vote, we recognise the historic nature of this referendum and its implications for future generations. The outcome will have consequences for the future not only of the United Kingdom, but for Europe and for the world.
In our view, three things are essential:
- that we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit;
- that we all inform ourselves of the arguments on both sides of the debate;
- that we each exercise our vote with a view to the common good of all.
The coming together of European countries in the aftermath of a catastrophic war was designed to bind together former combatants and the contribution of the European project to peace in Western Europe should be recognised. Pope Francis reminds us, in his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 25 November 2014, that the ideals which shaped this European project from the beginning were peace, subsidiarity and solidarity. In the Treaty of Rome, trade was harnessed to peace. The peace achieved in Western Europe shows indeed how "our problems can become powerful forces for unity" (par 5). Our decision in the referendum should thus be taken in the context of how best we can promote justice and peace.
Our focus needs to be above all on the human person. We need to build a Europe "which revolves not around the economy but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values" (par 37). We all have a responsibility to keep the dignity of the human person at the forefront of the debate. We must ask ourselves, in the face of every issue, what will best serve the dignity of all people both within Europe and beyond.
This referendum therefore is about much more than economics.
We must not forget the profoundly religious roots of European nations; that Europe has a two thousand year-old Christian culture that has shaped the continent and is a dynamic spiritual, moral and intellectual resource as we address the future. As Pope Francis reminds us, we need continually to ask ourselves: who is my neighbour? In response to grave challenges, we are called to be generous and welcoming to all others, especially the most vulnerable.
Each person will have their own views about the best political framework in which to realise these ideals. We acknowledge the justifiable concerns that many people have in relation to the European Union, its institutions and the implications of increasing integration.
This referendum is an opportunity to reflect on those values we cherish as a nation and as Catholics. High among these values are mutual respect and civility, vital in this national conversation about the very future of our nation within the world.
Prepare and Act
Before voting, ask yourself the following question:
How in the light of the Gospel, can my vote best serve the common good?
As you vote, you may wish to use this prayer:
"Lord, grant us wisdom that we may walk with integrity, guarding the path of justice, and knowing the protection of your loving care for all".
The Year of Mercy was inaugurated by Pope Francis. As part of the year, he asked every diocese throughout the world to establish a Holy Door. In crossing the threshold of this Door, the faithful are invited to open the door of their own hearts to God's mercy.
Last weekend, parishioners from St Joseph's joined about one hundred parishioners from other parts of the Diocese. We began our day by gathering at the Martyrs Memorial, and remembered those who cried out for God's Mercy as they were dragged up the hill and butchered on the hillside for their faith.
We then formed a procession and prayed the Rosary, asking Our Lady to accompany us and to help us to understand the mercy of God, who stooped down into our world and took on our flesh, so that we may enter into His life.
Passing through the Door, the faithful gathered in the main body of the Cathedral. We sang together, professed our faith together, and listened to the Word of God, before taking the opportunity for confession.
It was a very blessed day, the sun shone, and more importantly, our hearts shone as we experienced the goodness of God's mercy.
Last night we were delighted to be able to host Helen Bingley and Jabien who came to speak to us about their work with the Abaseen Foundation. 'Abaseen' means 'Father of the rivers', a reference to the great river Indus whose source is found in the mountains where the Abaseen Foundation works in NW Pakistan.
The Abaseen Foundation seeks to make a difference to the marginalised communities in Khyber Pakhtunkhira. This part of Pakistan is to all intents and purposes 'stateless' with no welfare or education provision for the people. To the outside world, we think we know about this area and identify it with Taliban and Al Queda, but beneath this designation, lie a whole nexus of forgotten tribes and refugees from this war-torn area, many of them ophans from the conflict. In their poverty, whole families and children as young as 6 are caught up in indentured labour at the brick kilns with no hope of redemption. To give us an idea of the situation here, Helen shared with us some troubling statistics: average mortality age of 38 years old, 3% female literacy rate, and almost complete lack of medical care. Currently 67% of the children are severely malnourished with the associated effects of stunted growth and diminished cognitive function.
The Foundation is seeking to alleviate the situation with the establishment of a hospital, water pumps, education with sports and vocational training, and food. In the recent earthquake, the Foundation was able to help with co-ordinating relief to isolated villages.
Helen and Jabien helped to open our eyes to this part of the world, to the troubling realities that we are not separate from, especially in light of our involvement in the military campaign in Afganistan which has left so much dislocation. We thank them for their wonderful work and inspiring witness.