About the Xaverians in Preston

The Xaverians have been in Preston since 1985 Initially they set up their mission from a house in Ribbleton and in September 2017 took over the Tabor Retreat House from the Carmelites who had decided to focus their efforts in other directions.

Tabor is now known as the Xaverian Mission Spirituality Centre.  The Centre hosts a wide variety of events, some private and some public.  You can find the public activities here or browse our calendar.

The Mission Statement of the Preston Xaverian Group

We are a diverse community of friends, drawn to one another and to the Xaverian vision of “Making the World a single Family”.

We are called to be a prayerful family of servants and witnesses, serving God, serving those in need and serving the needs of each other.

We promise an open and welcoming community where we will develop right relationships with God and one another.

We embrace a shared ownership and responsibility as we carry out our promises in a dynamic manner, rooted in prayer and gospel values.

Two Experiences

Here are two personal accounts which illuminate some aspects of the Xaverians’ time in Preston.

My Story – Agnes – Serving Mission from the Kitchen

Agnes offered the following talk at a gathering of Xaverian friends and families where people (Xaverian priests and Lay Missionaries) shared their experiences of Mission in 2006.

Even for someone like me, who enjoys a good natter, there’s been a lot of talking. Not that talking is difficult – the difficulty is that it must all make sense and be relevant to our Lay Missionary Movement. And that is what my last seventeen and a half years have been – domestic Mission.

Having listened to other speakers over the weekend, the kitchen does seem rather limited and boring. Being bored was where it all began for me. The Xaverians came into my life at the time I needed a new direction. I had waited until our daughters were in their teens to do my own thing, and business was busy for a few years. But after my first attack of angina, the Doctor said I had to stop, so that was that. One daughter got married, and the other two went off to get an education. These days they call it “The Empty Nest Syndrome.”

Our first contact was with Fr John. I say ‘Our first contact’ because it was Norman who made the first contact. Without Norman’s help and support I would not have been able to do the job. It was Fr Sebastian Tedesco and Fr Willie Hattie who actually asked me to cook them one meal a day Monday to Friday. And that was it. I exchanged working in one kitchen to working in another, (not exactly a world-shattering change) and seventeen years later here I am, trying to make sense of Mission in the kitchen. Guess what? It’s not quite as odd as it seems. It was stepping out and using my cooking skills to suit people from other countries with different tastes and ideas than mine.

Norman was (and still is, on the whole) a ‘meat and two veg’ man. So, out came the cookery books and in came the garlic, pasta and rice. I learned how to make pizzas, chapattis and curries. I also learned how to stretch a meal cooked for three to feed anyone who was there, and to prepare lunch with any number of people who were at midday mass in the kitchen drinking tea. And giving me the benefit of their advice. A great learning curve for me, and perhaps the beginning of our Lay Mission Community.

Twelve to eighteen months passed. I was very secure and comfortable. I realised how much I enjoyed the new-style cooking and daily contact within our growing community.

Lesson number two gave us all a jolt. The Fathers were on the move – new faces, new ways of doing things. It was the time to let go and move on. Not easy. It took me some time before I realised they had only moved from the house, and perhaps from the country, but they had left their personal Xaverian charism behind, and had taken a little bit of all of us to the other side of the world.

Within our Lay Community, we lost some, and we gained some. We had our first “Open Days,” our first “Burn’s Supper,” our first taste of haggis. There was another first taste. I began to realise how much I relied on the power of prayer in the kitchen. And that was the start of the Lay Xaverian Missionary Movement in Preston.

As a growing community we have come together to prepare food for numerous functions in the house. Fifteen years on, we still have our Burns Night, an Italian supper, we’ve had celebrations for St George and St Patrick. We have get-togethers to celebrate the feasts of our founder and St Francis Xavier. Every year we prepare a very impressive buffet for our Founder’s day Dance. The proceeds always go to projects overseas.

We have helped and been supportive to all aspects of the Mission activities undertaken by the resident Fathers. Some of them are great fun, some not always easy, but all of them a challenge and interesting.

People say ‘two women in a kitchen doesn’t work.’ Try ten or more …. that is a learning experience – not for the faint-hearted! Try working around all the different opinions on such things as how to butter bread, chop onions, whether it is better to mix with a fork or a spoon – all very vital points.
But it is the sharing and growing together, the stories of our families, the support given in trouble, the laughter and the fun of being part of a Christian community. The gallons of tea and coffee drunk, and the never-ending washing-up. That keeps us together.

The real introduction into mission life has been from the people who have shared our kitchen from around the world. The conversation round the table while preparing the food brings the news stories from the television right into our lives. These people have lived alongside those suffering ones on television, and would be returning to those same situations. On a lighter side, it did add groundnut stew to the menu.

The foreign students who have tried and tested me with their English homework. Young men and women in Preston on trial and prepared to go to prison for putting the law of God before those of the world governments. The people who kept silent vigil outside the court as a support and witness. Mostly Christians, and some who did not believe in God, but loved their neighbour.
Two of the many come to mind. First a very tiny Buddhist nun, who never stopped smiling and had to stand on a box to wash up, who started her day at five a.m. with prayer to the soft beat of a drum. She slept on the floor of the chapel so as not to disturb others. (I heard on good authority that it didn’t work.)

Then there was Kieran from Australia, with his dreadlocks. He travelled the world with the Ploughshares campaign. Another young man who had been in prison for his beliefs.

Groups came from the local high schools for Retreat days, getting to know themselves and each other better. We gathered round the table this time to make the bread to be blessed for their Eucharist, and they divided some up and took it home.

I even made pancakes for the Church Action on Poverty group gathered round the television waiting for the election results and a change of government after 12 years.

This is just a bare outline of what I can see as serving mission from the kitchen. But it was the gifts, talents and charisma of all the Xaverian Fathers who have lived in the Preston community, who made everyone welcome, and encouraged us all, whatever skill we had, for the benefit of all.

I speak for myself when I say “Thank God!” that as a middle-aged stay-at-home woman I have had the great privilege of being a tiny part of Making the World One Family.

Some early memories of a Xaverian in Preston from Angela Hodgson

The only person I really knew from the Xaverians was Fr Sebastian Tedesco, who visited Keith (my husband) and me, and talked of his work in Bangladesh. He made a great impression on us because of his non-judgemental view of people, and his often humorous approach to life.

He once attended a punk gig with John (one of my sons) and me!

I once went to court to support him when he was arrested for demonstrating. The magistrate let him off because it was Red Nose Day.

When St Clare’s Third World Group (rather reluctantly) gave me £60 to donate to someone in a deprived area of town, I asked Sebastian to identify someone locally. He gave me two names and addresses of families he knew were struggling. I asked him to take them the money, but he refused and said I needed to take it. He was clearly known in the community and knew who might appreciate some money. I found the process of introducing myself and explaining why I had brought them money extremely difficult, but made a firm friend with one of the women. We are still in touch.

I remember attending a memorial service for him in Leyland after his death in Bangladesh.