Spirituality Centre: News

The Conforti Mission Spirituality Centre of the Xaverian Missionaries in Preston will be closed for groups until May 2021. On legal and Medical advice this decision is sadly an inevitable consequence of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Our staff have been retained by the Xaverians and will continue to work for the local Xaverian Community from home or at the centre as per government guidelines. The community will continue to reside at the centre and availability of the centre for Groups will be reviewed by the Trustees in April 2021. 

We had hoped for a change in the pandemic, but the current restrictions place many obstacles in working with groups. We recognise that this is not the news you wished to hear, but let us hope and pray that we will meet in the Spring of 2021 free from social distancing and Covid restrictions.


Spirituality Centre: News

Just a wee update on where we are regarding the opening of The Spirituality Centre. With the current restrictions still in place is seems that our idea of opening in September has been pushed back. We are now looking at opening once the Furlough Scheme ends in October. There are a few reasons for this:

Looking at the guidance of the Preston City Council website and the UK Government web site it seems that we cannot open under the restrictions in place. We have no idea how long this is going to last and what the implications are.

Places that host conferences or exhibitions are to remain closed and because of current restriction meet with people you do not live with, or have “bubbled” with in other indoor public venues – this includes pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, leisure and entertainment venues or visitor attractions. You may still attend these places with people you live with or are in a protective support bubble with. You must take precautions to socially distance from one another wherever practical.

Other activities are discouraged, and face masks are now mandatory for almost all indoor spaces. Changes to cleaning regimes, entering and leaving, reception, numbers that can be permitted with social distancing have huge implications on our working and finances.

This is disappointing for the community here and for the wider community who use and appreciate the Centre. We continue with our small community mass on a Thursday evening and remember friends and family in our prayers. We also remember the wider Xaverian community and our missions that are suffering at this time. Suffering, not just because of Covid, but also because our ability to help support their work and their mission is severely limited by what is happening here.

I hope that I have better news the next time I write! Thanks for your support, patience and prayers.


For more information please follow the links

Preston’s local restrictions


Business closures


UK Government Guidance


Social distancing

Fr Paddy has been experimenting to see what the effect of 2m Social Distancing would be for The Centre. He has rearranged the seating to comply with the requirement and then taken photographs. You can see the photographs here.

You must make up your own mind but when I look at Paddy’s visual explanation it seems clear that a 2 metre separation is unworkable for our usual events. Much of the life of the Centre is about community and being together.

Perhaps the government will soon issue new and less restrictive guidelines on distancing but until then we shall wait.

Xaverian Spirituality Centre: Are we nearly there yet?

Since March 23rd, 2020 the Xaverian Mission Spirituality Centre has been closed due to the on-going Covid-19 epidemic. This has been a great loss for we Xaverians, in terms of our mission and our pastoral engagements. It has meant that all our regular events have been cancelled: Thursday Evening Mass, The Passover, The God who speaks, Cuppa Chat and many more opportunities to sit and have a chat with the people who come through the doors!

On Thursday evenings, Bideri and I have been celebrating mass (Jim was caught up in Coatbridge when the lockdown took place) and Archie has been shielding himself. It has been a challenging time for all of us, wondering when the doors will be open again, wondering about friends we have not seen and wondering how you are all getting along with your normal routines of life and prayer. Thankfully, the Lord has given us clement weather for gardening (if you have one), for walking, for sitting in the fresh air and for queuing outside the supermarkets!

With the plans for re-opening from the lockdown we have been looking at how we can respond to this. We have been looking at current guidance and we believe that the “feel” and ambience of the Centre will be adversely affected: the two-meter social distancing, use of the kitchen for breaks, use of the toilets, cleaning and preparation of rooms and spaces and protection of people who join us places huge restrictions on what we can offer. Hopefully, with the further easing of restrictions a new “normal” can be in place for us!

However, until then, we have decided that we will wait until the start of September to review our decision to stay closed. This has been a hard decision to take, but there are too many uncertainties at this time. We feel it is better to take out time and get it right for the benefit of all!

We hope that you understand our reasons and we hope that future contact will be more positive with a way we can re-open our doors to friends, groups and those who feel peace and warmth here.


Covid-19 and your Smartphone

We all know how important intelligence is to winning a war. Think Bletchley Park and you get the idea.

Covid-19 is a different sort of threat but information will be vital to help us as we go forward.

We have all heard of the NHS app which all smartphone users will soon be encouraged to use. Less well known is an app prepared by an academic group from King’s College and a company called Zoe.

The app asks you to report how you feel each day. You can also report on behalf of others. There are currently 3.7 million people from the UK reporting how they feel each day. These reports are quick and easy to make and yet provide valuable insights into the prevalence of the disease and how it affects us.

Today, the research team has appealed for more users. As we start to emerge from lockdown we need a better insight to the way the disease operates within our communities.

If you have a smartphone then please help by loading the app and reporting daily. Encourage your family and friends to do the same.

You can find the app here for iPhone users and here for Android users.

You can read more about the project below.

Logging your health daily is more important than ever

With lockdown measures easing, there are plenty of new opportunities for ‘R’ to increase. As the weather improves and children and teachers head back to school, more people will come into contact with one another. The risk of new COVID hotspots emerging is also likely to increase without adequate monitoring.

Our app is a crucial early detection tool to understand if there is a risk of a second wave of the virus. It’s is more important than ever that you keep logging daily using our app to help us to detect new COVID hotspots earlier. Protect your community as lockdown lifts by reporting for yourself and behalf of your children to stop the spread of new infections quicker.

We would also like to encourage you to share the app with schools, parent’s associations, and other organisations within your community. The more of us there are using the app daily, the more accurately and quickly we will be able to identify potential hotspots.

How might I keep my kids safe as they return to school?

As children return to school, we know that parents may be wondering how they can protect their children from COVID. We’ve made sure to cover this topic in one of our latest blog posts. Read our six tips for keeping your children safe as they go back to school.

We encourage all parents to take just 1 minute each day to keep using our app to log on behalf of their children. This data will help us better understand how the virus might affect kids and identify potential COVID hotspots as schools reopen.

New incidence data: are the numbers falling?

Last week we published insights into the number of daily new COVID cases are occurring in England. We have now added daily case estimates for Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, which you can find on our website.

Stay well,

Professor Tim Spector
On behalf of ZOE

If you want to make God laugh… Tell God what your plans are for tomorrow!

There is the story of the avid golfer who goes to the fortune teller desperate and curious to know if there are golf courses in Heaven. So, Rosie Lee gazes into her crystal ball and announces: “I have good news and bad news!”
“What’s the good news?” asks the enthusiastic golfer.
“There are loads of beautiful courses in Heaven…lush greens, gorgeous fairways, luxurious settings and 5-star club houses” she answers.
“Wow that’s brilliant” replies the golfer and then asks, “What’s the bad news.”
“You tee off on Wednesday morning!” comes the reply.

No one can predict the future! Last year we Xaverians in Preston were planning big things. We had organised the calendar for the year ahead and one of our initiatives, in line with the Church in England and Wales, was a series of talks on “the God who Speaks”. We were hoping to develop sessions each month where we could identify where and how God speaks to us today, and what is it that God is saying. “The God who Speaks” was the theme for the year 2020 and, rather than it being torpedoed, I believe, it probably has become a more poignant and relevant theme than anyone could have imagined. No one could foresee in December where we find ourselves today individually, communally and globally. Where is the “God who speaks” in all of this?

A familiar phrase from scripture, found in Matthew 16:3, Luke 12:56 and one which was used by Pope John XXIII when he convoked the Second Vatican Council, in the statement Humanae Salutis (1961) and also in Pacem in Terris (1963) is the command to read the “signs of the times”. It came as a rallying call for the Church to be more attentive to the world if it wants to remain faithful to its mission and to be relevant to all God’s people.

In both Scripture passages Jesus remonstrates with the crowds and with the Pharisees for failing to “interpret the signs of the times” and in “failing to understand the present times.” The same message “read the signs of the times” is found in four Vatican II Documents and was the revolutionary motto at that Council. Pope John XXIII called the Council in order to place the Church into the modern era and to make Christ’s mission more meaningful in “these present times.”

So, what are some of the signs we must read in these present times? Well, I have come across certain references to the pandemic as God’s retribution! This is not reading the signs of the times and certainly not reading the God manifest in the person of Jesus. It is myopic madness and let us put that partially sighted viewpoint, that blind spot… where it belongs.

With Pentecost we end the Easter season, and leader who has tried to read the signs, Pope Francis, likens the pandemic to the stone that sealed the tomb of Jesus that “threatens to bury all hope.” However, like the women at the tomb, we cannot allow fear, anxiety, sadness and loss to rob us of hope. And, like them, we too are asking: “Who will roll away the stone?” It is God’s love that will! But the Pope insists that “an emergency like Covid-19 is overcome also by “the antibodies of solidarity.” It’s God’s love and our love working together! Pope Francis expresses the hope that, in the light of the resurrection, “we would encounter the necessary antibodies of justice, charity and solidarity” to change the world. He calls for the building of “a civilization of love,” which he described as “a civilization of hope,” contrary to one marked by “anguish and fear, sadness and discouragement, passivity and tiredness.” The pope continues that this civilization “has to be built daily” and requires “the commitment of everyone.”

So Covid 19 calls us to see the need for solidarity…the only way forward. All of us, I am sure have witnessed great signs in the coming together of so many to do so much for others. It does indeed gladden the heart! But this global emergency has also shown us more and evermore clearly the blatant signs that we are living in an ill-divided world, an unequal society, an unjust reality. Daily we read of the infections and deaths and it stares us in the face. In the UK we see greater death rates among the poor, higher risk among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME), key workers, dubbed heroes, on basic wages and forced to use food banks, a sudden realisation that “we need immigrants”, clear evidence of “one rule for the privileged and one for the plebs”…and so it goes on! If we look globally, especially the “developing world” this disparity stares us in the face. If the virus has done anything it has opened our eyes to this reality that we have to create a different normal, to denounce unashamed injustices of our time and to build that civilization of love and hope that is inherent to our faith and intrinsic for our future.

So, let’s not concern ourselves with opening of Churches but rather the opening of the Church to these present signs. Let our worship cease to be comfortable but confrontational, let our liturgies be more than faith motivation but faith in action, let our participation of the sacraments, where we open ourselves to God’s grace, lead us to be God’s grace, and let our Church services become real service in the proclamation of God’s Kingdom and the rebuilding of a better world.

And that better world calls us to see the signs of the times and read the messages coming from our world. Pope Francis has also said that nature is responding to how we have maltreated her and says that nature never forgives; “if you give her a slap, she will slap you back!” I am sure we have all seen pictures of the difference the global lockdown has made to our planet! Unblemished skies, clearer rivers and seas, smog less cities, a re-sighting of wildlife, an increase in endangered species… all evidence that we have been slapped. However, the crowded beaches strewn with litter, the fly tipping, the unnecessary travel… have also been familiar sights and evidence that we need to open our eyes wider and let the slap sting us into action.

5 years ago, this week the Pope penned his beautiful encyclical “Laudato si” and in it he illustrated our connectedness with the earth and our duty to care for our common home. He has also said that “a Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us.” Perhaps during the sacrament of reconciliation, amid our many sins, it is time to reflect on this individual and communal transgression. I know I need to!

Covid 19 is calling us to recognise the signs of the times and challenges us to be in solidarity. Solidarity with our brothers and sisters, especially the “least of these” and solidarity with our Mother Earth. As we get through this “vale of tears” may it soften our hearts and open our eyes to see where, when and with whom, we need to be in solidarity. May it give us real 2020 vision.

The opening little joke reminds us that we cannot predict the future, but we can reshape it and surely that’s good news!

Jim Clarke, s.x.

Blessing in the Chaos

To all that is chaotic in you,
let there come silence.

Let there be a calming
of the clamouring,
a stilling of the voices that
have laid their claim on you,
that have made their home in you,

that go with you
even to the holy places
but will not let you rest,
will not let you hear your life
with wholeness
or feel the grace that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you cease.
Let what divides you cease.
Let there come an end
to what diminishes and demeans,
and let depart all that keeps you
in its cage.

Let there be an opening
into the quiet that lies beneath the chaos,
where you find the peace
you did not think possible
and see what shimmers within the storm.

Jan Richardson

Reflection on 2nd Sunday of Easter: 19th April 2020

War and Peace

The Covid 19 crisis has been described as humanity’s Third World War and it’s a war in which we are all ‘on the same side’ against a common enemy. All war situations have similar core realities: the dead and dying, the wounded, both physically and emotionally, the heroes who work tirelessly on the front line, risking – and sometimes sadly sacrificing – their own lives, ‘the homeguard’ who also heroically keep the world functioning as best we can. Every war experience results in similar emotions: grief, anxiety, fear, confusion, helplessness, loss ….. Yet in the midst of our outer and inner pain, we have hope. Above all, we hope for peace. In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks the words we long to hear: ‘Peace be with you.’ The word ‘Peace’ (Shalom) is more than a wish for a good evening or peaceful day. It expresses the desire that the person receiving the blessing might be whole in body, mind and spirit. In the Greek, there is no verb so ‘Shalom’ can be taken either as a wish or a statement of fact – where Jesus is truly present to us, there is peace.

Today we see in Thomas a transformation from doubt to belief in the presence of Jesus. All that stuff about Doubting Thomas, the fact of his disbelief, is just Thomas’ starting place, nothing more and nothing less. It’s neither good nor bad, right or wrong. It’s a starting place. And we all have our starting places. The starting place for the story of our resurrection is whatever our circumstances are today. If we’re dealing with deep loneliness, sorrow, and loss, that’s our starting point. That’s the room which Christ enters. If we are locked in a house of fear, confusion, or darkness, that’s the place in which Jesus stands. If illness, old age, disability, or uncertainty are facts of our life, that’s the place in which Jesus shows up. If we feel lost, betrayed, disappointed, overwhelmed, that’s the house Jesus enters. If joy, gratitude, and celebration are the facts of our life today, that’s the starting point for our story of resurrection.

The walls and the locked doors of the disciples house could not keep Jesus out. At the present time all humanity is in lockdown, standing in the same house together. Whatever our religious belief, may our global community experience the Source of Life stepping into the midst of our house, through our locked doors as he breathes peace and life into us; as he breathes peace and hope into us; as he breathes peace and courage into us; as he breathes peace and strength into us. And that breath of peace is the key that unlocks the door.

Resurrection is not just an event or an idea. It is a way of being and living.

Various sources including Michael Marsh and Jane Mellet

“I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18)

Today I received an Easter message from our Superior General in Rome that I want to share with you. He writes…

Mary of Magdala loved the Lord, she was grateful for the good she had received from him. When Jesus dies, it is she who, ” early in the morning,” on that first day of the week, ” goes to the grave while it is still dark .” In this woman’s readiness, we see the deep desire residing in her heart: she wants to see the body of Jesus. But she cannot find it. In her desperate and somewhat confused search, it is eventually Jesus who comes to her calling her by name: ” Mary! “

When she returns to the disciples, Mary of Magdala sums up all that she has experienced in a small sentence: “I have seen the Lord!” Well, our Christian faith begins from and is based on these simple words. We believe in the Lord Jesus because a woman, Mary of Magdala, had first experienced the resurrection of the Lord.

In these days when we celebrate the central event of our faith, the Easter mystery, the kerygma , we remember that faith in Jesus is a gift, as it was for Mary of Magdala. A gift that must be desired from the depths of our hearts and sought with all our might. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt 7,7-8). “Those who put their hope in you, oh God, will never be disappointed; those who abandon you for no reason, they will be disappointed.” (Ps 25.3).

We celebrate this Easter 2020 in the very special and completely unexpected world context of the Covid-19 pandemic. So many people have been directly affected, so much suffering all around us, so many victims everywhere, so much uncertainty! We too have been badly hit, particularly in the Community of the Mother House . For this reason, in these days it is our duty to remember in a special way the brothers who left us. We thank the Lord for having had them as members of the same family here on earth, knowing that one day we will be together in our eternal home. Let us pray for their perpetual rest.

Easter tells us that the last word is not death but life. We are its witnesses. What we need today is to be people who look to the future with God’s eyes. The missionary disciple, each of us, knows how to say the word that is appropriate at the appropriate time. He can read the reality we live in with the wisdom of the Spirit. He can employ always-new keys to interpret what is happening. Being filled with the Life of God, he is capable of implanting hope in whatever place or situation he finds himself in. The night, its darkness is behind us. In front, we have only God’s promise.

I then wish to thank each of you for the closeness and fraternity you have manifested, in different ways, towards me. This last week, in fact, my mother left us physically and began her journey to eternity. She was a woman of great faith. ” I want my soul for God, “she used to say in particular moments when it was necessary to be honest and tell the truth. This phrase certainly expresses well the attitude that accompanied my mother throughout her life. For her, there were no half-truths. She always spoke what she thought and believed was right and true. All through her life, she had a particular concern for being honest and true, while having, at the same time, a great sense of God’s presence in her life. It was precisely this felt presence of God, which led her to live in that way. May she rest in the peace the Lord gives to the good and faithful servants.

I really wish each of you, and all friends and acquaintances, a very happy Easter! May the joy of the Lord’s living presence accompany you every day and fill your hearts with the gifts of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ” (Gal 5:22) .

Fraternally Yours,

Fernando García Rodríguez