Spirituality Centre: News

The U.K. Government, in England, is lifting most coronavirus restrictions on July 19th. We have been expecting this announcement for some time, given the timetable set out earlier in the year. However, as stated in our last communication in May, we are not planning any changes to this until September. We are looking at meeting and chatting with various users and groups in the coming weeks to see what options lie ahead.

We hope and pray that this lifting of restrictions allows communities, groups, families and individuals to reconnect and rebuild. However, we note that the Bishops of England and Wales are adopting a more cautious approach and we will be following their guidance. So far they have not issued any new guidance since May 17th.

Please stay safe and we all pray for better news!

January 2021

We may have left 2020 behind, but many socially distanced measures are still in place. This has meant that some of the events that we normally take part in have been curtailed. One of those was the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. We may not have been able to meet together in the one place, but we can still pray for Unity and not just for one week. Although I am late in getting this to you, hopefully, we still have time to unite our voices and pray for unity among Christians.

Many resources have been made available for this and here are some of the links:

And don’t forget that on Monday January 25th, as well as the Conversion of St. Paul, it is also the time for haggis, neeps, taties and a wee dram of Whisky! We cannot have our usual Burns Supper, but I hope that this time 2022 we can all be seated for some good food, good company and good whisky!

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.

Paddy

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.

Paddy

For more information please follow the links

Preston’s local restrictions

https://www.preston.gov.uk/article/2915/FAQ-on-local-restrictions-what-you-can-and-can-t-do-in-Preston

Business closures

https://www.preston.gov.uk/Businessclosures

UK Government Guidance

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities

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.

Paddy

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