Mission Sunday: 18th October 2020

Today, over one billion Catholics all over the world observe today as World Mission Sunday. This annual observance was instituted 94 years ago in 1926 by Pope Pius XI’s Papal decree. Every year since then, the universal Church has dedicated the month of October to reflection on and prayer for the missions. This annual celebration gives us a chance to reflect on the importance of mission work for the life of the Church. It reminds us that we are one with the Church around the world and that we are all committed to carrying on the mission of Christ, however different our situations may be.

Pope Francis writes in his 2019 World Mission Day message, Baptized and Sent. “This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission.” Hence the Holy Father calls on all Catholics and the Church to revive missionary awareness and commitment. In his 2020 message our Holy Father want us to discharge our mission duty by volunteering with prophet Isaiah “Here am I, send me” (6:8) to alleviate the suffering of our Covid-19-stricken brothers and sisters.

The Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales, in Scotland and in Ireland have their own mission offices and more information about how they are part of the global mission of the church are here:

The Church, according to Vatican Council II, is “missionary” in her very nature because her founder, Jesus Christ, was the first missionary. God the Father sent God the Son, Incarnate in Jesus, His Christ, into the world with a message of God’s love and salvation. Thus, the evangelizing mission of the Church is essentially the announcement of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation, as these are revealed to mankind through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. How should we evangelize? By exemplary and transparent Christian life, by prayer and by financial support. The most powerful means of preaching Christ is by living a truly Christian life: a life filled with love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and a spirit of forgiveness and service. Prayer is the second means of missionary work. Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing.” Therefore, prayer is necessary for anyone who wishes to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. All missionary efforts also require financial support because the love of God can often be explained to the poor only by providing them with food, medicine and means of livelihood. Hence, on this Mission Sunday, there is collection in all churches in all countries to help support the missionary work and all missionaries!

A Happy Missionary Christmas from the Xaverians

Heard the one of the wife on the eve of their wedding anniversary reminding her husband by stating “Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary and I want a lovely gift. Something shiny, metallic and goes from 0 to 100 in seconds.” … So he bought her some bathroom scales. (Ouch!)

This time of the year gifts abound. Be it socks, aftershave and boxers for the men or perfume, jewellery and chocs for the ladies … Christmas is the time when we show our love through gifts.

That’s exactly the meaning of this feast. God loved us so much that he gave us his beloved son. He loves us so passionately, unconditionally, overwhelmingly, that he becomes one of us. This is the total gift that love demands…becoming one of us. This in turn demands a response from us. When you receive a gift, you respond positively…even if it may end up in the Charity Shop later!

Our response is to show our love in return. God’s love, so immense that becomes incarnate, must be mirrored by our love so intense that it becomes our mandate. “Love the other as I have loved you.”

As God comes to share our broken condition, we are called to enter into humanity’s brokenness. Emmanuel means God with us, and indeed God is with us especially in the broken… the poor, the marginalised, the victims, the forgotten, and the voiceless. There is no point in singing “Emmanuel, God is with us” if we don’t reach out to touch the God who is with us every day. God comes to offer hope, to set out a new vision, to encourage us, to care, to show compassion, to heal, to take away our despair, to show there is a different way… and we are called to do the same.

Christmas is a missionary feast. The angel is sent to the hill country of Nazareth, the Word is sent to the Virgin, Mary goes to Elizabeth’s, the shepherds get up and go, the Kings travel afar… Jesus is sent into our world, into our reality, into our lives. Jesus is the Missionary of the Father.

The story is full of going, being sent, journeying… and we too, in turn are to be heralds of the Good News, messengers of the Word which brings life, bearers of the love of God incarnate. We are to make Jesus born anew in our hearts, in our lives, in our world. We are to make God’s love become flesh, to become real, to be present again in our world. How? Amongst the tinsel and trappings, the turkey and the TV, the merriment and mayhem… each of us must make the time to pause, to pray and to plan.

  • What does Jesus mean to me?
  • Where is his light needing to shine?
  • How can I be God’s love for others?
  • Who am I being sent to?
  • Why am I waiting???

We used to use the phrase to mock someone who thought they were it… “So you think your God’s gift?” Well we are God’s gifts and if we show love through gifts, then this season must be the time to make of ourselves a gift to others.

We cannot delay, we must hasten, we cannot stand still. Our world needs urgently to feel the love of God and we must birth him with speed … yes, as fast as 0 to 100 in seconds!

Happy Missionary Christmas from the Xaverians.

“Go and ask your Dad.”

My Dad has many wise sayings… usually around drink. When someone bought him a drink it was either; “Your face I may forget. Your kindness, never!” or “May your giving hand never wither!” What a philosopher the old man is! One other which he quoted frequently to us, usually around exam times, was “If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.”

On Monday and Tuesday (12/13th of August) we will be meeting in Coatbridge, looking at our plans for the next three years as a Region. As well as the Xaverians actively involved in our centres in Preston, Coatbridge and the Parish in Glasgow, Hugh Foy, the UK programmes director and our new recruit Phil Callaghan, Deputy Director of Programmes, will meet to pray, reflect and strategise the priorities and our activities until the next Regional Chapter in 2022. Hopefully in the next few weeks we will highlight the way ahead for us as the UK Region and give more direction and focus to our presences in Scotland and England.

Coupled with these meetings, here in Preston, we will be preparing for our Xaverian Charism Day on September 14th. On that day we hope to understand better the vision of Conforti, the history of the Xaverian Family, the lived out Xaverian Vocation and develop our mission spirituality too. In this exploration day we hope that we all emerge better prepared to make mission happen in the here and now. This will be a chance for us to take seriously Pope Francis’ invite to become missionary disciples!

We also are putting on hold the proposed Open Day which was scheduled for 7th of September. Why we meet, what we do, how we fundraise, socialise, bring people together, use our resources, reach out… will hopefully creatively come forth when we have a better handle on what being a missionary is today.

“Every day is a school day!” – another one of Dad’s pearls of wisdom – reminds us that we learn, grow, better ourselves… if prepared to do so. So let’s seize the moment and allow God to speak to us, through us and among us, so that the idea of failing might never be an option.

Jim

The Summer of ’89

Someone once quipped “If Bishops and Priests went on strike, would anyone notice.” Don’t answer, please!

From many comments such as “It’s alright for you, you only work one day a week!” and “Priesthood? That’s a cushy number. That’s why you never see it advertised at the Job Centre!” I have had my share.

On the 17th of June 2019 I will celebrate 30 years of priesthood. (Not looking for a fanfare and balloons) I have never gone on strike, but I’d like to hope I have been of some relevance to some people over that period.

Reflecting on the years gone by, I thank God for the call to ordained priesthood, for the opportunity to respond to that call (sadly not the case for many others) and for the places, people and plethora of positions the call has put me in. All in all, I have been blessed.

During the ordination rite, the Bishop asks the Superior, “Do you judge him to be worthy?” I read someone once saying that this is the wrong question. It should be “do you judge him to be unworthy?” For Christ calls the weak, the unworthy, the last … as his co-workers and I identify with that. I studied with many people, of both sexes, who would have been better equipped than me for ordained priesthood, but that is not Jesus’ criteria.

Over the 30 years I have made mistakes, I have fallen short, I have been unfaithful, I have let people down, I have let myself down…but I keep trying my best, limited at times as that may be.

However, I have been blessed and encouraged by the priesthood that we all share as Baptised. And that has inspired me to be better. Be it the women in the Base Communities in Brazil rowing for hours to teach other mum’s good child care, be it Hattie Williams in South Side Chicago opening her doors to bring the black and white communities together, be it Mrs. Murphy who gives her £5.00 every week for the missions, be it the many great men and women, who we can all think of, who have brought Christ to others, the catechists, the Eucharist Minsters, the folk who make the coffee after mass, those who visit the sick, collect for the poor, volunteer for this and that… this is the priesthood we all share, and I thank God for the priests (non-ordained) who have enriched my life and encouraged me.

I would like to believe that at our Centre here in Preston, we can create a space for all priesthoods to be welcomed, celebrated, encouraged and empowered. The body of Christ has many parts…but all part of the same!

Have a look at the range of activities on the go and maybe bring something yourself. We all have pieces of the jigsaw and together we can make the picture more complete. After all God didn’t do it alone – the Trinity, that we celebrate reminds us of the perfect community, each one playing different parts…creating, redeeming and empowering.

The late great Norman Walsh used to joke when someone was celebrating a wedding anniversary… “Did you have a minute’s silence?“ On Monday I will take a minute or two to thank God for priestly ministry, mine and others. Please take a minute too, to do the same.

Jim

Happy Birthday!!!

If like me you are shying away from Birthday celebrations when the cake looks like the Towering Inferno and there is more wax on it than Madame Tussauds, well today let’s make an exception.

Happy birthday to one and all! On this feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church, not just any Church, but the Missionary Church. Today we are reminded that we are to continue the mission of Jesus, to be the proclaimers of Good News to the ends of the earth and to build up his Kingdom, here!

The disciples filled with the Spirit spoke to all in their native languages – yes even Glaswegian! The Spirit came to empower the motley crew of followers to move from fearful, frightened people to become a fearless, feisty power, that is the Church. The community is to go, to reach out, to be bearers of good news to all peoples in all parts of the world.

Our decision to take over from the Carmelites, was a spirit filled discernment, a Pentecost moment. The resources, the contacts, the good will, the challenges, the opportunities… are exactly what that first community faced when from a small group in a little corner of the world, it grew to become the world’s largest religion – 2.2 billion that is a third of the earth’s population.

And we too continue that mission in our trying to be Church here in Preston. In the activities that so many people attend and organise, in the coming together, in our reaching out, the new initiatives, in the searching to be more of a resource and service to the local Church and community as well as thinking globally, we try to keep Pentecost alive!

The Xaverian Mission Spirituality Centre uses the reference to Spirit, not loosely but deliberately. We are inspired by the Holy Spirit to be the missionary Church, here and now.

The D Day remembrance 75 years on and the 250 major wars since the end of the Second World War where over 50 million have been killed reminds us that the Spirit of Pentecost which unites the divisions and celebrates the differences, must be re-discovered.

Let’s repeat the words of Saint Pope John XXIII at the beginning of Vatican II – “Renew in our days oh Lord, your wonders as in a new Pentecost!” and lets try to repeat the bold actions of the first community. We still have plenty to do and extra miles to go. Let’s joyfully do it together. Happy Birthday!

Carmelite India Fund event: 12 May 2019

Written by Jennifer Holden

On Sunday 12th May, Chris Lloyd, Fr Bideri and myself welcomed 80 people to a wonderful celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Carmelite India Fund, a charity that began in 2009, as a tiny mustard seed, sown in response to a meeting with the poorest of the poor in a Bangalore slum and with the Carmelite Missionary Sisters who have been supporting and empowering them for over twenty years. Despite all sorts of adversity, this tiny seed has managed to sprout and spread further and further afield, supporting the sisters in their care of the untouchables, victims of a cruel caste system that believes an untouchable’s shadow or breath contaminates anyone it falls upon.

It was a beautifully sunny day for the event, all the windows and doors open onto the gardens of the Xaverian Centre in Preston. The Liturgy Room had been transformed into an oriental bazaar of exotic Indian materials, pashminas, saris, jewellery, embroidered cushions, painted Indian peepal leaves, exquisite hand made greetings cards, freshly baked cupcakes, tray bakes, chutneys, takeaway curries …all made by passionate supporters of the fund.

The story is a mysterious one. I had been working on the Carmelite Retreat Team at Tabor Spirituality Centre (now the Xaverian Centre) for a number of years, when Fr Eugene, the Prior, offered me a three month sabbatical. I was surprised and suggested Llandudno in North Wales to which he replied, quite forcibly for him, ‘No! I want you to to go somewhere right out of your comfort zone!’

So, a fearful traveller, afraid of snakes, spiders, amoebic dysentery and having to wash in a bucket, set off for India and the Ragigguda slums in Bangalore. Sr Celine was my guide and took me along the dark, narrow alleyways of the slums where I came face to face with India’s shadow. The people who shyly greeted me are forbidden to enter a temple, to have access to running water, forbidden to have any education or medical treatment, forbidden to have a proper roof over their heads or to do any sort of profitable work.

I was struck dumb to see that these people had nothing, nothing at all except the love and devotion of Sr Celine and her community and that these broken ones who had nothing, welcomed me, a stranger, with such graciousness and generosity.

I was taken into the nursery and infant schools Sr Celine has set up and met women from the slums who were being trained to work alongside the sisters. I saw women being supported in setting up ethical loans and others who were being trained to set up networks of self help groups which have now spread far beyond Bangalore. I also saw women being trained to be classroom assistants and met others taking responsibility for administrative work.

I asked Sr Celine what she needed to continue this special work with the poor and was struck dumb by her reply. She needed so little to make a dramatic difference to the lives of her people – not much more than I spend on chocolate each month!

Father Eugene rang that night, knowing I had been spending time in the slums. I could barely speak but managed to say, ‘We have to do something!’ to which he replied ‘We’ll come in with you on this. We’ll back you up!’

And so, the Tabor India Fund, (now the Carmelite India Fund) was launched. We were able to send £250 a month to Bangalore and now send £550 each month to support the wonderful work the sisters are doing with rural slum-dwellers in Andhra Pradesh as well as their work in Bangalore. Every penny given to the charity goes directly to Sr Celine. Chris and I pay for all other costs the charity incurs with our own money. In this way, the fund is different from most other charities.

At our recent celebration, we were able to thank all those who have supported Chris and myself in struggling to keep the fund alive and to treat everyone to a beautiful afternoon tea created by Master-Baker, Davina. The day ended with a thrilling dance performance of Indian classical, folk and Bollywood dance. As a grand finale, everyone was invited to join in the dancing and, at this point, Fr Bideri who had taken such an active part in the whole day, stole the show!

More pictures here.

If you would like to help the mustard seed continue to grow, we would be delighted to hear from you. You can contact Chris or Jennifer by clicking here.

Community news: Two good causes.

Shirley’s run

Shirley Russo is going to run the London Marathon to raise funds for the Jesuit Missions. She has taken on the challenge of raising £2000 for the missions and is training hard. If you see Shirley then give her your support. It is not easy to run a marathon.

If you want to help her reach her target you can donate through Virgin Money Giving.

Fundraising for the Dementia Singing Group

Alan Clayton invites us to the Playhouse on Friday 26th April. Alan and his friends are raising funds for the Playhouse and the Dementia Singing Group at the Centre. Come along, it will be great fun.