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.