Tuesday, 18 December 2007

What is an Advent Mission??

What is an Advent Mission? Here’s my interpretation… It’s a week when the doors of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Soho are opened wide and dozens of highly energized and inspired Catholic young adults spread through the streets of London to talk to strangers, give gifts, flyers and refreshments to anyone and everyone who passes us. We are no longer shy if we were before, because we are all out of our element, but we do it for the Lord. He is our strength, our inspiration, our energy. When we don’t know what to say to people, He gives us the words or the grace to just listen. We are the humble servants spreading the Gospel of Christ, perhaps just by our smiles and greetings, but hopefully by our invitation to meet Jesus this Christmas. Even if you have a relationship with Him, we remind you to visit and renew that relationship. We may never know how many people we effected, or what might have touched them. Our only aim is to spend all our energy, time, talent and prayers in the work of bringing people to their natural, innate faith and speaking of that desire of faith in terms of Christ and His entrance into this world, which was through Mary our mother and model. I don’t feel that I’m imposing on others, because I honestly believe in the Truth that the Church is guarding and teaching, and it such good news that I would be selfish to keep it to myself. The people on the streets can accept or reject it, but I pray that I can convey it in a way that speaks of its beauty and presence in everyone’s life.

At the end of the week, we all had some amazing stories to share and I think we were all in awe at what the Lord can do when we give ourselves to him completely. Above all, I have met some great students from the Emmanuel School of Missions in Rome and I look forward to seeing them again when my school goes to Rome in March. I know that we all worked so very hard this week, but we had a lot of fun in the process.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Advent Mission I

Thomas,Vanessa and students on the Plane to London...

Last Monday ninteen students from the Emmanuel School of Mission and a host of other guests flew in to join us for a huge week-long Parish mission at St Patrick's.

The mission began on Tuesday, with our first day of evangelisation on the streets.

In the evening the Church was packed with over one hundred homeless people and a very large number of volunteers (including the) for our Open House Christmas Party. We removed the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle and transformed the Church into somthing of a banquet hall!

There was time on Thursday for the students, who came from all over the world, to see some sights.

Advent Mission II - On the Streets

Uriel and Clara Evangelising on Oxford Street

During the day we would take it in turns to go out into the Square and to Oxford Street to talk to people and invite them to the Church. The SPES students had prepared gifts, scripture passages and flyers to give to people.

There had been a lot of careful and thorough planning that had gone on behind the scenes to ensure that things worked smoothly. Five different programmes of activity had been devised and the students, divided into teams names after Missionary Saints, took it in turns to apply themselves to each programme.

The teams out in the streets were working together to combine singing and entertainment with stopping people to talk to them and invite them to the Church. Equally important were the teams inside St Patrick's involved with welcoming, taking people before the Blessed Sacrament and praying with them, and also those in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament themselves, supporting the other teams with their prayers.

Advent Mission III

While out on the streets we were also encouraging peopleto come and participate in our evening events at St Patrick's. These included a Carol concert on Wednesday night and Thursday's 'Evening of Joy', led by the Emmanuel School of Mission students:

Then, on Friday, we took to the streets again for a concert outside the French Church followed by a candle-lit procession back to St Patrick's with an icon of the Madonna and Child:

We sang through the streets of Soho before bringing the icon back to St Pat's, where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.

On Saturday night we had a Street concert outside St Patrick's led by our talented Gospel Choir, followed by a Mercy Evening. The arrival of (literally) hundreds of drunk santas, obviously bored of their pub crawl, presented an interesting oppurtunity for evangelisation.

The prayers of those inside the Church were answered when several of the santas were led inside to pray before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Walking through the Streets with Our Lady

Our Advent Mission is underway, and life at St Patrick's is busier and crazier than ever. Before all the mission started though, we experienced the relative peace and tranquility of processing through the streets with Our Lady to honour her Immaculate Conception.

We processed from St Patrick's to the French Church, Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square, singing hymns to Mary. It was a beautiful evening, and it seems that people are often very receptive to honouring Our Lady. Some people stopped and crossed themselves in the streets, others paused to listen or were clearly intrigued.

More on the Advent Mission coming soon...

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Martyrs Walk

Last Saturday we walked from Tower Hill to Tyburn Convent following the route that Martyrs would have been dragged along as part of the middle stage of being 'Hung, Drawn and Quartered'. A large part of the route is the same as we take in the morning on the bus - so it was a familiar route which we saw in a totally new and different light, as we prayed the Rosary and Stations of the Cross, reflecting on the heroic witness of the English Martyrs. The journey for the martyrs would have ended at Tyburn Tree, where they would have been dismembered. The Tree no longer stands, but a plaque marks the spot. We ended our journey a little further up the road at Tyburn Convent, where a young sister showed us the crypt which has plenty of relics.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Street Evangelisation

Street evangelisation happens every Friday evening for us and will also be a big part of our Advent Mission next week. It is often one of the most challenging forms of outreach that we are faced with at the school - and for some this form of outreach is even controversial.

Here we wanted to just give you a picture of what a typical Friday evening of street evangelisation is like for us and what does and doesn't happen.

The whole evening is rooted in prayer, with the Blessed Sacrament exposed in St Patrick's throughout. We begin the night in adoration and by praying the Sorrowful Mystery of the Lord's Crucifixion; we end the night in adoration and by praying the Glorious Mystery of the Resurrection. We also take it in turns to stay with the Blessed Sacrament throughout the evening to sustain in prayer those who are out on the streets. It is very much an evening of prayer for the conversion of Soho.

We always go out onto the streets in pairs, and since different people have different gifts the approaches that work best for them differ. Some include:
  • Standing on a corner handing out SOS prayerline cards and asking people if they need any prayers said
  • Walking around Soho silently praying the Rosary
  • Walking about the streets engaging people in conversation and telling them about a Saint (like Blessed Mother Teresa) and offering them a Miraculous medal
A main challenge is to remember that we are there to bring Christ to people, but not ourselves or our own 'angles' on life or faith. Success cannot simply be characterised in worldly terms - by the percentage of arguments won or the number of medals given out this week. Instead, success might be simply to soak up some of the anger or sorrow a person needs to get rid of, to speak a word of encouragement, or simply to say a prayer for a person we meet.

We all find that Street Evangelisation is something that challenges us. It's certainly not what I look forward to most in the school week. It is emotionally and physically tiring, there is rejection and even ridicule to contend with. But there are also moments of grace and remarkable receptivity. We have a lot to receive, as well as give, in encountering Christ in the people we meet on the streets.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Advent Mission



MON 10th - SUN 16th DECEMBER 2007

Preparation for our big Advent Mission has been progressing and is taking up much of our time right now with the start a little over one week away. The mission is a joint one shared between SPES and the Emmanuel School of Mission from Rome. Twenty students will be flying over to help us bring Christ and the true meaning of Christmas to the streets of Soho.

We will be engaged in street evangelisation throughout and encouraging busy shoppers to take a break and step into the Church for a moment of prayer or at the very least some silence. We'll also have talks, prayers, praise and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout.

We hope many of you will be able to come and join us! We need as much support as we can get, and there will be plenty for us to receive from the experience as well as what we are able to give. There is a timetable of events and more info at the top right of the blog.

If you can't join us in person then please support us with your prayers. Tomorrow (Sat 1st December) would be the day to start a novena for the mission. In the meantime, perhaps you could say this prayer for us:

Almighty God, we ask for Your blessing on the Advent Mission in Soho and on all the preparation by the students and staff of the Schools of Mission. We pray for all the parishioners of St. Patrick's and all those in London who may be helped by this mission. May your Holy Spirit guide the works and message going out to the busy streets of London and bring the true, Christ-centered Christmas spirit to the heart of the city. We make this our prayer through Jesus Christ, the Word sent to save us, and with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Amen.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Thanksgiving Day Celebration

It has been a real eye-opener to realize how unknown this American holiday is to other countries. I guess I just never stopped to think about it, but this was a great opportunity to share a bit of my culture with my classmates. So Saturday, I prepared a traditional Thanksgiving feast to be enjoyed by my classmates, Jeanine and our special guest, Bishop Bernard Longley!

I had spent the week leading up to this dinner scavenging St. Patrick’s and the local Sainsbury store to find the closest equivalents to my mom’s American foods (I did have some help by post with my parents sending me the pumpkin pie filling and some other essentials from home). I relied on all my classmates to pitch in with a rather impressive menu consisting of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, coslaw, and finally pumpkin and mincemeat pies served for dessert. I was amused to watch everyone try egg nog, a common American holiday drink, for the first time. In the end it was a very special meal to celebrate our gratitude to God for all that he has given us this year. I know it meant a lot to me to have this tradition carried on even while I’m so far from home.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The Centre of Time and Space

Saturdays are set aside as a day spent together as a community to take a bit of a break from the basement of St Patrick's! The other week we went to Greenwich where we visited the Royal Observatory - 'The Centre of Time and Space'. It can make this boast because it is the home of both Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian - which is the line of longitude at which longitude is defined to be 0 degrees.

We had a great time at Greenwich - the museum there was well worth seeing. However, it occurred to me that we actually encountered the true Centre of Time and Space a little bit earlier during the same day...

... as indeed we do every time that we go to Mass!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Roles & Responsibilities

Washing up at Hare Street

It isn't until you try living community life that you realise how much careful thinking and planning is involved in making sure things happen.

One of our activities at Hare Street last week helped hammer this point home. Vron split us into two groups and gave us the task of 'designing' a community from scratch and drawing up plans for how the roles and responsibilities would be shared out.

I'll leave the description of our plans for a community of traveling musician evangelists for another day – it suffices to say that it was a real challenge to try and create and plan from scratch something that would be able to function harmoniously.

Here at SPES each student is given a particular role that is their own specific duty and very much a part of keeping the community working smoothly. For example, Mirela is housekeeper and gets to give the orders of who does the cleaning and when they do it. Allen is sacristan and makes sure everything is prepared for daily Mass and Adoration. Marcus is in charge of organising our weekly community outings; Jenny takes care of the Music, and so on.

You might say that the community is very much a living body where we rely on each others' different gifts in order to get things done - like a microcosm of the Church. But we also have to accept and respect each others roles even when we have our own ideas about better ways of doing things.

At the start of our next term in January we'll all rotate responsibilities - then will come the time for putting our own slant on things. At the moment we've been given jobs that we're fairly well suited too, but we know that being given a job we find challenging (or boring!) could be on the cards in the future and that this can be a real area of growth.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Holiday at Hare Street

We spent most of last week on 'Study Holiday' at Hare Street in Hertfordshire. This is the Country house of the Archbishop of Westminster and also was once the home of Mgr Robert Hugh Benson who was a famous convert to the Catholic faith from Anglicanism, preacher and author of books such as 'Lord of the World'.

The picture on the left was taken in the chapel in which Mgr Benson is buried which is also within the grounds.

We're most grateful to the Cardinal for letting us use his house - what a marvelous place to be staying! You can read a bit more about it here.

The focus of the week was to grow as a community by learning about communication and what sorts of things can go wrong... for this we were led through varied and entertaining activities by Vron, a friend and colleague of Fr Alex from his previous parish.

There were many highlights, but some of the communication games we played were particularly enlightening (and amusing!) In one such game, we were split into pairs sitting with our backs to each other. One of us had the outline of a map, while the other had the full version. We had about ten minutes to try and communicate with each other to complete all the roads and landmarks on the incomplete map. One of the difficulties was competing with the rival descriptions of the other groups in order to make yourself heard! Our neck-straining attempts to hear and listen to the words of our partner really brought home our usual reliance on non-verbal communication. With this taken away, the results were quite entertaining!

In another favourite we were split into two groups, given a huge sheet of paper and a pen each and told to draw a house - with absolutely no communication allowed. Again the results were amusing - and we had to deal with the frustration of someone else doodling all over your bit of the picture - or even someone changing the whole theme half-way through by introducing some Christmas decorations (oops!)

The evenings were a chance to chill out, chat, and play whatever games came to mind - such as Catholic Charades. On Thursday evening Fr Alex joined us again and we squashed into the pub across the road for a drink:

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Music with Miko

Once a fortnight, on a Friday morning Miko comes to sing Morning prayer with us and to lead us in one of our hilariously entertaining music lessons. We were thinking of doing a recording some time so that we can let you in on the secrets of what goes on! SPES offers us a wide-ranging and inspiring formation, but I must admit I was surprised to learn that we'd be learning to sing too! For me at least, it's proved to be a real highlight. It provides a safe environment to make as many mistakes as you want in the name of good fun. But we learn a lot too... So far we've nailed five of the nine hymns given in the Office for Compline (Night Prayer). Our Salve Regina is much improved - Mirela helps us to get the pronunciation right - but it's proving hard to shake off the bad lessons some of us have learned. And Miko composed a nice setting of the Nunc Dimitus for us which we're getting quite good at. Allen has a beautiful voice and a good ear, so bouyed by his talent and enthusiasm we hope to tackle some Taize chants next so that we can evangelise at the bus stop with our four-part harmonies!

Edna's Arrival

Edna has been with us for over a week now. While awaiting her arrival we felt a bit like an excited family waiting for a new baby to be born!

Edna has already been living in London and she already knows a lot about St Patrick's and all the people here - in fact she had to exercise considerable patience in her first week as we all kept telling her things that she knew all about and introducing her to people she's known for years!

I think now we feel like we've all adjusted to our new, improved, larger family. We've already had Edna cooking omelettes for us, and her ipod and speakers have brought some music to the kitchen too!

Friday, 26 October 2007

The Great Silence

The SPES students hadn’t planned to get involved with the postal strike…

Sorry to anyone who's been checking this blog hoping to hear something from the new students. We're nearly four weeks into term and we're finally ready to emerge from our silence.

From now on we'll be updating regularly!

There are seven students at the school this year. Six of them are shown in the photo above. From left to right: Anthony (England), Marcus (Germany), Allen (China), Jenny (USA), Mirela (Romania) and Teresa (England).

Edna, from Brazil, will finally be joining us on Tuesday. Our community has been very much incomplete without her, but after many prayers she has finally got her Visa! So the wait is almost over.

Please pray for her safe arrival and keep us all in your prayers during the exciting months ahead. And say hello in the comments box - so that we can pray for you too.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Opening Retreat

Happy Feast of the Little Way! The students have arrived, and are slowly settling into their new home, and new community. Mirela and Jenny arrived on Friday afternoon, and were greeted by Allen who arrived on 15th September from China. Teresa, Anthony and Marcus arrived on Saturday ... and we are just waiting for Edna to arrive! This year there is a student community of 7, from 6 different countries. All come from ranging backgrounds ... and you will get to know more about them and their lives as the year continues on. Today the students met Father Matt Blake, as well as two of their Spiritual Companions. Spiritual Companions are a married couple that spends time with a student and walks with them on their journey through the school year. They introduce them to married life and love, exposing them to another way of serving God through one's vocation. Father Matt Blake is the Chaplain of the School and leads the retreats for the students. He is the students' Spritual Director and also leads Spiritual Conferences with the students every fortnight. Father Matt began the 3-day silent retreat this afternoon with evening prayer and a meditation. Meditations and Spiritual Direction will continue in the coming days as the students open their hearts to God's plan for them this year. Please pray for them as they are in silence ... and thats always a mouth full to keep in!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

The Countdown Begins!

We are only 10 days away from welcoming all the new SPES Students to St Patrick’s here in London! Barbara has been busy preparing St Anne’s Presbytery, where the students will live for the next nine months, beginning next Saturday. She has also been doing some handy work in the classroom, preparing tables and chairs for the coming lectures. Allen, one of the students for the coming year, arrived on Saturday from China. He has been shadowing Mandy, a former student of the School and also a resident here at St Patrick’s, since he arrived, learning the ropes of St Patrick’s whilst he acclimatizes to the culture. The Conference for the New Evangelisation is happening in Budapest this week, flowing into the weekend. Please pray for that and for all of the new students! Stay tuned for more updates …

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Holding the fort

The School year may have ended ... but the life of the parish continues. As the four 2005/6 graduates who stayed for a year to look after the School and parish move on (to pastures new, or a well-earned break), things have been left for a few weeks in the eager hands of Mandy and myself, 2006/7 graduates.

The basement flooded in the recent heavy rains, though I was too busy scooping the water up to take a photo for the blog. Thanks to Arnold, our highly efficient housekeeper, there is no lasting damage. Nevertheless, it's a reminder that the fabric of the church and School need repairing. There will be a Parish Meeting tonight to update on progress with the £4m Appeal.

We were joined for supper on Sunday evening by Fr Stephen Langridge and ten Spanish seminarians . Fr Stephen is well known to the School, having been one of our visiting lecturers. He has a group of Spanish young men (some as young as 15, going to school in the week and attending seminary on Saturday), and two Spanish priests, staying in his parish for a few weeks for something of a 'spiritual holiday', and to learn English. It was wonderful to welcome so many young men thinking seriously about priesthood.

While they were here, they were shown SOS Prayerline, a service where anyone can call from 7-11pm every night, and a volunteer prays with the caller in a small chapel with Jesus exposed in the tabernacle. Just as we were visiting the chapel, Mandy received was receiving the 30,000th call. You can call SOS Prayerline on 0207 434 9211.

Thursday, 14 June 2007


It was a packed house on Tuesday 12th June when Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor came to St Patrick's to celebrate the Graduation Mass, along with 25 Priests to concelebrate this very special occasion. The ceremony was beautiful, starting off with a tear-jerking hymn (for some of us, anyway!). The church was heaving with supporters of all kinds - lecturers, benefactors, companions, past students ... you name it - they were there! What a gift the school has been to so many people!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

So endeth Spirit in the City

Yesterday was an intense day of talks, workshops, music evangelisation and Confession in Leicester Square, the busiest square in Europe. In the evening we were privileged at St. Pat's to be led in Evening Prayer, Adoration and Night Prayer by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Two of the Friars, Fr. Augustine and Fr. Emmanuel, are newly ordained and have returned from America to be missionaries in their homeland. May they bring great glory to God and do great good for the people of England. We will dearly miss Brother Martin and Fr. Angelus (who joined us last night), both of whom have had a lot to do with us in this year and are going to friaries in Ireland and Bradford respectively.

Last night we also listened to our beloved Gospel choir as they kicked up a storm in Soho Square. Long after everyone had gone, we had our own modest party on the terrace of St. Patrick's, knowing that Sunday was not an early morning! So the watchmen of the dawn slept in this morning... A big thanks to Anna Marie for oganising these three days.

P.S. If anyone's around this evening at 6.00 we have our International Mass and Corpus Christi Procession through the streets of Soho, made up of the Latin American, Brazilian and Chinese chaplaincies. A real wake up call for Soho!

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Corpus Christi Procession

We are in the midst of Spirit in the City, a Catholic festival in the West End of London, with talks, music, evangelisation and processions. Last night Fr. Chris Connor gave a wonderful talk about the power of the Eucharist at Corpus Christi Maiden Lane, and then we went on procession to Leicester Square...

Monday, 4 June 2007

The last stretch

We're back from a relaxing week in Dorset, a time of retreat, walks, laughs and reflection on the year at SPES. Fr. Alex joined us for the first half of the week, and Fr. Matt our spiritual director came later to give us some meditations. We were able to use the rarely-used parish church in the area to say the Divine Office and have Mass and Adoration. We also got to visit Chideock, a church that has been the site of a recusant family from its beginnings as a barn many centuries ago, and the church which commemorates the death of local martyrs St. John Cornelius and companions. Coming back to Soho yesterday we found awaiting us the relics of St. Claude de la Columbiere, also a martyr for the faith who died as a result of his long imprisonment in the Tower of London for preaching the mercy of the Sacred Heart. The relics of our patron saint have been brought from France in order that they may be venerated in St. Patrick's and in other churches during the next few weeks.

We're now on the final stretch of our year, with just one more week until we graduate on June 12th! This weekend we will be involved with Spirit in the City, a festival of faith organised by the West End Catholic Churches, with talks, prayer, adoration, evangelisation and music events in the notable squares around the area. If you are interested please come along - check out the details on the website.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Relics of St. Claude

Bone fragments of St Claude de la Colombière, Apostle of the Sacred
Heart, are being brought to St Patrick's Church
for a special season of festivities in June!

A missionary and ascetical writer, St. Claude was born of noble parentage at
Saint-Symphorien-d'Ozon, between Lyons and Vienne, in 1641, and died
at Paray-le-Monial, 15th February 1682. He entered the Society of
Jesus in 1659. In 1674 Father de la Colombière was made superior at
the Jesuit house at Paray-le-Monial, where he became the spiritual
director of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom Jesus gave the
revelation of His Sacred Heart, and was thereafter a zealous apostle
of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


In 1676 he was sent to England as preacher to the Duchess of York,
later Queen of Great Britain. Although encountering many difficulties,
he was able to guide Margaret Mary by letter. While awaiting recall to
France due to ill health, he was suddenly arrested and thrown into
prison, denounced as a conspirator. Thanks to his connections to the
Duchess of York and to Louis XIV, he escaped death but was condemned
to exile in 1679.

He was canonised by Pope John Paul II on 31 May 1992. His relics are
usually preserved in the monastery of the Visitation nuns at
Paray-le-Monial. He is the patron of Saint Patrick's Evangelisation

"The past three centuries allow us to evaluate the importance of the
message which was entrusted to Claude. Devotion to the Heart of Christ
would be a source of balance and spiritual strengthening for Christian
communities so often faced with increasing unbelief over the coming
centuries." John Paul II, at St Claude's canonisation Mass

Friday, 25 May 2007

Pentecost Vigil

http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/pics/Pentacost_Greco_Holy_Spirit.jpg This Saturday 6.00 pm at St. Patrick's Church, Soho Square. Mass with the Brazilian and Chinese communities followed by a prayer vigil until midnight. 'I will pour out my spirit upon all humanity.' Come and be present as we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and as we call upon the Spirit to aid us in the New Evangelisation, so that the world may know the love of the Holy Trinity.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Parish Mission

This week the wheels don't stop turning. On Wednesday we had a lovely lunch after Mass with the parishioners of St. Patrick's, some of whom have been coming for over twenty years (quite an achievement in a place where no one stays still long enough to bat an eyelid). There were a few relatively younger faces as well - people working or studying in London who come for Mass or for Morning and Evening prayer at the parish. Maybe our singing is getting better... Now we are in the process of visiting all the residents in the area, trying to find the Catholics and see if they are interested in information about the parish. It's actually quite hard to get access to a lot of the flats where residents live, and most of them are not at all interested. One man leaned out of the window when we rang and after listening to our introduction said, 'I'm in the bath and I'm an atheist.' But we did talk to some people who wanted to know more about the church and that made the visits worthwhile. Soho, and England in general, is a place that is not very open to the discussion of religion, particularly if it is a religion that in their view had its chance and blew it. I wonder what they would think of the evangelisation linebacker... http://www.tedsilary.com/specialFB04octrockvsfkd.jpg

Monday, 21 May 2007

Christ Alive in the North

We're just back from a weekend up north, staying with Fr. Richard Aladics in Huddersfield. He's on his own in an area that is largely lapsed (and also the product of a drug and binge drinking mentality) and he feels that if he is to do anything significant there then he needs the help of a community. 'It's not a parish, this - it's missionary territory.' On Friday he held a prayer and healing hour in his church, and we spent the morning handing out flyers as he processed through the streets blessing them with Holy Water and saying 'May the peace of Christ reign here!' We also handed out flyers at the local Catholic primary school. For the prayer and healing hour Fr. Richard heard confessions as we prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, and then he blessed individual people with the Blessed Sacrament as they came up. He said to us there were more parishioners there than at any other event he had held in the parish.

On Saturday we went to Bradford to help the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with their event: Christ Alive in Bradford! A tent had been put up in the green, in which there was an afternoon of talks, testimonies, adoration, a May Crowning of Mary, and praise and worship. Fr. John Wilson from Leeds gave a particularly good talk on the Eucharist and the family, stressing the importance of families spending time together and praying together. The weather was not on our side for most of the day, but that did not stop the friars and the rest of us from going downtown to invite people to the event. A few people came to the tent from off the streets, merely because they were curious, but left noticeably changed. It was a wonderful event and hopefully the first of many like it.

Fr. Richard's 'unctious food' should not go without special mention. It's not often you find a priest who cooks like a Mediterranean chef. Cheers Fr., it was boss.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Past Student Update - Budi Nahiba

We received an update from Budi Nahiba, from Indonesia, who has spent two years with the Dominicans in the Phillipines in formation for the Priesthood. Below is an update from him, on some of his recent experiences! Budi was a student from 2004-2005.
Last month, I joined the parish priest (diocesan priest) in West Borneo. We visited the villages and celebrated Mass in the jungle. There was not any road transportation except by river or by foot. We used the boat and motor cycle for transportation. The road is very bad and muddy. We walked more than three hours to reach the village. We stayed overnight in the village, camping, and there were a lot of insects and mosquitoes.

The people in jungle in this village were happy to receive us, as usually the priest can visit them only twice a year to celebrate Mass. The people are very poor and have low education. They do not have a strong knowledge about the Catholic Faith (lack of the catechist).

I enjoyed the journey. I could practice the evangelization lesson from SPES. The priest asked me to teach the Our Father and Hail Mary Prayer. Also I spoke about the Faith to the villagers. It reminded me of my experiences in Soho, from when I used to discuss the Faith with the people in Soho.

During the Triduum, I returned to the parish Saint Marie John Vianney, once again. This is a new parish that just opened three months ago. On Good Friday, I taught the passion and music. And on the Saturday Vigil, I taught the choir about the song (two of my friends helped me with music, because I can not sing very well!). The people in the parish did not know much about the Triduum liturgy (because the parish is new and the celebration the Easter is new and strange for them. I am very happy because I can share the resurrection with the poor people in the middle of the jungle.

The education in that parish is very poor. The school building in the village is very poor and they lack teachers - especially the catechist/Catholic religious teachers.

In the centre of the parish, they have the dormitories for girls and boys - the students from the village. The dorm is also very damaged and needs refurbishment. At the moment, I tried to help the parish priest to raise the money for the parish and dormitory.

The villagers don't understand that the Priests don't have have money - they think they do because the Missionaries from Europe would also give money or food - so they think all people with the Church are rich. The situation is changing though. I brought the religious articles from the city to the village - Some of the benefactors gave me money to buy the religious articles.

I have spoken to my Dominican superior and I still want to become a priest and continue my formation, but I will take some time out to discern further the will of God. I want to give up my life totally for CHRIST. Follow HIM where He will send me
So, at the moment, I wait my new place.

To be honest, the evangalisation formation in the School of Evangelisation is useful for my journey. I can share the Faith with the people any where, with my deepened spirituality and I can talk about GOD with confidence as I now have a basic knowledge of the catechism.

Our Motto of SPES is to bring Hope to other: I believe God guides me to bring the Hope in middle of the jungle and I can practice my lessons from SPES!

Yours brother in Christ,

Budi Nahiba Vincentius (SPES Alumni: 2004-2005)

Thursday, 17 May 2007

mission in Huddersfield

We're off to Huddersfield to help out Fr. Richard Aladics (Friends with Christ blog) in a parish mission there. He said it's a deprived area, particularly spiritually, and we hope the few days will do something good for the area. There will be a prayer and healing service on Friday evening, followed by a BBQ in the presbytery garden with Fr. Richard's unctious food!

Friday, 11 May 2007

In the wake of Humae Vitae

http://www.gallerym.com/images/work/big/associated%20press_mother_teresa_L.jpg As we come closer and closer to the end of this year's Theology of the Body course, we were led by Fr. Anthony Doe tonight to look at its immediate context: Humae Vitae. Written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 as a definitive statement regarding the Church's teaching against contraception, it came as a shock to many inside and outside the Church who had thought of Pope Paul as a liberal-minded pontiff. Fr. Anthony said he could remember a culture of dissent at the time, in which laypeople stopped practicing, and priests and religious left the Church. Bishops and catechists fell silent on the topic and refused to get tangled up in it. At the end of the day, Fr. Anthony said, all our present conflicts in the Church revolve around this short encyclical. Yet the work is prophetic because 'it spoke the truth out of season.' It foresaw the increase in marriage breakdowns and the sexualization of the young. It perceived that behind the contraceptive mentality was a desire to control: '[man is] endeavouring to extend his control over every aspect of his own life.' Fr. Anthony pointed out two consequences of contraception that we might not immediately consider:
  • The loss of a sense of fatherhood. Instead of the instinctive masculine drive being united to an awareness of responsibility, men are encouraged to remain highly sexualized adolescents. Their actions have no consequences. For this reason Fr. Anthony suggested that men are the biggest victims of the contraceptive mentality.
  • The failure to comprehend the mystery of the Eucharist, the mystery of Christ's death and Resurrection. People are no longer open to or dependent on God, and they can't relate to a nuptial meaning of the Passion in which Christ gives himself to us totally, as man and woman give one another totally in a non-contracepting relationship.
Working also as a psychotherapist, Fr. Anthony said that the deepest yearning of the human heart (which he has seen manifest time and time again) is to be chosen in love. For this reason Christ's words to his disciples in the Last Supper are fundamental to Christianity: 'You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.' Contraception removes the vulnerability and openness in which we can receive God's love and allow him to choose us. It was a wonderful and thought-provoking talk, well-attended too, and we are grateful that Fr. Anthony could come. The last Theology of the Body talk is on May 25th, given by Edmund Adamus also on Humanae Vitae. Please come along if you can!

Past Student Update

Christine Hunker, pictured above with fiancee, Chuck, was a student at SPES in 2003-2004. She stayed on to support the school, giving back what she had received during her time at SPES as a student, until December 2004. We are delighted to hear that her and Chuck are getting married ... and here is a word from her:

After leaving SPES in December 2004, I returned to the United States, but not to my home in St. Louis, Missouri. Instead I moved to sunny Miami, Florida, where I began a job as the manager of a Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory at Florida International University (FIU). What a change from London! All of a sudden I was immersed in the working world again. It was a bit of a tough move for me, not really knowing anyone in Miami except for my boss. However, I found great comfort and strength in all that I had learned during my time with SPES. The year (plus) that I spent in prayer, formation and community made me realize that God must always be at the center of my life. Although I struggle and quite often fall, He is always there to help me stand up, dust off, and try again. And even though I was unsure of the future, I felt a certain peace knowing that God was in control.
Once in Miami, I sought out the closest Catholic Church (St. Agatha’s), which was conveniently located right across the street from the FIU campus. My schedule in the lab was flexible, and I was(am) able to attend Mass each day before work. I received much strength from Christ throughout the transition from SPES to the “real world.” It was, and continues to be, a blessing to be able to begin each day with Our Lord in the Eucharist.
After about a year of working and finding my way around a new city, I made the decision to go back to school to get my Ph.D. in Biology. Last year at about this time I was accepted into the program at FIU. I began my studies in the fall of 2006, and will continue in school for another 2-3 years until I finish my degree. Also right around this time last year I started dating a young man named Chuck Goss whom I met after morning Mass at St. Agatha’s. Upon speaking with him for the first time, I learned that he was an Ecology grad student at FIU and that he was also from the Midwest (Michigan). I found out that although he was attending Mass, he was not Catholic. In fact, he had recently begun his search for Christ, and had been attending different Christian churches. He had become involved in a nearby Baptist church, but felt in his heart that Our Lord was calling him to something more. After much prayer, soul-searching and studying of the Catholic faith he made the decision to join the Catholic Church. He was baptized last month at the Easter Vigil, and I was blessed to be his sponsor throughout the RCIA process. Together we have become involved in various ministries, including Habitat for Humanity and a weekly prayer group.
Chuck asked me to marry him this past January, and now we are engaged! We are getting married on August 18, 2007, in St. Louis. We are so excited that Fr. Alexander will be able to celebrate the Mass. We are blessed in so many ways, and it is certainly through the prayers of many people (including all the members of SPES and St. Patrick’s), and the grace of Our Lord that we came to find each other. We look forward to our wedding day—to our future life together, with Christ always at the center. And hopefully, sometime in the near future, we will be able to visit London. Then Chuck will get a better picture of what I am always talking about when I reminisce about my time with SPES. Hopefully he will also get to meet the people who were important in my faith journey.
I think back often with fond memories to my time with SPES, and continue to hold you all in my prayers. May the Lord bless you all with many gifts, and may He continue to show you the Way as you journey toward Him.

Christine Hunker (Alumni: 2003-2004)

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

A varied weekend

Last weekend we were present at the 40th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Westminster Cathedral. Cardinal Cormac celebrated the Mass, without stretching out his hands exuberantly or speaking in tongues but he managed to get an enthusiastic round of applause from the congregation who had come from all over England and even from Scotland. There were talks and testimonies during the day, including ecumenical speakers from other denominations and most significantly Fr. Raniero Cantalemessa, the papal preacher. Most of the 2,000 strong congregation were older Catholics, though there was an event in the evening for the younglings... Interestingly there seemed to be an inverse proportion between age and behaviour, the adults being more ready to dance and flail their arms about. On Sunday Fr. Tim Finnegan and Msgr. Stark led a pilgrimage group to St. Patrick's to venerate the relics of two Tyburn martyrs on their way to Tyburn convent. They venerated the relics of St. Cuthbert Mayne and St. Oliver Plunkett, the first and last martyrs from seminary abroad.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Student profile: Angela Danaher

Meet Angela from Kansas City, Missouri...

'I am American, 23, and I like reading, writing, drawing, and praying. I especially like cooking, John Singer Sargent, el Greco, Flannery O'Connor, and the fact that I have studied the entire Catechism. I came to London last October to join SPES, expecting an experience of the Catholic Church in England. One of the few aspects of SPES that were recognisably English were the daily 'elevensies' and tea time, other than that the Church and community was very international, a microcosm of the Universal Church. This isn't to say the Church in England is suffering from diversity, rather is rich in its assimilation of nations and people. But London and Soho is poor in spirituality, something I learned very quickly going on the streets and talking about St. Patrick's to people who don't believe in anything, except maybe themselves. My time here has really asserted the opposite, that I can't and shouldn't believe in just myself, and that when I do try to forge my own way, not follow God's will, I generally get knocked off my high horse and realize exactly how difficult it is when I try to make myself and my will into a god. Solid Catechesis, and it's all found in each days' formation. I can say there have been roughly 224 lessons thus far, and I look forward to the 50 or so remaining. God Bless.'

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Friars of the Renewal - Canning Town

http://extremecatholic.blogspot.com/images/gray-friars.jpg On Thursday we went to visit the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Canning Town, East London. It's the second time that we've been, and a few of the friars have been involved in the SPES year in one way or another. Brother John Paul told us a bit about how the order began, when eight Capuchins decided in the eighties that they wanted to go back to a life more like that of the early Franciscans, that would be in line with Vatican II and that would witness to a renewal in the Church. The friars run a soup kitchen Monday to Thursday for those hard up, seeking jobs, or just lonely with no one to talk to... Many of the people who come are Eastern European immigrants (Lithuanian, Polish, Russian) who have come to find work. We stayed for a bit and helped out in the kitchen, talking to those who came. The friars also seem to play a lot of chess with one or two of the guys, and they have a basketball court where people can relax and shoot a few hoops! Though, in the true spirit of poverty, the ball is somewhat flat... Check out their website here.