Tuesday, 23 December 2008

My apologies for not blogging more often. Our activities keep us so busy and especially during this Advent and Christmas season! We had a 3 day silent Advent retreat in Brentwood. The Sisters of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham at the House of Prayer took such great care of us! Having this time for rest and reflection and time to prepare for the birth of our Lord was a true blessing. We had a wonderful advent mission! We were so busy and running around everywhere but the Lord gave us much needed grace and He blessed us with so many opportunities to see Christ everywhere we went. We celebrated Christmas Day in community and had a wonderful Christmas dinner and lots of time together. The next day we all headed to our homes. Marta to Poland, Petr to the Czech Republic, Marie to France, Desirae to Colorado-USA, Peter to Cornwall-England, Charlie to his Family in London and Lola stayed with Fr. Alex and Ambrose at St. Pats and attended the Youth 2000 retreat! We ar now all making our way back to Soho, please pray for safe travels for us! On Monday we leave for a 6 day retreat! I promise more blogging for the New Year! God Bless. All of us here from SPES wish you a Most Blessed Christmas, New Years and Epiphany!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Notes from Petr

Hello friends!

Today I am gonna tell you about one of our activities, which we do regularly each Thursday. This day we go to visit the community L'Arche. In English it means The Ark.

L Arche is out of London, so we go there by train. On the way we talk or we study a little bit.

In their community lives people with learning disabilities together with their assistants. We simply come and spend with them particular evening.

Last Thursday it was very good evening with them. Everybody was happy and there was lot of laughing, because the people of L Arche had fun and we had fun as well.

People of L'Arche we love you!


Friday, 28 November 2008

Reflections from Charlie

This week, we have in particular been facing the challenges of community life. It was rather topical therefore to receive a talk from Michelle Moran, recently elected President of International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS), and one of the founders of the Sion community, on growth in community. As such, we are beginning to familiarise ourselves with the idea of “myself for the community”.

We were given an intriguing talk by Fr Angelus, of the Franciscan “Friars of the Renewal”, about angels as spiritual beings and their role within God’s kingdom. It was fascinating to discover among other things that there are more angels than human beings; moreover that each of us, from conception, is uniquely assigned a guardian angel!

We are now starting to plan out our Advent mission. Over the next few weeks we will be distributing small gifts to hundreds of people in the parish. We will also be brainstorming other ideas to help as many people as possible to grasp the joy of this season.

Happy Advent to you all!


Monday, 24 November 2008

Meet Marie-Elisabeth, 27

I come from France, I worked in the banking field for 2 years. I choose to come to SPES specifically to deepen my faith, to learn to convey my faith as well as to understand more the roots of catechism. Day by day we learn to give up ourselves and try to live in charity within the community and the parish church with a strong life of prayers. It is demanding but so fruitful.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Cultural Night - USA: We cooked a turkey!

This Saturday we celebrated our First Cultural Night - Thanksgiving (United States). Lola and Desirae, both from Denver, Colorado, prepared a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. We had a full course meal of Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes (yams) with toasted marshmallows on top, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn and the most important dish, the dessert, Pumpkin Pie! We also went around the table and each of us said something we were thankful for (a Thanksgiving Day tradition). It was such a lovely evening and Lola and Desirae were so grateful to have shared it with such a wonderful group of people. Brother Basco and Brother Charles of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal joined us along with Fr. Francis our CCC lecturer, Fr. Matthew, and Teresa (SPES student 07-08).

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Meet Marta - 27

Hello SPES enthusiasts! I'm Marta from Warsaw, Poland. I felt like I'd given up a lot to come to SPES this year but now I recognize it was definitely worthwhile! Our God is never outdone with generosity! SPES is so far so good. :) I'm absolutely delighted by our time spent in Open House on Tuesday's and with the L'Arche Community on Thursdays.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Meet Lola- 20

Hello friends of SPES, my names Lola, I'm 20 years old and from Denver, Colorado. I just graduated from Regis Jesuit High School in 2007 and I've just spent a year at Metropolitan State College. I converted to the Catholic faith for many reason when I was 16 and I'm really excited to be here in London at St. Patrick's. So far SPES has been no cake walk, but I'm grateful to have the opportunity to spend more time getting to know our Lord, especially in the Eucharist. It is truly beautiful how much he really does love us and is always seeking us! This year I'm looking forward to all the things we get to experience and understand about our faith! We've done so many cool things in just the few weeks I've been here, we've visited Our Lady of Walsingham, Holy Island and seen Scott Hahn and many other wonderful lectures.

November Retreat

Our retreat began in Durham with the Shogren family. The Shogren's gave us such a wonderful welcome and made us all feel at home. Mr. Shogren (Paul) took us on a walking pilgrimage to the Holy Island. Lola, Charlie, Petr, Peter and Paul all walked it bare foot!! We learned about St. Cuthburt and walked in the foot steps of St. John Boste. We then headed to Hare Street and stayed at the Cardinal's retreat house the former home of Robert H. Benton, author of Lord of the World - a very prophetic piece of work from 1909. We had a tour of Edmund's College and learned about the history of the Catholic Church in England during the time it was illegal to practice our faith. The house on Hare Street even had a "Priest Hole" where priest could hide from authorities. The punishment for being caught was quite horrific - hung, drawn and quartered! Here is a picture of Petr in the "Priest Hole"....!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Meet Petr - 29

Hello Friends! My name is Petr Machacek. I come from the town of Jihlava it is in the beautiful part of the Czech Republic. So far I am really enjoying the experience of street evangelisation, community life and studying the Catechism. I am grateful to God for this intensive and very interesting experience of my life.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Meet Charlie - 29

Hello Dear Friends of SPES, My name is Charlie. I am 29 years old and I was born and live in London. I was recently working as a project engineer in the wind energy sector until I joined the school. I have felt for over a year, a strong desire to receive a deep Catholic formation. I am delighted to be at St. Patrick's because all the ingredients for a life of devotion and commitment are here. There is a great strength of integrity & diversity. Bring it on!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Meet Peter - 22

As a farm-boy from Cornwall, I have taken my time to adjust to the bright lights of London, but I think I have finally settled into life at SPES. Community life is really something to be prized.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Meet Desirae - 24

Hello! My name is Desirae. I am from Broomfield, Colorado, USA. I am very excited to be here in London, learning more about my faith and serving the local community in a variety of ways!! We have been so busy these past four weeks. Getting to know one another in community life, meeting new people at the Church and many wonderful priests, religious, and lay persons from around London! Last week the Sisters of the Community of St. Jean came from France to visit us. We also spent this past Saturday with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal praying the Rosary outside of an abortion clinic - It was a very moving experience. Tomorrow you will meet Peter! God Bless!

Friday, 10 October 2008

They have arrived ...

... and are slowly settling in! We'll post a picture of our new 'mugs' for the year ahead - we're Desirae and Lola from USA, Petr from Czech Republic, Charlie and Peter from England, Marie-Elisabeth from France and Marta from Poland! Last week the students went with Teresa (a student from last year, coordinating this year) to Greenwich and this Saturday to Walsingham!!! Please pray for us!

Monday, 11 August 2008


There are still plenty of events going on in the summer and SPES past students are making the most of them! As if WYD weren't enough, many of us have kept our minds sharpened and faith strengthened by verious Catholic conferences and gatherings. Last week, Vincent was among those at the Faith Conference in Surrey. You can read more about it on Fr. Tim's blog. With a large turnout of young Catholics, it sounded like quite a success! Teresa and I just got back from the weekend conference put on by Evangelium and the CTS at Fawley Court. Again lots of young Catholic adults who were a joy to meet and discuss the faith with. Meanwhile, at St. Patrick's Edna helped coordinate a beautiful anniversary Mass and celebration for the Shalom Community. Outside of England, was Ewa who made the journey to Medjugorje for the Youth Festival. Also traveling abroad was Anthony who went to Germany for a Theology of the Body retreat. Still to come is the Youth 2000 Renaissance at Walstingham 21-25 Aug.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Third Time's a Charm...

I've been trying to get this video to post on the blog for a while now, and it finally worked! This was filmed by Edna as we joined hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to greet the Holy Father as he made his way around Sydney. You can just hear the energy and joy of the crowd. It really was inspiring! We felt very blessed to be there to show our Pope how much the young people of the world love and support him.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Toolan!

We are happy to announce that our very own Barbara was married last Saturday to Terry Toolan! Fr Alexander and Fr Francis attended the two-day wedding in Poland and reported it to be a very joyful occasion. :) Our prayers and best wishes are with the new couple. Below is a photo taken from their civil wedding in London earlier this month.

Friday, 25 July 2008

End of WYD, just a beginning

What to do after such an amazing experience as WYD?! Well in true SPES fashion, we are on retreat. While Sydney cleans up from the 400,000 pilgrims who spent Saturday night and Sunday at Randwick Racecourse, our group from the UK made our way to the Marian Valley just outside Brisbane to find an atmosphere of rest and reflection. Guided by Fr. Jordan, we were given an introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The silence and peace of this place are awe-inspiring. Just walking a few hundred meters down towards the most beautiful bit of rainforest, we see shrines dedicated to Our Lady Help of Christians, Our Lady of Guadeloupe, St. Joseph, Our Lady of Fatima, and many more before coming finally to Our Lady of the Southern Cross. A huge thank you goes out to the Community of St. Paul the First Hermit, who look after this retreat centre. Their hospitality has been amazing. I don’t think I’ll ever forget our first walk-up-call - Fr. Columba playing ‘Waltzing Matilda’ on the bagpipes.

Here are some photos from the final days of WYD. Seeing our Holy Father was such an incredible blessing for us all. Just to see how he has united the youth of the world sends a message that hopefully more and more people will take notice of. One thing we did hear echoed in the Sydney news was how joyful and peaceful the atmosphere was with so many people flooding into their city. They were amazed that there was no crime, no unruly protests and despite worries, the transportation system held up. We, however, were not surprised. When Jesus is at the heart of any celebration, blessings and graces flow in abundance, and we witnessed that in Sydney. We pray for Australia and have faith that the Spirit will continue to move and inspire the people there.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

We're here!!

Hello from Sydney! It’s been two weeks since we’ve left London and we’re finally at the big event! Already we’ve met our host parish and settled in with the families who have graciously taken us in for the week. SPES continues to be on a mission of recruiting. Our booth is all set up at the vocations expo and the second big ‘leaflet drop’ took place with great success! Between 18 and 20 thousand cards were given out as young pilgrims from all over the world made their way to the opening Mass with Cardinal Pell. Imagine groups of young adults from Brazil, Germany, Australia, the Philippines, Italy, Malaysia, Canada, Zambia and every other country with a SPES postcard in their hands! When we’re not busy with recruitment, there are catechesis sessions to attend and plenty of talks, concerts and places of prayer all over the city. In fact, the Missionaries of Charity have set up an adoration chapel in one of the theaters in the Sydney Opera House! Pilgrims can spend time in front of Jesus as well as go to confession there. It's really been an amazing experience so far. Yet to come is the Stations of the Cross and then the trek out to Randwick Racecourse for the final Vigil and Mass with Pope Benedict!

Our first leaflet drop in Melbourne:

Mass with the masses in Sydney:

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Off to Sydney...

The Pope is in Australia and tomorrow morning we leave Melbourne and fly to Sydney for the actual World Youth Day week. For those who are reading this back at home, please read this invitation from Pope Benedict to be with us in Sydney in Spirit:

"I invite the whole Church to share in this new stage of the great pilgrimage of young people across the world, begun in 1985 by the Servant of God John Paul II," he exhorted. "I am certain that from all the corners of the earth Catholics will be united with me and with all the young people gathered -- as in the Cenacle -- in Sydney, intensely invoking the Holy Spirit so that he will flood hearts with the inner light of love of God and of brothers, and of courageous initiative to introduce Jesus' eternal message in the diversity of languages and cultures."

Pray for us! Pray for the World Youth Day!

More here: http://www.zenit.org/article-23127?l=english

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Going to the Chapel

Please pray for past students Misha Rushnakova and Angela Danaher who get married in their countries today. Misha (2003-2004) marries in Slovakia. Angela marries John Kolbe Kersting in America. Please also pray for Fr Alexander who celebrates was ordained to the Diaconate 21 years ago today!

Days in the Dioceses

The SPES contingent of the 'Oxford Oratory group from England' arrived in Melbourne, Australia on Monday afternoon for the 'Days in the Dioceses' event, along with all of our English contingents. Seeing as it is a long journey for most people to come aaaaaaall the way down under, the wise Australians have concocted a plan to make our journey worthwhile ... and more than a weeklong in Sydney.

Throughout this week, all over Australia and New Zealand (I think?!), Dioceses have been hosting talks, events, programming, etc for all the pilgrims journeying to Sydney for the week leading up to World Youth Day on 20th July.

We had a day of resting and relaxing with our host families - whether it be checking out tazmanian devils (Anthony's host family), chilling out with the family and the children of the family that are hosting you (Sarah is 8, Kate is 6 and Jack is 3) or checking out the city sights - Melbourne is a fantastic city. What a warm welcome they have shown us.

We also ran into our infamous Monica - commonly known as the Fundraiser at St Patrick's, she has also inherited the title 'Manager of SPES WYD Recruitment Manager'. Monica has facilitated printing of leaflets about the School, and basically ensured that the work and opportunity of SPES to young adults around the world is made available and publicised. A very busy and humble woman she is.

Wednesday to Friday have included talks, catechesis, colloquiums on Benedict XVI's 'Spe Salvi', Welcoming Ceremonies, and events focused on preparing the hearts of all pilgrims for World Youth Day in Sydney.

On Friday evening, SPES was handing out leaflets about the School of Evangelisation to pilgrims making their way into the big Telstra Dome (seats over 40,000 people!) for the Opening Mass. Whilst there were people of all beliefs, intentions and causes en route to the Telstra Dome, Jenny, Anthony and the brother of Henry Whisenant (student of 2006-2007) Thomas, engaged in dialogue with those who struggled with Church teaching, organised religion and church authority. How very beautiful to see the three of them crossing over to the other side, and allowing those 'not so interested' to continue to seek and journey toward the freedom and Truth that they seek.

Inside the Telstra dome, we were joined by over 30,000 other pilgrims (including our host families!) for an opening Mass. Bishop Denis' attention to detail and reverence for the liturgy of the Mass was very beautiful, despite the distractions and temptation to get lost in the joyful and energetic atmosphere of the Telstra Dome. It was hard to believe we were in 'Church', but our Celebrant was truly joyful and reverent in the Holy Mass in a unique and special place.

More to come as we share all of our stories about Aussie rules footies today ... and the social happening here at the parish. On Sunday afternoon we gather for Sunday Mass and a 'picnic' (although it seems awfully cold!) and then prepare to depart very early Monday morning for ... SYDNEY!

Please keep all of us in your prayers ... and we pray for all of our readers.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The Outback

Our first taste of Australia…the Outback! As we flew into Alice Springs Airport, all that’s on the wide open horizon is red earth and bright blue sky. It really did feel like we were at some desert outpost. No surrounding buildings, roads enough to get you from point A to B, and a few lonely windsocks flapping around an almost empty runway and terminal. Where are we??!

Our stay was more than welcoming. We were taken in (and fed!) by a very nice Australian couple who own a camping sight for retreats and getaways which emphasizes the importance of encountering the land and using creation to contemplate your relationship with God. Some Australian ‘delicacies’ we were treated to included kangaroo tail, damper (campfire baked bread), an assortment of Aussie beers and wines, and Milo hot chocolate. We also got to chat with some of the men and women who come from the Aboriginal tribes of the local region and later had Mass in their chapel run by the Missionaries of Charity!

But no trip to the middle of Australia is complete without seeing the famous Ayers Rock, which has been returned to its Aboriginal owners who call it Uluru. Our top-notch tour guides left nothing out, giving us a glimpse of this world wonder at sunset and sunrise, taking us to hike through the nearby Kata Tjuta formations and finally a walk around Uluru. I think all the SPES students adapted well to the change from city life. At nights we would gather around a campfire to keep warm (this is winter after all) and then snuggle into our ‘swags’ for a night’s sleep under the stunning array of stars. I can proudly say that on any given night I’m able to pick out the Southern Cross constellation.

Next stop is Melbourne for Days in the Diocese. Should be nice to start the WYD events, but it’s been a real blessing to have this unique cultural experience at the beginning.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Father Alexander meets Rhonda

It is safe to say that there is certainly something in the air in the southern hemisphere ... or that the Holy Spirit is in full effect. Whilst Jenny has much to post, there is a series of photos that I think many of you will enjoy. I'll leave you with these for the time being, only to give you a smile and a window into life out here, down under.

Can I introduce you to 'Rhonda'? Or, could I have introduced you to Rhonda? Rhonda is a little red chair that fits neatly into back pockets and back packs. Although they are small, and are mighty, they do not perform miracles.

Father Alexander, meet Rhonda:

Rhonda, meet Fr Alexander:

The beginning of the end:

The end:

Tuesday, 1 July 2008


SPES has arrived at their first destination on their pilgrimage to World Youth Day later this month in Sydney, Australia!

Jenny, Anthony, Edna, Jeanine and Father Alexander have taken off with a group of nearly 50 people from different parts of England ... and we have all arrived, safe and sound.

We arrived in Singapore on Sunday evening, made ourselves comfortable in our gymnasium floor, and bedded down for an early morning start of 7AM! Not to worry - our internal clocks were pretty mixed up, so made for a relatively smooth wake up ... sort of!

We visited the Family Life Society, which is located at the Centre for Education for the Singapore Diocese. We heard a talk on Theology of the Body from our guide, Andrew, and we also heard a bit more about the work of the FLS. Below is a picture of Jeanine, Jenny, Edna, Anthony, Father Alexander and the infamous Thomas Whisenant who must give his older brother, Henry (a past student of SPES!), a good run for his money when it comes to trying to keep him in line!

Today we are leaving Singapore, after visiting three of the Missionaries of Charity's Houses. We land in Melbourne, then head straight to Alice Springs for three days in the outback before joining 'Days in the Diocese' in Melbourne! We'll keep you posted ... and please keep us in your prayers too.

Saturday, 28 June 2008


The Students graduation took place on Tuesday 24th June - Solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist. It was a very beautiful celebration where Bishop Bernard Longley was the main celebrant of the Mass. Nearly 15 Priests who support the School came from far and wide to join us in the celebration - not to mention many supporters, lecturers and friends of the School of Evangelisation.

Mirela, Allen and Teresa returned to their homes on Thursday. Marcus returns to Germany after attending a conference next week, and Jenny, Anthony and Edna depart for Australia for World Youth Day later today.

Please keep each of the students in your prayers as they begin a new journey giving an account of the hope that is within them.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Spirit in the City 2008

I just wanted to make sure I mentioned our successful SiC a couple weeks ago. We may not be able to tell just how it was a success, but as Bl. Mother Teresa says it's being faithful to God that's important.

Thursday's highlights were the opening Mass at St. Patrick's and the afternoon talk and street evangelisation. The church looked great with all the prayer stations and had a certain lively atmosphere with all the spiritual companions there to answer questions or encourage people in their visit to the church. The Marian procession that evening was very powerful as we went singing through the streets of Soho, stopping throughout to have reflections by Fr. Alexander. Friday was much of the same at Corpus Christi and an evening Eucharistic procession up to the French Church. I was amazed at the response from the bystanders. We went through a very busy area of West London and encountered hundreds of people. A few of them even joined us!

Saturday was the big festivel in Leicester Square. I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but the sense of freedom to speak about faith in this festival was amazing!

The confession tent was available all day.

Our very own St. Patrick's Gospel Choir drew in big crowds.

Jesus was present in the Blessed Sacrament tent this year!! How amazing is that! It really made a difference in the whole spirit of the event that day.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Walking on "Hole-y" Ground

For those of you who have been in the basement of St. Patrick's, you are probably acquainted with the occasional "dip" in the carpet where the floor isn't quite stable. We like to think it adds character to our little school (though we have now posted signs cautioning people to walk carefully). Well, last week we realised just how trivial these holes are compared to these:

It is all part of preparations for the construction St. Patrick's is hoping to do in the near future. The holes only lasted a couple of days and then were filled back in, but they did make getting from one side of the basement to the other a challenge. After about a day of walking through the sacristy and church just to get to the front door, we were ready to speed up the process and help the workers fill in the holes again...

Please continue to pray for our Appeal and the much needed renovations to the church!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

New CTS website!

The Catholic Truth Society has just recently updated their website. The new features are downloadable publications and an extensive catologue with a wide range of Catholic books and DVDs. There are also news stories and and online ordering.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Jenny's Birthday Adventure

Lucky me, my birthday happened to fall on a Saturday this year and so we all decided to spend this particular community day by taking a pilgrimage to Walsingham! So last weekend, we fired up the minibus yet again and piled in for a fun-filled day...

My Classmates decorated for me!

First stop...Cambridge to pick up Fr. Matthew. Since we left at 6am we missed the traffic and had some time to enjoy an early morning coffee.

Father took for a us walk around Clare College and some of us had to have a closer look at the beautiful gardens.

Upon arriving back at our mode of transportation, we notice that something's not quite right.

Yep, it's a flat tyre... But luckily we have Fr. Matthew, Marcus and Ambrose on the job!

After a stop at a tyre shop and a quick loo break at Blackfriars, we were on the road again! This was definitely a memorable birthday. Thanks to my lovely community for taking it all in strides and keeping their joy, no matter what.