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:

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.