Thursday, 13 December 2012


A view from the balcony

No, this is not a case of John Bosco by day, John Travolta by night! ‘Nightfever’ is organised by young Christians whose faith is central in their lives and who seek to bridge between individuals, parishes and communities.

The night starts with Mass; this is followed by Eucharistic adoration when the church is illuminated by candle light, until Benediction at around 22.30.

Candles are lit
for many different

During this time of Adoration we and other volunteers head out onto the streets surrounding St Patrick's with lanterns, candles and small information cards. It is a simple invitation to people to come into the Church to light a candle in front of the Blessed Sacrament for any intention they may have, (Or just for them to get out of the cold!).

It is very simple and very effective, confessions are heard throughout the night; also there is a great music team that comes and provides music throughout the evening inside the Church, which is also wired to play out the front of the Church which helps to draw more people inside.
We all enjoy Nightfever and all the fruit it bears, and we are all looking forward to the next one in the New Year!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Two Ambroses

St Ambrose

In the Catholic Church the 7th December is an important day, it is the day we remember the first Doctor of the Church, St Ambrose.  He was born between 337 and 340 AD in Trier, Germany.  In the year 374 St Ambrose was unexpectically made Bishop of Milan.  After being made Bishop, St Ambrose gave up all his wealth to the poor.  According to legend, St Ambrose immediately and forcefully stopped Arianism in Milan.  He was a great preacher and teacher; helping to convert St Augustine.  It was St Ambrose who baptised St Augustine into the Catholic faith.  He died on 4th April 397.  St Ambrose is patron of bee keepers; bees; candle makers; domestic animals; French Commissariat; learning; Milan; students; and wax refiners. 

Our Ambrose, looking quite 'saintly' and innocent

Speaking of domestic animals, there is one domestic animal in particular who shares his name with the famous Bishop of Milan, our own Ambrose here in St Patrick's.  For those of you who don't know, Ambrose is Fr Alex's King Charles Spaniel and a very important part of the Parish.  Ambrose joined the Parish 5 years ago this month and has been a popular member since.

I'm not sure if there are many similarities between St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, and our Ambrose, who at times seems to think he is Bishop of Soho!  (so much so that right now he has decided that the best place for him to lie is on my lap while I now try to type one handed since he thinks my other arm is there is rest his head on!).  The two Ambroses do, I think, share a few characteristics.  The Doctors of the Catholic Church website states that in 'sketches of him [St Ambrose], his face is thin with big eyes set deep within a long, gaunt face.'  Our Ambrose has amazing big eyes that would melt any heart, so they share big eyes :)  St Ambrose had great presence and was one of the most influential men of the fourth  century; well our Ambrose most definitely has great presence here at St Patrick's and dare I say it he is surely one of the most influential here, if not the most influential!  St Ambrose is well known for evangelising St Augustine; on many a Friday night you will find our Ambrose out on the streets of Soho 'evangelisng' potential saints. 

Some Adoration to begin the morning

Prayer That We May Seek God and Find Him

Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you. For I cannot seek you unless you first teach me, nor find you unless you first reveal yourself to me. Let me seek you in longing and long for you in seeking. Let me find you in love, and love you in finding.

~ St Ambrose of Milan, Bishop, Writer, Doctor

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

It's that time again - Advent Mission Preparations!!

The preparations are well under way for our Annual Advent Mission which is taking place in just a few days time!  The Advent Mission is a weekend of Adoration, Prayer, Music, Evangelisation (with Hot Chocolate and Mince Pies) to prepare for the coming of Our Lord at Christmas. It is a great opportunity to remind ourselves and others that Advent is a time to prepare and to wait on the Lord's coming.

It all kicks off on Friday evening with Adoration, prayer and music in the Church.  During this time some of us will head out into the streets of Soho to chat to people in the area about life, God and Christmas.

Adoration last year with the Nativity scene below

On Saturday we will set up our table of refreshments, you can't beat a nice cup of hot chocolate on a cold December day.  There will be Adoration and music in the Church.  It will be a place where we can invite people to come for a moment of peace and quiet away from the crazy shopping streets here in the West End.  A chance to speak to people about the real meaning of Christmas and why it is that we celebrate this time of the year.

Enjoying a mince pie, hot chocolate and a nice chat last year

Saturday night sees the return of NightFever, a very popular and powerful event here at St Patrick's.  Seriously if you have not experienced NightFever and you are in London this weekend there is only one place you should be - St Patrick's!

Sunday afternoon is quite similar to Saturday afternoon but we head down to Notre Dame de France in Leicester Square.  Again there will be a good supply of hot chocolate, mince pies and some music on the steps of the Church.  Sunday evening we gather back at St Patrick's for Solemn Mass with our international communities who are based here.  After Mass to celebrate the Immaculate Conception we will process with Our Lady from St patrick's through the streets of Soho to Notre Dame de France singing and praying.  The Marian Procession is always a beautiful event.

Check out our flyer for more information about the different events happening over the weekend along with times and locations.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Our Relaxing Retreat

The lovely Chapel at the
Vocations Centre

Recently we returned to the Southwark Vocations Centre in Whitstable for a short retreat. Once again Fr. Stephen made us all very welcome. The main theme of the retreat was to prepare us for this time of Advent we are just about to begin, particularly with our upcoming Advent Mission!!

Since our last visit the centre has come along well, new sofas downstairs, new and improved pillows on the beds, but still the odd armchair in the downstairs toilet.

Keeping watch out at the beach
The retreat itself was great, we had plenty of time for recollection, to look back on our first couple of months together and to see how we are going to approach the rest of the time here. We had plenty of prayer and meditation led by Fr. Stephen, providing us with some great talks on Advent, Mass and other such things.

A bit of piano to entertain us
We also had the pleasure of being joined by two Australian seminarians, Marcus and Trevor, who are staying at St Patrick's through ‘till just after Christmas, so they provided plenty of hymns and chants for our prayer, as well as chocolate cake to accompany regular tea sessions.

The singing nuns
that have a 'habit'
of moving around the place

We are all back now, refreshed and excited to begin the Advent mission. (More info to come)


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Refreshed and ready to go again :)

We've had an amazingly relaxing week!  It began with a lovely retreat out in Whitstable with Fr Stephen.  He gave us some inspiring talks to help us prepare for Advent and we took advantage of the beautiful surroundings to go for walks.  Trevor and Marcus, the two Australian seminarians, joined us on retreat and we showed them a little of the English seaside – a bit colder than what they are used to.  We will update a little more about the retreat and some pictures in a couple of days.

Wednesday we were back at St Patrick’s for a long but most enjoyable day.  Trevor and Marcus gave us some music lessons, teaching us some beautiful chants, which hopefully we can put into practice during this year.  Wednesday evening saw a lot of cleaning taking place – not only did we have our monthly Church cleaning but Ambrose also had a bath!  Thankfully Thursday was another relaxing day with a trip out to Greenwich Park where we had a lovely walk and a picnic before having a look around the Maritime museum.

Last night (Friday) we took part in our first LumiNations night.  LumiNations is an event which SPES helps to co-ordinate and takes place at Notre Dame de France, the French Church in Leicester Square.  There is Adoration in the Church and some beautiful music on the steps outside the Church.  Notre Dame de France, like St Patrick's, is located in a busy area of Central London.  With all the noise, bright lights and craziness of a Friday night in Central London we try to be that gentle light to the nations and invite people into the quiet of the Church to meet Jesus.  There's also  an opportunity to offer some tea, coffee or biscuits to the passers-by or those who stop to listen to the music.  We all had a good night and are looking forward to the next one.

Next week will be a quiet week with regards to lectures but there will be lots of work done to prepare for next weekend, which is our Advent Mission weekend– a weekend of Adoration, Prayer, Music, Evangelisation with Hot Chocolate and Mince Pies to prepare for the coming of Our Lord at Christmas. It will be a great opportunity to remind ourselves and others that Advent is a time to prepare and to wait on the Lord's coming.  Please keep it in your prayer.  More information and details will be uploaded to our blog tomorrow (I hope).  On Tuesday we will take a break from the preparations to join Joanna Bogle on another of her Catholic History Walks around London.  If you would like to join us we will be leaving from St Patrick's at 1.30pm.  There is Mass before at 12.45pm.

Monday, 26 November 2012


Last Thursday we were invited to join Anne and Dan, friends of SPES, to celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving at their home in Ascot. We were welcomed warmly into their beautiful home. A Carmelite priest from India, Father James, who is currently serving in a Parish in Florida, celebrated Mass for us in Anne and Dan’s private chapel. This was extra special because it really helped emphasize the true meaning of thankfulness which often gets lost in a secular society. So we ate the Bread of Life, and then we dug into some delicious traditional Thanksgiving food! It was a wonderful night with great food and great company. We are so thankful for Father James for celebrating Mass for us and joining us for dinner.  We are ever grateful for Dan and Anne for their hospitality and support to the school.

Pictures will follow shortly :)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

And so the study begins . . .

After our busy week last week you'd think we would have had a bit of a break but no such luck.  Instead we are thrown into our first week of studying the Catechism.  Sounds a little silly but we are starting off with Unit 6 (the last unit!), which is all about Prayer.  So far this week we have been reading through the corresponding section in the Catechism and the Maryvale study book.  It has been very interesting, so often we are being referred to Scripture, writings of the Saints and also to documents of the Church, such as those from Vatican II.

For each of us I think it has been the first time we have actually sat down with the Catechism and properly read it.  We have also had some great instruction and guidance from Fr Francis, Deacon Michael and Wisam - I think we'd be lost without them.  This afternoon's session be our last guided session and then it will be time to knuckle down and get writing.  This year we do not need to write essays as students in previous years had to, instead for each Unit there are a number of shorter tasks that we need to answer.  Not sure which one is better but we shall see how it all goes.  We have stocked up with tea and biscuits for some late night assignment writing!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A Very Busy Week . . .

This week has definitely been one of the busiest weeks we've had so far - but it has also been very good and very interesting.  This week's theme was 'Evangelisation and Apologetics'.  We started the week off with a well illustrated lecture on Faith and Reason by Fr Hugh MacKenzie, editor of the Faith magazine.  Other excellent lecturers included Fr Paul Keane, Fr Richard Aladics, Fr Sam Medley (SOLT), Msgr Keith Barltrop and Fr Marcus Holden.  What an amazing bunch of lecturers we are blessed with here, we truly are spoilt!

Tuesday night saw the opening session of the 'You Believe'  programme, a monthly celebration of faith, catechesis, praise and worship led by SPEC and Westminster Youth Ministry.  This month's catechesis on faith and belief in the world was given by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.  You can watch a video of the Archbishops catechesis here. 

Altar set up for the Mass
On Thursday morning Fr James Bradley spoke to us about the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, explaining to us a bit about what the Ordinariate is and some of the differences between their liturgy and ours.  Friday afternoon was a big afternoon for those who are part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, with Mass being celebrated for the first time here at St Patrick's according to their own liturgy.  We had the great pleasure of being able to attend the Mass and to also meet some of those who are part of the Ordinariate.  Here are a few photos from the Mass.


Friday night was also our first night of Street Evangelisation in Soho.  At first we were a little worried about going out and how we would approach people to talk to them but once we were out there it was fine.  We got speaking to quite a few people and had a really good night. 

This week was so busy that we even had a lecture on Saturday morning, not that we minded, considering it was Dr Gerard O'Shea.  Dr O'Shea is a Senior Lecturer at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, Australia.  He spoke to us about the different stages of human development and how these stages are also present within religion and how we can relate it to evangelisation.

So that has been our busy busy week.  This week will have less lectures but we will also be starting our first assignment on the Catechism.  Our first module is on Prayer, if you have a few spare prayers they'd be greatly received. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Officially signed up and committed to SPES!

That’s it – we’re all officially signed up and committed to SPES.  Thank you to all those who came along to our Commitment Mass last Thursday or kept us in prayer.  It was a beautiful and wonderful celebration of Mass, especially being the Solemnity of All Saints.
Signing our commitment
Publicly proclaiming our commitment

All fully committed and ready

We are now all set to take on some responsibilities within the community and get started properly on our mission outreaches.  Each of us have now been given different roles and responsibilities within the community;

Alfonso has been given the tasks of Music & Liturgy Coordinator as well as Social & Cultural Coordinator (ie he will not only organise a good party but also ensure there is some music and prayers also!)

Ben has taken on the roles of Sacristan and Team Coordinator.  Let's hope he remembers the easy way to be a happy Sacristan (happy Priest = happy Sacristan)

Ola has been entrusted with the roles of Resource Coordinator, Transport Coordinator and Evangelisation Coordinator (ie Ola will be the 'key' to almost all that the boys will need within their roles!)

And finally Terry will be running a tight ship as Housekeeper as well as Hospitality Coordinator.  Our visitors will be warmly welcomed into our lovely clean SPES area with a cup of tea/coffee as well as a few biscuits.

Last night we had our first experience of two of the outreaches that happen here in St Patrick's.  Two of us were helping at Open House, making sure all our guests had milk for their teas and coffees as well as a bit of chat with them.  A longer night was had by the other two who were manning the SOS Prayerline from 7-11pm.  All of us had a great experience and we look forward to doing much more of it in the future.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Our Day with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal!

We recently spent a day in Canning Town with the Grey Friars.  When we arrived we immediately began by helping with the preparations for the soup kitchen which they run for the poor and homeless.  This involved opening plenty of cans, chopping potatoes, getting stuff ready for tea and coffee and then serving the soup and toast to the people that came along to the Friary.  We had the opportunity to have a chat with many of the people that came along; both the helpers and the homeless and we were really able to see how God is working with and through this mission.

After getting some soup for ourselves we were given a lecture from Fr. Emmanuel on Community Living.  He made no secret that the next few months are going to come with many challenges and hardships, but, he also let us know that from these 9 months will come great graces and so much joy; this, everyone found very beneficial and we look forward to putting much of what he said into practice.  After a bit of free time, along with some basketball, we settled down for Evening Prayer and an hour of Eucharistic Adoration.

The whole day was rounded up with a lovely chicken dinner prepared by Fr. Emmanuel and some good social time with Br John Bosco, Br Angelo and Fr. Emmanuel.  We are all looking forward to any other opportunity that may come to meet up with the Franciscans again!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

'No Pain No Gain'

'No Pain No Gain' - this beautiful truth became more familiar to us than ever before on Sunday 29th October when we joined a group of pilgrims on their 20-mile-in-one-day (!) walk from Westmister Cathedral to Hampton Wick (Kingston). For some of them it was a reunion after their walking pilgrimage to Walsingham in the summer, but for the rest (including us - SPES) it was a venture into the unknown.

Some of the group waiting to cross the road

The pilgrimage was organised by Sr Hyacinthe and Joanna Bogle - two women inexhaustible in their passion for walking and bringing people to God. We first attended Mass, then marched along the Thames path and after 7 hours reached our destination which was the Shrine of Our Lady of Westminster. This is where we gladly offered Our Lady our blisters and sore feet.

Striding along listening to Sr Hyacinthe

However incredible it sounds, the pleasure of walking 20 miles brought us many joys - we made new friends, enjoyed the picturesque views but, most importantly, prayed for the conversion of England and gave witness to our faith by saying the Rosary and listening to Sr Hyacinthe's talks on the Church. Being in the company of Catholics of all ages and walks of life strengthened our faith and gave us the sense that although we're all different we form one community in Our Lord Jesus. Praise be to Him!

Still smiling at the end (even after our train was cancelled!)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Some pictures . . .

Well it's about time we got ourselves sorted and put a few pictures up so here they are:

Lunch with some of the past students

Too busy eating to look at the camera
Some old, some new and one for the future!
Deanna's Leaving Party

We may be smiling on the outside but we were crying inside

Ola's amazing dish

Cooking can be messy!

Praying it'll taste good
Looking well pleased with the result
I think he may be chuffed

Two Cathedral's Procession of the Blessed Sacrament

Starting fromWestminster Cathedral
Through the busy streets of London

There were Priests, Brothers, Sister, and young and not so young people

A beautiful finish at Southwark Cathedral

And the SPES Mascot who also attended all of the above events

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A Week of Community...

Wow!  What a week we've had!  The theme for the past week has been Community Living and it has been an amazing experience.  At the beginning of the week we had lectures about what community life is and how we can all contribute to the life of the community with our different gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses.  We had the great pleasure of meeting and learning about some different communities; we met Paula, from the Cenacolo community, a community for those who suffer from addictions.  They have a prayer group here in the Parish on a Monday evening.  On Thursday we spent the day with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) in Canning Town, where we helped with their soup kitchen and experienced a little of what a typical day is like for them.  Friday was a long yet great day for the boys who headed out to Ealing Abbey early in the morning to spend the whole day with the Benedictines there.  But I think I can safely say the weekend was our highlight!  NightFever was happening here at St Patrick’s on Saturday and it was the first time we have been out evangelising as a community.  Let’s hope all our nights are as fun and exciting as our first.  Sunday meant wrapping up warm and finding our walking boots as we all headed off on the John Paul II Walking Pilgrimage along the Thames from Westminster Cathedral to Hampton Wick.  It was a long tiring day but it was so good, definitely going to make it an annual event!  You can read more about our adventures this week in the next few days as we update more posts.

Tomorrow (1st November) is a very important day, not only is it All Saints Day but for us here at SPES it is our Commitment Mass.  Please join us if you can; the Mass is at 6pm with a bit of social time afterwards.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Where have we been and what have we done!?

Oh no!  Can't believe it's been almost a month since we updated our blog! Here at SPES we have been very busy and there just hasn't been time to hop on the internet to update.  Apologies, but hopefully this post will bring us all up to speed and we can try to get a more regular post happening.

So some of the students arrived on Saturday 29th September and we headed out to have dinner together at the house of one of the Board of Management, a great night was had by all.  We were also joined that weekend by Christina, one of the past SPES students from Deanna's year group.  She came over from Germany to not only say hi to the new students but to say goodbye to Deanna.  By Monday 1st October we had gathered together all of the new students; our new group consists of Alfonso (from USA), Ben (from England), Terry (from England), and Ola (from Poland).

Week 1

Our first week was mainly a chance for us to get to know each other and to find our way around.  On Tuesday 2nd October we consecrated the year to Our Lady with a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden and a Rosary walk from there to Tyburn Convent, where we met some of the nuns and were shown the relics of the Martyrs.  Before returning to St Patrick's we knelt and prayed at the place of Tyburn Tree.  It was a great day and a wonderful experience for us all.  Wednesday saw us pack up and head off to Whitstable for our first SPES retreat.  We spent a wonderful 4 days getting to know each other and taking time to thank God for bringing us to SPES and asking Him to continue to strengthen us during this year.

Week 2

Our second week was a great week learning about Prayer and the different types of prayer; personal prayer, Holy Hours, the Rosary, the Mass, Divine Office, Discernment and Lectio Divina. Now we are prepared and ready to tackle what this year has in store for us. On Thursday 11th October we joined many others at the opening Mass for the Year of Faith in Westminster Cathedral. This year will provide us with a great opportunity to not only learn more about our Faith but to grow in it also. After Mass we went on a Catholic History Walk through London led by Joanna Bogle; it was
good to hear about the history of the Catholic Church in England, especially for those in our group who are not from England.  On Saturday 13th October we took part in our first 'Cookathon', a whole day dedicated to preparing and cooking meals for the next few weeks.  For some it was their first proper experience of cooking a meal from scratch.  Many thanks to those who came and joined us for the day, especially to Della, without whom the day just wouldn't happen.

Week 3

This past week the students have been learning about Divine Providence, and
experiencing it! They have been hearing the personal testimony of people in different
circumstances and how God has provided for them in their lives. During the week they
also learnt about some of the outreaches that happen here in the Parish; SOS Prayerline,
Open House, NightFever, and of course the monthly Church cleaning! Thank you to
all those who also helped with the Church cleaning, again the Lord provided us with
some good cleaners and our Church is looking beautiful. We had the pleasure this week
of having a guest lecturer from Australia; Fr Gerry O’Collins, who spoke to us about
Vatican II. On Thursday night we headed out to the cinema to watch October Baby; a
pro-life movie being presented by Good Counsel Network and 40 Days for Life. A must

Next week we are focusing on Community Living. The students have already spent
three weeks living together so now it’s time to give them the secrets of how to survive
the next 8 months together.

Hopefully we will be much better at posting over the next few weeks and we will update with some photos of the things we have been doing.

Prayers and God bless

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Only a week to go!!

Firstly sorry for the lack of updates - there are some in the process of making it onto here but just not ready yet.  The last couple of weeks have flown by, we have been so busy preparing for the arrival of the new students.  Can't believe it's only a week away now!  This time next Saturday we shall be having our first meal together as a community. 

This week is going to be a little bit crazy making sure everything is ready before the students arrive.  I have to be honest and say I really can't wait!  It has been great getting to know the students a little and helping them prepare for SPES through emails and Skype but it going to be great to actually properly get to know them and meet them and also let them meet each other.  Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying for our new students, please continue to pray for them.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Happy Birthday Ambrose!

Todays a very special day at St Patrick's - it's Ambrose's birthday!  He's 5 today.  We would have spoilt him more than any other day but I don't think that's actually possible!!  Happy Birthday Ambrose!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Big Day has Arrived!!

Today we celebrate two important things - Our Lady's Birthday and Tess & Eoin's Wedding!  What a wonderful day it is going to be and what better date to get married on.  May God bless Tess & Eoin today on their wedding day and everyday of their married lives.  We ask that Our Lady give them her Motherly blessing and that she may protect them and be with them throughout their marriage.  Please pray for Tess & Eoin on this very special and important day of their lives as they give themselves to each other in the sight of God and invite God into their marriage so as to guide and protect them always.