Tuesday, 30 April 2013

SPES Road Trip!

Today has been a great day.  It started off pretty early but we can't complain as we started with a lovely cooked breakfast at St Patrick's.  After breakfast we quickly washed up and piled into our minibus along with Fr Alex, Pauline and of course Ambrose (He tends to go everywhere!).  The weather was absolutely lovely today and thankfully we weren't having to sit in the minibus for too long.

Our first stop of the day was Alyesford Priory.  Aylesford Priory, or 'The Friars' to give it its traditional name, was founded in 1242 when the first Carmelites arrived from the Holy Land.  For some of us it was our first time visiting and we were very excited as we had heard quite a bit about it.  Tradition has it that Alyesford is where Our Lady appeared to St Simon Stock and gave him the scapular and promising her protection to all who wear it with devotion.We had Mass at Alyesford and prayed the Rosary together as well as having a nice cup of tea/coffee with some of the community there.

We had a lovely picnic at Alyesford in the sunshine before getting back into the minibus to head to our next destination.  Our second stop of the day was Canterbury.  We visited the Cathedral in Canterbury where there was a shrine to St Thomas a Beckett, until it was destroyed during the Reformation.  The Cathedral is beautiful and you can easily see how it was built at different times due to the pillars and arches inside.  There was a lovely cloister at the Cathedral which we were able to enjoy in the sunshine.

As we were leaving Canterbury we made a quick stop off at a very important small church called St Martin's.  St Martin's is the oldest parish church in continuous use in this country.  It dates back to the 6th century, before St Augustine arrived from Rome.  It was a beautiful little church where there is still part of a roman wall.  After our short visit it was time to head back to London.  It was quite a long trip compared to what we expected due to much traffic.  Safely back in London surrounded by tall building and ridiculous traffic we will now wait patiently for our next trip out of London (hopefully soon!).

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Scarborough Mission Day 5

Today we spent most of our day in St Augustine's Secondary School, which was fantastic.  We started the morning leading the assembly, this time it was Alfonso was spoke about being a witness and gave some of his testimony.  He spoke very well and the students were engaged with what he was saying.  After the assembly we were given the opportunity to visit some classes. We split up into two groups so we could visit both Year 7 classes and then for second period we were back together to speak to a Year 11 class.  The students had some great questions to ask us and seemed to enjoy us being there.  At first we're sure they thought we were a little crazy standing in their class talking about Jesus and how He loves us.  We enjoyed the class visits and the chance to hear back from the students.  In the assembly we can tell them quite a bit but there isn't that chance to answer their questions.

After we spoke to the Year 11 class it was back to St Peter's Church for adoration and Mass before we tucked into a lovely lunch in the Parish Centre.  One thing we definitely have to say is that the food and hospitality in Scarborough is amazing, absolutely out of this world!  Big thank you to all who looked after us and cooked for us!

In the afternoon we were back up at St Augustine's to visit some more classes.  Again we separated into two groups so that we could visit more classes in the time that we had.  At times during the assemblies we wondered how much the students were actually listening to us but when we visited the classes we realised that they had been listening and some of them had questions they wanted to ask us.  Each of us enjoyed the class visits and look forward to doing more at St Augustine's on Friday.

We had a lovely supper today (seriously the food is great here!) and then packed up to go and see the Confirmation group.  Tonight they were having two sessions, we were leading the second session.  The first session they had was on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and was a great session led by Sarah.  Our session had the title 'Witness' and we began firstly by asking each of the Confirmation candidates to tell us their name and why they had chosen to be confirmed this year.  There were a range of answers but the most popular seemed to be that their parents wanted them to get confirmed and some of their friends were doing it this year.  Although at first it may not have been their choice to be confirmed this year we congratulated them on being there tonight and having in a way made the choice themselves.  We spoke to them about what it means to be a witness and how we can be witnesses but we must choose to be.  We divided them up into four groups and gave them a scenario where they had to decide what the correct thing to do was and which gifts of the Holy Spirit would help them to make that choice.  They were a fantastic group and a very honest group.  We will continue to pray for them and we would ask that you do the same please.  At the end of the night we each lit a candle from the Paschal candle and prayed that we would receive the light of Christ, as we had done at Baptism.  It was very beautiful and prayerful.  We are loving our time here, what will the rest of the week have in store for us!?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Scarborough Mission Day 4

This morning our first stop was St Augustine's secondary school where we were leading their morning assembly.  The theme for our assembly was 'Witness'.  This week the students are in House assemblies.  Each student belongs to a House (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John - good choices).  This meant that in each assembly this week we will students from every year group (Years 7-11).  We found this was a very important point in our planning of the assembly; we had to ensure that each student could get something out of the assembly despite the age differences. 

We began the assembly with a prayer and introduction of who we are, what SPES is and what we do in London and this week in Scarborough.  Maisie joined us to help us with the song we were to sing, she is a fantastic singer! Today Ola spoke to the students about what it means to be a witness and gave a testimony about times when she has found it difficult to be a witness to Jesus.  She spoke very well and I'm sure many students can relate to her story.  After this Armel spoke about how to be a witness and choosing to follow Jesus.  He challenged the students to make that choice.  We finished with a beautiful prayer by Ben.

From St Augustine's we went over to St Peter's Primary School.  At St Peter's we grabbed a much needed cup of tea/coffee before leading an assembly for the KS2 students.  Ciara and Armel were greeted by some familiar faces from their visit last year.  The assembly for St Peter's had the same theme of 'Witness'.  As it was younger kids after we introduced ourselves and prayed we taught them an action song, which they loved and were fantastic at.  Now there's no point teaching a song if you don't explain the lyrics of it and why we sing it so that's what Armel done for us.  We asked the students some questions about how they can be witnesses (ie how do they show they are a follower of Jesus). They gave us some great answers such as praying and going to Mass, we even had one boy answer with going to Confessions but they also gave us some very practical answers of how to live our lives showing love to others through helping at home, visiting the sick and lonely.  If we all did half the things these kids suggested there would be a lot more love shown and felt in our world.  After the assembly we visited the Year 5 and Year 6 classes.

After lunch, now that we have Armel with us, we had some time for preparation for the Confirmation session that we are taking tomorrow evening.  Once we finalised our plan for the session and ensured we had all the equipment it was time to pack up our music, instruments and evangelisation materials and head for the town centre.  We had another lovely afternoon in the town centre talking to people and sharing our Faith through music.  Some people were very surprised to find young people singing and playing Christian music in the street and so full of joy.

We finish off our day with a beautiful Holy Hour and Mass at St Edwards.  All the Church in Scarborough are lovely and the people are so welcoming.  After Mass we all piled into some cars with some parishioners and headed off to Whitby for fish and chips.  It was a nice evening and we really enjoyed it.  The company was great and the fish and chips were very tasty.  Then it was back to Jane and Hugh’s for a cup of tea, chat and then bed.  Can’t wait for tomorrow!  We are really enjoying this week.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Scarborough Mission Day 3

It's Monday and thankfully we don't have that Monday feeling! We were up nice and early and ready for the road. Our first stop was to St Joseph's Church for adoration and Mass.  We joined the parishioners for Morning Prayer and the Mass was a special Mass for a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Very beautiful.

From St Joseph's we walked over to St Peter's. Fr William gave us a map yesterday and Ben's map reading skills found us a nice public footpath away from the road. It lead down along a play park, some playing fields and a cemetery.  The weather was sunny with a bit of a breeze, yet again we seem to have brought the sunshine to Scarborough, lets hope it keeps up for the week.

After a quick tea break we packed up guitar, music, Scriptures and Miraculous medals and headed for the town centre. We found a nice spot on some steps outside Poundland and the music really worked.  Many people stopped and listened to the music or at least looked over to see what we were doing. There were some great conversations with people. Some people were very pleased to hear Christian music being played on the street and others were very happy to receive a Miraculous medal and Scripture quote as well as the offer of prayer.

Back at St Peter's we tucked into lunch and chatted about how our morning had been before going back down to the town centre to take up our spot again. The afternoon was a little quieter but still people seemed to be attracted by the music. We had a lovely supper at the Parish Centre and were at last joined by Armel, who has come up to help us this week.  Armel is a friend of ours from Notre Dame de France Church in Leicester Square.  After supper we went up to St Edward's hall for the youth club, which takes place every Monday night.  We taught them some action songs and spoke to them about how we can praise God through music. They were a lovely group and we look forward to seeing some of them in the schools and also at our Youth Night on Friday night.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Scarborough Mission Day 2

Our first full day in Scarborough was a nice quiet relaxing one.  We attended the 10am Mass at St Joseph's and the 11.30am Mass at St Peter's.  It was Ben and Alfonso's turn to introduce SPES to the parishioners and explain a little about what we do (sorry no pictures to prove this due to beautiful Paschal candles being in the way).  We have been made to feel very welcome here in the Parish.  After the Mass at St Peter's we joined some of the parishioners in the Parish Centre for tea and coffee.  It was lovely to have the chance to speak to some of the parishioners, who were all very nice to us.

We were then picked up and whisked off to an absolutely fantastic lunch with Jennie out at her sisters lovely caravan park.  Fr William and Jennie's friend Mike joined us and it ended up being quite a long lunch with a lot of chatting. The rest of our afternoon was nice and relaxing also as we took a walk up through the town centre and down by the seafront, harbour, and castle with Fr William.  We met Maisie when we were in town so she joined us for the rest of our walk and will hopefully be helping us out during the week as she has done in the past.

In the evening we had a lovely quiet Holy Hour in St Peter's before heading back to Jane and Hugh's house. We had a good evening with time to chill out, chat and have a lot of laughs together (and some tea and cake of course!).  It looking like this is going to be quite a 'sweet' week!  The boys will be happy especially our sweet toothed Ben, who even had cake for breakfast!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Scarborough Mission Day 1

Today we had a pretty early start, well for a Saturday that is. We left St Mary's at about 7.45am to head towards Victoria Coach Station. It's a good thing we left in plenty of time cos when we arrived at our bus stop towards Victoria it was Out of Use!! A burst water main at Notting Hill Gate was causing there to be a number of diversions. So we gave up on the bus and headed to the tube station lugging our suitcases, backpacks and guitars - so many steps!! But we arrived safely and in good time to catch our coach to Scarborough.    We were not looking forward to the journey, leaving Victoria at 9am and not seeing Scarborough til 5pm! Seriously ridiculous! At least we had a bit of a stop off in Leeds to stretch our legs.

We filled up our time on the coach by praying a few Rosaries, listening to music, putting some finishing touches to mission stuff and of course sleeping!  It could have been worse. As we left London we had a group of very talkative girls who were enjoying a drink on the coach. Thankfully after an hour or so they fell asleep too :)

We arrived in Leeds at 1.20pm where we tucked into some nice ham & cheese sandwiches as well as chocolate, crisps, fruit & of course a hot chocolate. Then it was on to a local bus service to get to Scarborough.  Another two and a half hours of travel.  Thankfully when we arrived into Scarborough we were greeted with smiling faces from Tom and Maurice, who were going to drive us up to St Peter's.  Scarborough is definitely the hospitality capital! Delicious food was waiting for us at the Parish centre served up by Lesley and her daughter Maisie (our honourary SPES member).

Supper had to be quickly eaten, dessert had to be left for later in the evening as we were due to be at the 6.30pm Mass at St Edwards.  Ola spoke at the end of the Mass about who we are and what we will be doing this week.  She spoke very well.  We were made very welcome by the parishioners, they were all very friendly and supportive of us and offering to keep us in prayer, which is probably the best thing anyone can offer us during this week.

After Mass we met Hugh and Jane who are our hosts this week.  They are a lovely couple and have made us very welcome and at home in their home, as has Buddy their 16 year old Beagle dog. And we thought we were going to be dog less this week!  We spent the evening enjoying a cup of tea with our dessert and chatting about pretty much everything and anything.

We are shattered but so excited for this week! Please pray for us and those we will speak to.

Friday, 12 April 2013

St Patrick's Weekend

This year St Patrick's Day fell on a Sunday, which kind of meant we could celebrate all weekend. (Well he is our Patron Saint and it is very good to celebrate his feast day as best we can).  Although because it fell on the 5th Sunday of Lent we had to use the readings etc for the 5th Sunday of Lent rather than for St Patrick's Day, but they were very fitting.  To prepare to celebrate our Patronal feast we held 40 Hours of Adoration in the Parish.  It was a beautiful time and many people came to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. 

Decorating the community centre

As well as preparing spiritually we also needed to prepare some practical things for the weekend, such as decorating the community centre and preparing the Shamrocks that were to be blessed and distributed at all the Masses over the weekend.  We had a lot of fun deciding where to put all the different decorations.  There were loads of them!  The Shamrocks were interesting, there was absolutely tons of them!  They took forever and we had very green fingers when we finished.  But it was all worth it when we seen how pleased people were to be given some at Mass.

Some of our shamrocks ready to go
Fr Alex blessing the shamrock

Community centre all decorated

We were very blessed over the St Patrick's weekend to have Fr John Harris OP with us as our main celebrant.  Fr John is the Regent of Studies for the Irish Dominican Province and also the National Spiritual Director of Youth 2000 Ireland.  He was great, a true preacher.  He spoke well about the New Evangelisation and how we are called to show we are Christian and to proclaim Christ to all.  Before Fr John left on the Monday morning he found some time to give us a lecture about the challenges of the New Evangelisation.  We very much enjoyed having Fr John with us for St Patrick's Day and we learnt a lot from him.

Instead of the usual tea, coffee and sweet stuff after the 11am Mass on Sunday we had some traditional Irish food.  We had some very tasty Irish stew and colcannon as well as some lovely cakes, apple tart and cheesecake.

TOB, Evangelisation Prep, Goodbye to PBXVI, Assignments and Laetare Concert... busy as always.

The last week of February was a week focusing on the Theology of the Body, which is a topic some of us are very interested in.  We were privileged to have an amazing set of lecturers, thank you to each of them.  Tuesday that week was a lecture free day which we spent doing some street evangelisation preparation, in particular putting Miraculous Medals on colourful string, which is surprisingly quite a relaxing activity.  In the afternoon we headed over to Tyburn Convent to do our Holy Hour, which we used to pray for the Church as Pope Benedict prepared to step down and after the news from Scotland. 

Thursday 28th February was a historic day and in some ways quite a sad day as our Holy Father Pope Benedict stepped down from the See of St Peter.  To mark the occasion we held a Holy Hour and Mass on Thursday evening to give thanks for the ministry and care of Pope Benedict XVI as he left office, and to pray for a worthy successor to lead us towards Jesus Christ.  It was a lovely, prayerful evening, and thanks to all those who joined us especially Fr James Bradley. 

The first week of March brought with it another assignment, this time we were studying Liturgy and the Sacraments.  It was very interesting to learn about each of them and the links between the Sacrament and the Liturgical celebration.  We also learnt how each of the three persons of the Trinity work in all the Sacraments. 

On Sunday 10th March, both Laetare Sunday and Mother's Day, we enjoyed The Choir of St Patrick's Laetare Concert, which took place in the Church.  The music was beautiful and it was great to hear the restored Gray Organ being played.

We're Back (again!)

Well it’s been a while and we do apologise for going missing. March was an extremely busy month for us here at SPES; we had two assignment weeks, a week of visiting communities, our Patronal Feast celebrations for St Patrick’s Day (Weekend), and then we were into Holy Week and Easter. It has been non stop around here but definitely good. After Easter we had a week off to relax and recharge ourselves before coming back to prepare for our Scarborough Mission, which is this coming week (13th - 21st April).  Over the next couple of blog posts we will try to bring you up to speed on what we have done and what we are doing next.