We celebrate the Feast of St Gerard Majella this Thursday, 16 October. As you know I am keen that in our two parishes we have a real sense of belonging because we are called to be united through the Lord with the whole family of the Church, which includes Mary and all the saints. Down through the centuries different saints have become famous because of their concerns for particular prayer intentions.
Fascinatingly St Gerard, who was a Redemptorist brother, became famous for his prayers for mothers and their babies, including mothers still awaiting the birth of their children. We will mark his feast this week by having a short service in in the church straight after school on Thursday afternoon at 3.45pm. All children and their parents are welcome, including babes-in-arms and mums who are expectant.
We will bless all present with the relic of St Gerard and give everyone a medal of St Gerard and Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Farewell to the Sisters at Knolle Park
Many of you will know that the Poor Servants of the Mother of God are leaving Knolle Park after almost 100 years of wonderful service to the community in this part of Liverpool. There will be a Mass of Thanksgiving on Friday evening, 31 October at St Mary’s, Woolton. The time is yet to be finalised. I have met so many people who are indebted to the sisters for their care when they were children. I hope we will have a wonderful congregation to pray with them and for them on this occasion.
The Roman experience was everything I could have hoped for and more. I met many Redemptorist and other friends from bygone days and the event with Cardinal Vincent Nichols was relaxed and enjoyable. I sense there is something providential about all this as the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour has once again been given special place in the life of the Church in our country.
I hope that I will be able to report that everything has gone extremely well over the past couple of days. The original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is in our church of St Alphonsus in Rome. Now that Cardinal Vincent Nichols has taken possession of his church, we hope and pray that devotion to Mary under this title will continue to spread far and wide across our country. There is now a copy of the icon in Westminster Cathedral!
For a photo Cardinal Nichols with the icon and to read more of his homily click here.
Another great devotion that originated through the Redemptorists is that of St Gerard Majella, the patron of mothers and babies.
His Feast is on October 16th and by then our chapel to St Gerard will have been refurbished. In both Bishop Eton and St Mary's we will have special ceremonies for mums and babies and expectant mothers during that week.
I have invested in 3,000 medals of St Gerard and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour!
PENTECOST: Please remember there will be no Saturday evening 6.00pm Mass next weekend. We begin our Sunday evening Mass at 6.00pm on 27 May. If you would like to join the Readers Rota for the Sunday 6.00pm Mass please contact the parish office with your details.
Deacon John will explore with our ministers the possibility of taking Holy Communion to the sick directly from the Sunday Masses. Please let us know of anyone who may be housebound but not receiving this ministry.This is not intended to be a substitute for those who already receive Holy Communion at home during the week, but an added opportunity to unite with Sunday Mass those who are housebound.
Last week I was giving a retreat to a group of priests in a beautiful place called Ards on the north coast of Donegal. On the first evening, meeting one of the priests whom I remembered from three years ago, I asked him how he was and he replied ‘surviving’. I think I know what he meant, yet it brought back to mind a powerful piece of writing by the Dominican, Fr Timothy Radcliffe, who towards the end of his time as Master General of the Order in the 1990s had written a long and encouraging letter to his Dominican brothers and sisters, urging them to build communities in which they did not simply survive, but in which they enabled one another to flourish.
I feel very privileged to have been asked to take on the role of parish priest here in Bishop Eton and soon at St Mary’s, Woolton, as well, and I promise you that I will do all I can to help us build communities of faith in which we enable one another not just to survive but to flourish. And what better day than Pentecost Sunday to start reflecting on such a vision! Today the scriptures remind us of the enormous energy that flooded the Church at the very beginning: the energy of the Spirit of God opening the minds and hearts of thousands of people to welcome the message of salvation, the news that Jesus had died for our sins and risen to bring us new life with the promise that he would be with us always. The apostles were speaking the language of love and that is why everyone understood what they were saying. Indeed as St Paul reminds us “there is a variety of gifts, but always the same Spirit” and having lived in Bishop Eton for the last three years I am very conscious of the army of people involved in the life of this parish in a whole variety of ways, using your gifts to ensure that we can thrive. I want to begin by asking all of you who feel able to continue in your roles, whether as catechists, servers, ministers of the Eucharist, musicians, singers, readers, sacristans, members of the different societies like the SVP…, collectors, counters of the collection, arrangers of flowers, welcomers and stewards in the church, those involved helping with finance, those who organise and support the social life of the parish and of the many people who help things to run smoothly by taking their turn at answering the front door of the monastery and so on... (for all the parish societies please check the website).
At the same time I realise that some of these roles need more willing people to ensure that everything continues to run smoothly and I have been heartened by so many of you who, since my appointment, have assured me that you are available to do whatever will help me to fulfil my role in the months and years ahead. I would like to take you up on your generous offers and invite you to look out for a succession of meetings after next weekend, when I hope to meet with all the different groups, getting to know those who are already involved and welcoming those who would like to become involved.
I want us to be a community on the look out for one another, making sure that all age groups are catered for, from the youngest members of the parish, through the schools to the young adults, the families and those who like some of us are moving into or have moved into what is now beautifully described as the third age! I want us to be missionary: I hope you have read my short piece in B.E. Alive... for if the Church loses its sense of mission then it is no longer the Church. And here I want to begin close to home but ensuring that all those who might be interested in the faith are made welcome and are invited when the time comes to begin the Journey in Faith in the autumn.
As I think you all know, Barrie O’Toole has been appointed to assist me in both parishes and of course we now have a larger community than before, with some confreres coming after the closure of Sunderland and the reorganisation of Clapham. James Casey has returned to Bishop Eton and is happy to assist with the Masses as will Jimmy Smale when he is available (he is often away at weekends preaching for Zimbabwe) and of course our new Rector, Richard Reid (who is also the vocations director for the Province, a job with its own special demands). After looking at the responses to the consultation process about the future which Desmond Keegan and a small committee from the two parishes organised, I have taken stock and consulted with the community, with the Provincial and with Archbishop Patrick Kelly, and since the equation has now changed considerably I am happy to announce that for the foreseeable future we will retain the weekend and weekday programme of Masses and services in both parishes. In view of this we feel that the meeting scheduled for at St Julie’s for June 27 is no longer necessary, but I would want to stress that over the next few years we will need to start preparing carefully for a wholly new situation, one in which this programme will simply be unmanageable. You know well enough that this is not a situation affecting just the Liverpool Archdiocese; it is unravelling in all the dioceses of the country and in many other parts of the world. When I was living in Hampshire, for the better part of three years I facilitated the clergy meetings as the Portsmouth Diocese reduced from over 90 parishes to 24 pastoral areas, so I have had some first hand experience of the tensions that inevitably arise when we are faced we difficult decisions of restructuring. We will continue to work closely with our own pastoral area here in Liverpool and offer assistance within that wider community whenever we can and already Barrie and I have offered to cover the hospital from time to time as did Desmond. The fact is that while I have acknowledged that we now have five priests who are able to celebrate public Masses, Fr Casey is 77, Fr O’Toole is 74, Fr Smale is 67 and I have just arranged to have my pension paid from September, so I ask to think how that will look in five, never mind ten years time! It is true that Fr Reid is only 39, but he will have his hands full as Rector and Vocations Director, though as you can see he is actively involved in the church too.
Our Deacon, John Keeley, continues to do wonderful work in the parish and he will become an integral part of the clergy team, helping with funerals, baptisms and weddings as well as his many other roles. But I remind you that John is also past the three score years and ten mark, though I know you would never think so. I am wondering whether there are some younger men in the parish who would consider that this is the right time for them to consider offering themselves for training as deacons. If so I would be very happy to hear from you and we could discuss what this would entail and how the selection process works.
And finally, I want to begin this new chapter in the life of the parish by urging you to pray that we will indeed enable one another to thrive and flourish. 27 June, the day scheduled for the St Julie’s meeting, is in fact the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour (Help). It has been suggested that instead of discussing Mass times and the immediate logistics of the future, that we celebrate that day by using the St Julie’s venue for a social at which the parishioners of Bishop Eton and St Mary’s may meet one another. And there is more: why don’t we pray through the Novena before the feast and entrust this great venture to the care and protection of Our Lady? The Novena will begin at the Masses next weekend and there will be a special Novena Service next Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Then we will have three sessions each day: 7, 12 and 7. There will be a short homily at each of the Masses and the Novena Prayer will be said. I am happy to say that Fr Pat O’Brien from St Mary’s and the Archbishop will help us to present the Novena. Please do all you can to ensure that you and your family can attend one of the sessions each day and we will truly launch this new era in the best possible way. Thank you for your welcome.
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