We have some good news this week because it is now possible for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to start taking the Blessed Sacrament to the housebound again. There are strict guidelines that have to be followed, however, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The guidelines are available from Sr Lydwin.
Serving for the Pope
In October last year you may remember the buzz around the build up to the canonisation of John Henry Newman. We had suspected that the English College would be asked to provide servers for the occasion and were excited when this was confirmed. Fr Rector offered Toby Duckworth and I first refusal, but of course we both jumped at the chance. Upon presenting ourselves for rehearsal to Mgr Marini, the papal master of ceremonies, I was chosen to be one of the four closest to Pope Francis during the canonisation mass itself. I was the only member from the VEC among these four and yet little did the monsignor know that I am from Newman’s home Archdiocese of Birmingham. God had indeed blessed me enormously.
It was my job to carry the Pope’s pastoral staff. It turned out to be Pope Benedict’s crosier that was used, as a nod to the devotion of the pope emeritus to Cardinal Newman. The next morning, after waving our special tickets to pass by the Swiss Guard, we entered St Peter’s basilica and assembled under Michelangelo’s Pietà, behind the bulletproof glass, in order to meet the Pope beforehand. Without warning the Holy Father suddenly appeared through a side passage not open to the public and began shaking our hands one by one. I decided to make the most of my few seconds with the Holy Father and leant in to whisper to him (in Italian) my appreciation for Evangelii Gaudium – the papal document that’s most impacted my formation. I shall never forget the warm smile I received back.
As we processed out into St Peter’s square, I could not believe I was actually involved in all this. The October Italian sun was still incredibly strong and seemed to bounce off the stone beneath our feet, creating a blinding effect. From my seat next to the Pope’s dais I could see Prince Charles looking on and remembered that I couldn’t immediately return home after the mass since the future king was due to visit our own Newman display, hosted by the college archivist. Mgr Marini had special signals for us in case we missed our cue to come forward but the four of us managed well enough. Standing beside the Supreme Pontiff as he sat ex cathedra pronouncing a local priest of ours a saint of the universal Church is something that shall remain with me forever. I was surprised by my lack of nerves and thanked God for the peace and joy of the event. That evening, those of us in Rome from this diocese celebrated by dining out and Toby, myself and Fr Ryan Service met Deacon Jack Sullivan who had been cured of a debilitating spinal problem by the intercession of Cardinal Newman. This provided the second miracle needed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to present Cardinal Newman to Pope Francis as a candidate for canonisation. Deacon Jack carried a relic of Newman’s on his person and blessed us each with it as the sun set on a truly remarkable day.
As amazing as life in Rome can be, it has been quite unique to return to the diocese, and particularly to Giffard House, and continue with seminary from afar. Helping Fr Mark in Eastertide under lockdown and forging the way forward as the Church reckons with this time of pandemic has been a parish experience unlike any other. It has been much more meaningful than if my college community simply quarantined in Italy. This has, however, also meant great changes to the ordinary customs for those of us at each specific stage of formation. I am delighted that Archbishop Bernard agreed under the circumstances to delegate the conferral of my first ministry to Fr Mark (who as a former rector has experience with all this).
So, what are these ‘ministries’ all about? The seminary formation process requires each seminarian to advance towards ordination receiving greater and greater responsibility as a prospective future priest. The current structure was finalised by Pope St Paul VI in 1973. From the second year onwards, each year culminates in the reception of a ‘ministry’ that underscores a particular aspect of ministerial priesthood. One is successively instituted as a Lector; Acolyte; Candidate; Deacon; and finally, Priest. During the second semester we take time out of our usual schedule to go away on retreat and pray about the forthcoming ministry, and have weekly pastoral classes designed to broaden our awareness of what the Church is asking of us at any given stage. This is all part of the main objective of forming solid patterns of priestly living.
Lectorate focuses on the Word of God and what it means to proclaim the Scriptures. The Bible is not a collection of dead letters, but the living Word of God as relevant in our age as in any other. In the book of Hebrews we read, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (4:12). When a lector reads from the lectionary at mass, therefore, it helps to bear in mind that Christ is being announced to the people of God. When I began seminary (in Valladolid, Spain) I did not much like reading in front of my peers. Steadily, however, I began to deepen my awareness that it is Christ, the Word of God, being proclaimed and not about me at all. In Rome we have had voice coaching sessions that has also developed the skills necessary for communicating the intention of a passage. All this directs us towards one day proclaiming the Gospel, of course. Ultimately, this requires one to be sensitive to the workings of the Spirit who may be speaking a deep word through the lips of the priest to members of the congregation. It is an awesome responsibility and one in which I have felt myself grow closer to the Lord within His call. Let us proclaim this Good News boldly and joyfully.
Article by David Bench
The conferral of the Ministry of Lector will take place during our Mass on Sunday 12th July. We hope you will be able to watch and pray along with us online.
This years Srebrenica Memorial Week runs from 5th -12th July when Communities from across the U.K. will remember the 25th Anniversary of the genocide when over 8,000 Muslim Bosnian men & boys were murdered because of their faith.
Over the 25 years since this atrocity many organisations, schools Councils & Faith groups have held events to mark the occasion & Wolverhampton Interfaith would request your involvement.
An event was planned this year in St Paul’s Cathedral but because of the Covid-19 situation this has been postponed until 2021 but we would encourage everyone to light a candle on:
Sunday 5th July at 7.00pm
And join together in the Srebrenica Prayer if you wish:
We pray to almighty God
May grievance become hope
May revenge become justice
May mother’s tears become prayers
That Srebrenica never happens again
To no one, no where.
By lighting the candle we remember the 8,372 mainly men & boys who were murdered on 11th July 1995
We remember the Mothers of Srebrenica who grieve every day & fight for truth & justice & all those displaced & affected by atrocity.
When we hear the language of ‘Us & them’ we will reach out & find common ground with our neighbour.
We will challenge discrimination wherever we see it.
- Interfaith Wolverhampton
The Archbishops of England have issued an important briefing about the celebration of Mass which will be able to begin soon. Please read the announcement by clicking the button below.
You will read that a church cannot open for Mass unless it has a strong team of stewards and cleaners.
We have begun a team at St Michael's but this was just for opening twice a week. If it is to open for more days of the week, we will need a bigger team. SS Peter & Paul and St Bernadette's will also need teams of stewards and cleaners who are under 70 before we are able to celebrate Mass in these churches.
If you are able to volunteer, please let Fr Mark know as soon as possible. Please note that none of our churches will be able to open for the celebration of Mass unless we can satisfy the requirements to keep them safe.
From Sunday 21st June, St Michael’s will be open for Private Prayer before the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday afternoon from 2.00pm till 4.00pm and every Saturday from 11.00am to 1.00pm.
There will be three stewards on duty for the duration of these times of prayer, please follow their instructions at all times to ensure the safety of everyone present. If there is a long queue outside the church, you may wish to wait in your car.
Please wear a face covering before you enter the church and refrain from touching anything while you are in the church.
Please follow the one-way system around the church at all times as indicated in the plan that you can find by clicking the button below:
When you enter the church, please clean your hands with hand gel and make your way to one of the places marked with a green tick. Only sit or kneel at one of these allocated places.
If you come as a family, sit together between two green ticks.
After you have spent some time in prayer, if you wish to donate towards the costs of the Personal Protection Equipment and Hand Gel, there will be a collection dish near the Baptismal Font.
If you wish to light a candle, go to the Shrine of our Lady and the Sacred Heart, clean your hands with the hand gel provided and take a candle and place it on the stand and place your donation for the candle in the candle box as normal. Then move to the allocated area 6 foot away, and the steward will then light the candle for you. Remain at this distance while you are praying and then please leave the church by the fire exit.
If a long queue develops outside the church, the steward will ring a bell. If you have already been in the church a while, this is a polite reminder that other people are waiting, and it is time to leave.
If you, or anyone in your household or support bubble has symptoms or has been tested positive and are having to isolate under government guidelines, then please do not come to church, but continue to pray at home.
Thank you for your cooperation in ensuring that we keep the church as a safe place to pray.
May God Bless you and keep you and your families safe.
Mgr Mark Crisp
Contrary to the incorrect information given by the BBC this morning, churches are not permitted to open today. Permission is given for for churches to open from next Monday and this is only for private prayer. There are strict guidelines that have to be followed before a church is ready to be opened and the Archdiocese of Birmingham issued a 24 page Risk Assessment for us to complete in order to comply with these regulations.
Out of our three churches, St Michael's is large enough and has the best access so we are focusing on opening this church first. Some alterations have to be made, however on the Fire Doors and a company are coming in next week to deep clean the church. We also need to have a training session with our volunteers who will be stewards and cleaners.
For all these reasons it will therefore not be able to open this week but we do hope to open next Sunday, 21st June for a couple of hours. I will keep you posted.
In the mean time, please let anyone you know who does not have the internet that the Cardinal is celebrating Mass on Radio 4 tomorrow morning (Sunday 14th June) at 8.10 am.
Wolverhampton City Council have issued a Press Release about the opening of Churches, Mosques and Temples all all places of worship across the city. Click the link below for the full text of the statement.
To open our church, even for an hour once a week, requires a fair amount of preparation and we need good teams of stewards and cleaners. These volunteers need to be under 70 and have no underlying health problems. We need to start small and then expand things as we begin to get used to all the necessary procedures.
The plan therefore would be hopefully to open St Michael's for an hour (or possibly two hours) on a Saturday, perhaps, for private prayer in front of the Exposed Blessed Sacrament with access to light candles next to the statues of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart (these will not be in their normal chapels but in a specially designated area.)
In order to do this we will need to satisfy all the requirements laid down by the Archdiocese of Birmingham. If we do not satisfy these requirements, we will not be allowed to open. At present we do not have enough volunteers to be able to open. Please consider if you are able to volunteer, either to be a cleaner or a steward. You will be required to wear PPE which will be provided by the parish for you own safety. If you are able to volunteer, please let Fr Mark know as soon as possible, either by email or on 01902 423005. If you phone and I am not in, please leave your contact details.
I realise parishioners of SS Peter & Paul and St Bernadette's will be disappointed that their churches will not be opened yet but St Michael's has disabled access, plenty of space, and enough doors to enable a separate entrance and exit. This is a beginning and, God willing, we will soon be able to expand this provision for private prayer and eventually the celebration of Mass and the other Sacraments.
You may remember at the beginning of lock down there was an ecumenical initiative to light a candle and pray at 7.00pm on Sunday Evenings. This is indeed why here at Giffard House we moved Adoration and Vespers to 7.00pm in order to be praying at the same time as this initiative. If you click the button below you can see a short video produced by our Multi Academy Company, the St Francis and St Clare MAC. As you know, our Catholic Schools welcome children from all religions and none and it has been wonderful that so many have responded to the "Shine a Light" Initiative. The video shows a selection of photos that have been sent in.
We are trying a system where someone you know who does not have the internet can use their telephone to listen to Sunday Mass tomorrow. It is important that only people who do not have the internet use this because we only have 50 spaces for callers. Please call your friends today who would benefit from this and explain to them what they need to do.
It is very simple, on Sunday Morning from 10.55 am onwards, the person needs to ring in using the following instructions:
This will take you straight through to the phone in church and they will be able to listen to Mass. Let us know if it works!
Please note that the individual will be charged at the same rate as standard landline numbers. If their phone tariff offers free calls to landlines at certain times of day, or has inclusive calls or bundled minutes that cover calls to landline numbers, calls to this number (and all other 03 numbers) will be included in these deals on the exact same basis.
There is a wonderful opportunity this afternoon at 4.30pm to pray the rosary with people all across the world for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit this Pentecost. Click below for the link to join with the Pope.