Tag Archives: children

8 April, Holy Saturday: Let the children come to me.

MMB photo

And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. But Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God. Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom   of God as a child, shall not enter into it.

Luke 18:15-17.

I am used to rather sentimental pictures of this Gospel story, a stained glass Jesus who looks like a film star, perfectly trimmed beard, freshly shampooed blond hair, flowing, pristine robe … Not what we see here.

But I cast my mind back and thought of the children making the Way of the Cross with me in St Thomas’ church, Canterbury. Spontaneously a group of them gathered around the life size Mary and Jesus in the Pieta. wanting to stroke, console and condole with the Sorrowful Mother.

There was no disrespect in this, and mercifully, no-one present took offence. Yet I could imagine the tut-tuts that might have been uttered another time. No doubt the little ones who met Jesus in the flesh wanted to touch him and climb all over him, and it’s not difficult to envisage the disciples trying to pull them away. But ‘of such is the kingdom of God.’ I think it is fair to let this phrase suggest that Jesus felt himself within the kingdom when the children were swarming over him.

Pope Francis gave his customary press conference on  the plane returning from World Youth Days in Panama.

At the end of the conference the Pope thanked reporters for their work, and left them with a final thought about Panama: “I would like to say one thing about Panama: I felt a new sentiment, this word came to me: Panama is a noble nation. I found nobility.

“And then”, he concluded, “I would like to mention something else, which we in Europe do not see and which I saw here in Panama. I saw the parents raising their children and saying: this is my victory, this is my pride, this is my future. In the demographic winter that we are living in Europe – and in Italy it is below zero – it must make us think. What is my pride? Tourism, holidays, the villa, the dog? Or the child?”

Speaking for myself, I am proud of my children, and my grandchildren, though (or even because) they are all very different. But it would not be a healthy pride if they needed to win my approval rather than doing right, and following their own vocation rather than one laid down by their parents. I can say of my family – with those Panamanian parents – this is my victory, this is my pride, this is my future. Though I trust I will not be too much of a burden to any of them when I’m definitely doddering!

Meanwhile, in the Northern Hemisphere, we can see our gardens telling the story of new life, a clue to what, in God’s mercy, awaits us in our eternal life, with the One whose Mother is embracing him here.

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30 March: An interesting experience at Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral is welcoming local people and visitors once more. Its website offers a range of attractions and experiences as well as the regular and seasonal services which are the very reason for its existence. We like the look of this library tour; 35 spiral steps will set you up for the calm of the library. There are activities for children during school holidays.

Library Tours

Climb the spiral staircase to see one of the Cathedral’s best loved treasures, the Library, for yourself and explore some of our fascinating collection.

In 2023 we investigate ‘Journeys and Exploration’, a chance to discover how our understanding of the world and local area has changed through the centuries.

Take a journey from Staffordshire around the globe, delve into beautifully illustrated map-books and charts, and uncover insights from James Cook’s voyages.

Each tour lasts around 1. 5 hours


Daytime tours Tours – Starting at 10:30

Saturday 11 March
Saturday 22 April
Saturday 27 May
Saturday 17 June
Saturday 29 July
Saturday 12 August
Saturday 16 September
Saturday 21 October

Candlelit tours – starting at 19:30

Friday 10 March
Friday 26 May
Friday 16 June
Friday 28 July
Friday 11 August
Friday 15 September 

This atmospheric tour takes place in the evening under LED candlelight. 

Tickets £18

Click here to book

PLEASE NOTE: You must be able to climb 35 spiral steps to take part in this tour.

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Filed under Easter, Laudato si', Lent, pilgrimage, PLaces, Spring

26 February: The Open-handed Missionary IV

Another story: We once had a curate who did not see himself as a missionary. His next parish priest was not sympathetic towards him, but a lady parishioner was, and the diocese lost another priest to the Church of England. Being a missionary hardly inoculates a man or woman against that eventuality. But what, indeed, if a man is working in a parish alone? The fact that I can say, ‘working in a parish alone’, suggests more questions: why does he see himself as alone, where is the so-called parish family, is there a community life to support him? Does he let them support him? Does he let them take charge of ministries, or does he try to micro-manage them? Is there a supportive network of priests for him?

A century ago, Pope Benedict XV gave great impetus to the development of missionary understanding, beatifying the Uganda Martyrs and encouraging the growth of churches that would be truly local; his words about missionary religious superiors could profitably be applied to the whole Church community, for we also have responsibilities towards those we mandate and expect to evangelise us:

When [a missionary] sets out he is, as a rule, eager and ready to brave the most gruelling hardships… If a man encounters an attentive superior who always treats him with prudence and charity, his work cannot fail to be fruitful. But if the contrary occurs, then there is every reason to fear that the labours and hardships he meets will gradually wear him out, until he finally loses heart.

A young former Catholic who wrote to me recently was driven away in part by priests he saw as unbelieving, but I would see as worn out, losing heart. Certainly professional missionaries can become burnt out and discouraged, but who else do we see losing heart these days? Perhaps above all young people, but have we really tried the recipe that was given to us by a wise Parish Priest – ‘give them something to do?’ Visiting that parish we saw young people acting as choir and cantors, and about ten altar servers: ‘Usually there are more than that, but we find plenty of jobs for them to do.’ And the same could be true of any other parish, but I have heard too many of the faithful complain about Children’s Liturgy, ‘sloppy’ servers, noisy infants … People cannot fall away from the Church as adults if they’ve already been driven away as children. Yet the eight year old we saw, who had to stand on a stool to join the two teenage cantors, was a missionary in his own capacity.

Am I getting to the meat behind the stories and examples? Well, Ad Gentes insists:

“The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father.” (2 ; 3-5).

The Council itself presents the Church as a narrative: the Church is a pilgrim, living an ongoing story; she has a mission: we have all lived a chapter or two. The Church comes from the Son and the Spirit, according to the Father’s word. It is not the theology that lies behind the story, but the story that lies behind the theology.

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11 February: Mary as Queen

Here is Mary as Queen and Mother, as seen in Valencia Cathedral in Spain. Look closely and you will find passport photos tucked into the folds of the figures, tokens of prayers to Mary; people come here to pray for children, with concern for the well-being of their families or asking Mary’s intercession that they might conceive a child.

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the day when Bernadette saw her first apparition of Mary. Anyone who saw her kneeling on the riverbank in mid-February in a mountain village could have been forgiven for thinking she was crazy. I daresay there are those who would say the same of those who push their child into Mary’s attention.

But Lourdes and Valencia are places of blessing, undeniably so, even if you dismiss those blessings as the result of psychosomatic forces.

What is Mary’s role in all this? Her life on this earth was complete some 2,000 years ago. To start discerning an answer, we are sending you to Eric Clayton of the North American Jesuits, who received and shared a few insights with the help of his young daughter.

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1 February: An impossible situation

It will soon be a year since the war began in Ukraine. Here is an article from Missio.org.uk describing some of the ways in which the Church supports refugees in the surrounding countries of Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.


UKRAINE UPDATE


In Romania, local parishioners are doing what they can to provide mattresses, bedsheets, pillows, and food, as well as nappies and basic sanitary items.

The National Director for Missio in Romania, Fr Eugen, shared: ‘I recently received two young women with a child. They told me very simply: “We want to stay the three of us in the same room; we do not have any food; we do not have any money; we want to stay until we find a job and get some money to be able to rent a room and to get the basic things for living”. I try to provide what they need, and I also pray for them to get a job to be able to live independently.

‘I try to understand their souls: to understand how hard it is to daily depend on the compassion of others for an undetermined time, to start life from zero and with the family split by the war. May God have compassion on them’.

John* is a Ukrainian currently residing in a Catholic parish house in Romania. When the war broke out in February, John was working overseas. He knows that the government has banned all men aged 18-60 from leaving the country, and fears that he will be forced to join the Ukrainian military if he was to return home. The conflict continues to rage, but John does not want to fight, saying: ‘I don’t want to kill or be killed’. If John was to return now, he fears that he will possibly be arrested, jailed, fined and penalised by having his citizenship stripped. He explained that the conflict is multifaceted; there are political, historical, economic, cultural and social complexities that make a ceasefire almost impossible. He indicated that what we see in the media and the reality of the situation are very different.


‘We don’t know when the war will be stopping. It is very dangerous for everybody… I ask all of the world, for help to stop this war. We need to stop this war so everybody can go back home’.

John is almost completely dependant on the charity of our global Church: ‘I am very grateful to Fr Eugen because he found us this place – to come here and to live here. Not only me, but other Ukrainian refugees have been able to live here. All of us are very, very grateful to the Catholic Church as they have helped us very much, regardless of religion or denomination to which we belong. Really, we cannot forget this experience, this help that we got from the Catholic Church’.


The Catholic Church in Romania and surrounding countries continues to provide accommodation, food and emergency packages containing essential toiletries to those who have arrived with nothing. Trauma counselling, education and employment are also being provided, where possible.

Please continue to pray for peace in Ukraine.


*John’s name has been changed to protect his identity

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11 January: Reflections on a charity bike ride.

These bikes were in Bruges, Belgium during a car-free Sunday.

Mark Piper rode 100km from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana in aid of children with brain tumours; the event remembers a small boy of the Chicago parish who died with this disease, Patrick McNamara. The full story is here, together with Piper’s reflections, on the National Catholic Reporter website. Since the pastor who was the race starter dedicated the race to Mary and the finishing line was at one of her churches, it seems an appropriate item for her feast today. She, if anyone, exhibited holiness in the world!

The pastor of the parish reminded us that our coming together, through the prayers and material assistance raised for these families, was community at its best. And he ended his blessing by inviting us all to recite the Hail Mary.

While sitting down at the post-ride party my mind … reflected on my first, but certainly not last, Pat Mac’s 100K ride. Although not draped in piety or devotions, or having any sacraments administered, this ride, by bringing us together and building community, exhibited a holiness in the world that perhaps enlivened Gospel service.

During my six hours on the bike, and a few more under a tent filled with food, stories and friendship, I certainly experienced church, being church and being church for others. May Our Lady, in Italy, Spain, France or Michigan City, Indiana, watch over us, keep us safe and hasten the day when paediatric cancer research brings forth a cure. Until this hopeful prayer is granted, I look forward to this bicycle ride and seeing that mosaic of Mary, at prayer herself, at the finish line.

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9 January: Praying with Pope Francis: Educators.

Brocagh School, Leitrim, 1969

This January Pope Francis asks us to pray for Educators

We pray that educators may be credible witnesses, 
teaching fraternity rather than competition  
and helping the youngest and most vulnerable above all. 

I shared this picture on the Pelicans Website in 2011. It shows the children of Brocagh School, Co. Leitrim in 1969, with their educators, head teacher Mrs McCormack, to the right, and her assistant teacher, then, I think, called Miss Byrne, but wearing an engagement ring.

Sometime after this, in 1970-72 the little local 2 classroom schools were all closed down and a new central school built in Glenfarne village. We students at nearby Saint Augustine's College visited the little schools to deliver an RE lesson each Wednesday morning.

It was Mrs McCormack who gave me a valuable lesson, in the qualities Pope Francis proclaims. This was thanks to Joe McHugh, down there in the front row wearing a green jacket. During the time after Easter we had John's story of the barbecue by the lake after the miraculous catch of fish, and Peter's final declaration of faith. 

I think the lesson went well. The children drew some remarkable pictures, but Mrs McCormack drew my attention to Joe's in particular: come here now, Joe, what's this in the corner? - It's Saint Peter's lorry, Miss, come to carry away the fish. I'd missed the lorry completely; I'd not interpreted the shapes he'd drawn in 20th Century terms.

What Mrs McCormack knew, but I did not, was that Joe's family had recently acquired a lorry which was Joe's pride and joy, so of course St Peter would have had his lorry ready to take the fish to market. The story made sense to Joe, and had always made more sense to me as a consequence; thank you Joe, wherever you are. And thank you to Mrs McCormack, that credible witness!You used Joe's lorry to teach him and me that fraternity between the generations means allowing the child to teach himself, and his (or her) teachers.

Olivia O'Dolan and other local people managed to identify many of the children whose names appear on the Pelicans Website.

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Caritas Newsletter, December 2022



 
 


CSAN Newsletter
Advent 2022

Advent is a continuous call to hope:
It reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate goal and to its fullness, which is the Lord Jesus Christ.
– Pope Francis

Welcome from the CEO


Welcome to the re-launched CSAN newsletter. To all our subscribers, thank you for your patience. It has been a time of transition in the team, but we’re now good to go again and we’re hoping to bring you a newsletter at least quarterly. Your feedback is always welcome. If you have any suggestions for the newsletter, or stories of social action in the Catholic community you think we should feature, please email us at admin@csan.org.uk with Newsletter in the subject box.

We are now in the season of Advent, the season of hope. It can be difficult in the face of hardship and struggle to believe in hope. It can sound like a pious cliché, if it is only some vague aspiration that somehow things will get better. Christian hope is rooted in the reality of the Incarnation, the Word of God made flesh in the poverty of a manger in Bethlehem. Our hope is in the Good News of Jesus, a vision for a new way of being human and belonging, a vision of a kingdom of love, justice and peace. As Christians we don’t just sit around waiting for that to happen. We are part of making it happen. We are ambassadors for that Good News.

May God bless all your work for the kingdom this Advent.

You will find more information and resources on the season on Advent at the Bishops’ Conference website: https://www.cbcew.org.uk/advent/

Raymond Friel



Cost of Living Crisis

What has been exposed by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis is what was there all along, hidden in plain sight. Vast inequality between the most wealthy and the poorest, public services in a state of collapse after years of underinvestment (despite the brief springtime of appreciation during lockdown), millions of people living in poverty and isolation.
We were not in a strong position when the situation worsened. We can see this all too clearly now as the UK is the slowest of the developed countries to recover from the pandemic. Our member charities know this reality. They work on the front line of disadvantage every day and report steeply rising levels of need for the basics of life, as well as more and more need for mental health support.

So what can we do, what should we do? Christians have always responded to need, since the very first days of the Church. People in parishes all over England and Wales are mobilising to meet the humanitarian crisis in our country. Our charities are always looking for volunteers. If you’d like to find out more about the inspiring range of work they do, please visit our website:  https://www.csan.org.uk/member/. A major part of our work in the coming months will be sharing stories form our members, case studies of the work they do and the impact they have. We will feature testimonies from volunteers and project workers as well as the voices of lived  experience, glimpses into the reality of what it is like to live without access to the basics for a dignified life.

The Catholic tradition has always insisted on justice as well as charity. In September of this year, the Bishops’ Conference Department for Social Justice published a Briefing Paper on the cost of living crisis. The paper included specific ‘asks’ of the government. You can read the full paper here: https://www.cbcew.org.uk/briefing-cost-of-living-crisis/. In our Cost of Living campaign we invite the Catholic community to write to their MPs with a version of these ‘asks’ modified in the light of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 17 November. You will find more about how to get involved in our campaign here: https://www.csan.org.uk/cost-of-living-crisis/.


Homes for Ukraine

The other major initiative we are involved in this winter is the Homes for Ukraine matching service. This is a partnership between CSAN member St John of God Hospitaller Services and CSAN. The service brings together those in this country who are willing to host and those Ukrainian families who are looking for a home to live in, having been displaced by the brutal war in their homeland. Not everyone at this difficult time will have the means to host a visiting family, but for those who do, we would urge you to consider this opportunity to put faith into action by welcoming the stranger.

You will find more information about the service here: https://sjog-homesforukraine.uk/


Aspiring Leaders’ Conference

In June of this year, the first cohort of CSAN’s new ‘Aspiring Leaders’ programme gathered at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine’s in London for their first residential. The programme is designed for those who aspire to a leadership role in a Catholic setting. There were twenty participants in total drawn from a range of CSAN member organisations, and one participant from Caritas Europa. They were supported in learning groups by four facilitators, all experienced CEOs and Directors from the CSAN network.
 
Read More


Clifton Diocese joins the Network

Clifton Diocese is the Catholic diocese covering the West of England and includes the City and County of Bristol, the counties of Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath and Northeast Somerset.We spoke with Jason Charewicz, Caritas and Environmental Officer to find out more about their work.
Read More

Caritas Salford on the Cost of Living Crisis

Find out about what Caritas Salford are observing and how they are responding to the situation in the Northwest of England, including details on their #BeeThere campaign this Advent. Caritas Salford is seeing significantly increased demand for support across its services, as it responds to people facing acute crisis this winter.
Read More


Pact wins new contracts
Pact is a national Catholic charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions, and their children and families, by providing caring and life-changing services at every stage of the criminal justice process: in court, in prison, on release, and in the community.
 Read More

Don’t underestimate the long-term impact of the war in Ukraine, says Bishop

Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, talks about the devastating impact of the war but also the solidarity and welcome many people have shown throughout our lands to Ukrainians fleeing the war. 


Bishop prays for the 27 migrants who perished in the English Channel a year ago

It’s a year since the tragic deaths of 27 migrants in the English Channel – the worst-ever migrant tragedy in that body of water. Bishop Paul McAleenan has offered his prayers for the victims and their families, stressing that we have a “collective responsibility” to uphold the human dignity of migrants and refugees.

03 December 2022
International Day of Persons with Disabilities

10 December 2022
Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

20 December 2022
International Human Solidarity Day

28 December 2022
Feast of the Holy Innocents

01 January 2023
World Day of Peace

08 February 2023
Feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking.

 2022 Caritas Social Action Network. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Advent and Christmas, Justice and Peace, Laudato si', Mission, PLaces

3 November 2022, Praying with Pope Francis: For children who suffer.

Not every child’s pain is visible.

Pope Francis invites us this month to pray for children:

We pray for children who are suffering, especially those who are homeless, orphans, and victims of war; may they be guaranteed access to education and the opportunity to experience family affection.

After years of working with distressed children I could add to Pope Francis’s list: children who are abused or neglected, living with their parents’ addictions, excluded from school for the safety of others, mentally ill, depressed, or simply poor. Here is a prayer we might use or adapt to join the Pope’s invitation.

Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation

Praise to you Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
the source of all consolation and hope.
Be the refuge and guardian of all
who suffer from abuse and violence.
Comfort them and send healing
for their wounds of the body, soul and spirit.
Help us all and make us one with you
in your love for justice
as we deepen our respect for the dignity of every human life.
Giver of peace, make us one in celebrating
your praise, both now and forever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayer from the diocese of Northampton.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Laudato si', Mission

22 October: Off he goes!

A Stanhope gig.

William Allingham is in the New Forest at Lymington, a small port opposite the Isle of Wight, where he is a senior customs officer. He recorded in his diary on this day in 1868.

Thursday, October 22. — Lymington. Walk to Setley, and find gypsies encamped. Coming back I overtake a little girl carrying with difficulty two bags of sand, and just as I am asking how far she is going, up drives Rev. P. F. in his gig, who offers me a lift. I say, ‘ Help this little girl with her two heavy bags,’ upon which his Reverence reddens and drives off. I carry one of the bags.

Where to start? Of course in 2022 we could be screened from the realities of life for a poor child because we would drive past in a sealed car, and not notice a thing. And we can insulate ourselves in other ways too.

‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Matthew 25:44

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