Update on our Parish evangelisation activities delivered by Christine Laubin and Helen Bailey at a recent Proclaim workshop led by Adrian Cullen (16/2/2019)
INTRODUCTORY COMMENT (Christine Laubin)
Helen Bailey and I have been asked to give you an overview of some of the evangelical activities within our Parish. We realise though it could sound like an evangelical list to be ticked off one by one!
All of the activities we mention have begun in the context of a heart felt request or a need longingly expressed.
Different parishioners and clergy at different times are struck by a request, a need, a distress, the longing of another person. It stays with us. We wake thinking of it. Somehow it sticks with us. It is ‘A CALL’.
We answer calls like this individually – encouraging a friend, comforting someone. It’s part of every day life for all of us. We often don’t see it as the work of the Holy Spirit, but it is. The Spirit nudging us towards love. . The Spirit nudging us to friendship.. The Spirit nudging us to loving kindness.. The Holy Spirit calling us every day.
Our parish communities offer us the opportunity to experience collectively these calls and to answer them collectively.
So for instance our Bethany Club, which meets on Tuesdays for lunch,
arose because of a need for friendship and companionship. One parishioner heard and was really struck by this call. Talking about it, other parishioners felt the call too. They booked the hall. They threw out an invitation: come to 10.00 Mass and stay on. They discovered people wanted to come but had trouble getting there. They asked young families to help with lifts. etc. etc. All of our parishes have examples like this.
Our Bethany Club has been going a long time, 36 years! Friendships have been formed between young and old, married, widowed, and singles. People have married having met at the club. People have joined the RCIA touched by the warmth and welcome they have experienced. The Bethany Club has morphed and changed over that time. As it should.
Individuals discerning when a call to action has been fulfilled is as important as the discernment to act on a call.
New people answer the call to the Bethany Club, others now feel called in a different direction. This is healthy and as it should be.
It is also vital, as evangelising is about building relationships and communities centred around the love of God flowing through each of us to each other. This gives it its vitality and authenticity, co-creation!
We have a pastoral assistant who guides our sacramental preparation.
We have Baptism courses which run for two Sunday afternoons with an annointing of babies at Mass following the second Sunday.
We have a First Reconciliation and Holy Communion programme with parents coming to evening meetings and parents and children to weekend workshops.
We have a Confirmation programme with meetings for parents in the evening, and the children meet and follow a Youth Alpha programme, This is supplemented and modified to the needs and comments of the group. We find our children don’t really have time to reflect and discuss things in RE in school. The feedback we received from the first year we offered the Youth Alpha programme was very positive.
This is the second year we are offering it, and the number of children coming forward to participate has doubled. Word of mouth!
Our sacramental preparation team have learned anyone who comes forward for sacramental preparation on behalf of their child, irregardless of reason (social pressure, superstition, even mercenary!), every person, irregardless of reason needs to have conveyed to them they are loved by God as they are and where they are and to be given something encouraging in the encounter while we have them.
We may not see them again! or not for some time, but it is a loving work towards a later harvest.
Our marriage preparation course is offered to the Diocese so we get people from around the Diocese all sharing their stories, their questions, their hopes, their fears.
Our RCIA courses have people who have previously attended the Baptism course, the First Communion, the Reconciliation or the Marriage Course or other activities within the parish, or via friends and family who belong to the parish.
SON SEEKER YOUTH MINISTRY (Helen Bailey)
Son Seekers was set up after a parish questionnaire, following Pope Francis’ call to evangelise through Proclaim 15. After collating the questionnaire results, we picked 3 main areas of focus. The greatest priority was deemed to be the young people in our parish as they seem to drop off the radar after they start secondary school. We spoke to a local charity called PHASE who primarily work with Hitchin primary and secondary schools to improve and educate staff and pupils on wellbeing. They work out of Christchurch in Hitchin and use faith to strengthen the wellbeing of pupils. This has had a massive impact on so many children and is a wonderful, fun way to spread the word.
Following discussions with PHASE, we decided we would start with our younger children first, as we have great connections with them through our first communion and reconciliation programme and through our parish primary school. The hope is to grow with this group of children as they get older and for us to grow with them. We started off by creating Funday Sundays. During our 10.30 Mass we read the liturgy and enjoy fun arts and craft activities linked to the week’s liturgy. We re-join the mass during communion and share our experiences with the rest of the parish. We have also run an All Hallows Eve party for the last 3 years as a substitute to Halloween. This is very popular with parents who don’t enjoy or agree with trick or treating. It ends with the children bringing the light into the end of the 5pm Sunday mass. We now have 243 children registered with us with an average of 50 attending the Funday Sundays on a regular basis.
In the past 6 months we have started to look at how we can engage with our young adults aged 11+. This group is very disengaged in the parish and the feeling amongst the adult helpers is that this group will not respond to a faith-based group. We therefore plan to create fun events based around a subject, eg. a volunteer’s fair, discussions on politics, the environment, exorcism, mental health. Other ideas include meeting up in a park in summer for a picnic and game of rounders. Our aim is to create a fun environment where teenagers feel safe to talk and open up if they want to. The hope is then that they will see the importance of community and God’s work within it and return to their faith.
FAITH DEVELOPMENT HELPLINE
A Mother of one of our families had a loss of faith when their child was suffering from mental health challenges. As things stabilised, the Dad in this family felt called to offer support to parishioners when they too might be in crisis. Talking to others, slowly a group formed to create a faith development help line. They have undergone training and have pastoral meetings with our ·priests. The helpline is open to all on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 8 to 10pm
An outgrowth of this group then formed! The COME BACK PRAYER GROUP – which is made up of a group of largely housebound parishioners who pray on a particular day once a month for people to come back to the faith. This is a lovely way for parishioners who are unable to attend mass regularly to still feel very much part of our community.
As people move from living independently in their homes to assisted living in care homes our priests and assisting parishioners celebrate MASS IN LOCAL CARE HOMES ONCE A MONTH. This happens in five local care homes. (Gosmore Nursing Home, Sue Ryder in Stagenhoe, Elmside, Foxholes and Milford Lodge.) These celebrations are open to everyone in the care home, patients and staff of all faiths and none. These are informal, gently paced services, following the known pattern of the Mass but also whatever arises. The bidding prayers are particularly moving as many residents in the home are mentioned and remembered.
We actively participate in all OUTREACH EVENTS WITH CHURCHES TOGETHER IN HITCHIN including a Good Friday Walk of Witness; a Pentecost party in the park, and PHASE, an ecumenical faith based initiative to support young people’s wellbeing.
AS I AM
In November 2017 Cardinal Vincent invited the priests in Westminster Diocese to be welcoming to the LGBT Catholic community, their families and friends. Fr. Michael of our parish, who has died recently, took up this call giving homilies on the theme ‘All are Welcome’ and gathered together a small group of priests and parishioners to explore ways to become a welcoming parish.
They began calling themselves As I Am. (I am beloved to God as I am, you are beloved to God as you are. Proclaiming God’s all inclusive love.).
Cardinal Vincent appointed Mgr. Keith Barltrop, Chaplain of the Catholic LGBT community in the Diocese He came to us, guided us and recommended we get in touch with LGBT Catholics Westminster, based in Farm Street Parish London which is run by the Jesuit order.
Cardinal Vincent, celebrating Mass at Farm Street this January said LGBT Catholics Westminster was purposely given a home within a parish setting in the hopes it would announce the Church’s welcome to all LGBT Catholics and in turn the Church would benefit from the faith of LGBT Catholics.
We as a parish have greatly benefited by the thoughtful, loving, generosity of this group. Several of us have been attending their lectio divina sessions over the past year based on this beautiful book by Fr. James Martin. It is entitled Building a Bridge and explores how the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can enter into a relationship of respect, compassion and sensitivity.
Over the last year and a half, we have been evangelised by the deep sharing and faith of the people in this community. We have formed significant friendships.
LGBT Catholics Westminster can be easily found on any search engine. Our parish has created a webpage on our website. Look for the side bar “All are welcome – LGBTQ+”. It has various links to the Farm Street community.
This faith filled community is a great gift to us and source of God’s grace in our Diocese. We are very grateful to them.
Click on the presentations below to find our more details about Proclaim and the resources available
Pope Francis has asked us to spread the Word of God to those around us. Under the banner of Proclaim ‘15, Cardinal Vincent has tasked us with doing this in a particular way. He has asked us to look at projects which would help reach out to people of all ages, those who are lapsed, those who don’t know Our Lord at all; those who have lost their way or anyone who wants to get to know Our Lord. Following a consultation of ~35 parishioners the following projects have been identified to support faith development and evangelisation in our parish.
The timeline for these projects is not fixed and they will progress at their own rates when we have teams in place who will take them forward as projects. This is a laity-led initiative and the Priests and Pastoral team are there to support the projects but not to lead them. So we need people from the parish who will help make them happen. The first stage will be for a group of people interested in a particular project to meet and begin planning where to go and what to do.
Project 1 We have already begun this process as those of you who were at the Masses two weeks ago will have heard Kieran Murphy from PHASE speak to us. We need a group of people who are committed to supporting our young people, children and teenagers, to help them develop in their lives and their faith. This group will put outline how this project will take effect. You do not need to have any particular experience – just a strong desire to help our young people.
Project 2 As the Faith Development Helpline exists already we need to revamp it and look at how we can reach out to more people, including the housebound. So people with ideas and a willingness to visit our housebound parishioners would be ideal. In this year of Mercy visiting the sick and the elderly would be a corporal work of mercy and would bring a great deal to the lives of those visited. This will also help us find out more about the needs of people who may be approaching the end of their lives and how we can support them and their carers. If this is something that moves you please join this group of people to help take it forward.
Project 3 Over the summer we will be planning a programme of ongoing Adult Faith formation in the parish, Deanery and Diocese. If you feel this is something that appeals to you then please come forward to be part of this group to identify what should be in that programme for supporting new and old people in their faith and understanding of the Catholic church.
What you can do now:
Sign up to be involved with any of the projects above – identifying the project and the strand (a) – (i) that you are particularly interested in. Download the form by clicking on the link below and please leave this in the box in the porch or email your interest to firstname.lastname@example.org
For Form to sign up to a project please click on the link Volunteer form#
To print this page easily please click on the link Proclaim ’15 Projects