Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Brentwood: Habemus Episcopum

The wait is finally over,
"We have a Bishop, Habemus Episcopum".

Fr Alan Williams will be appointed Bishop of Brentwood on 1st July 2014. He arrives from the national RC shrine at Walsingham in East Anglia Diocese.

Brentwood is not the only Catholic Diocese waiting for a bishop, but Bishop Thomas McMahon announced his retirement on reaching the age of 75 in June 2011. It was over a 1000 days until an appointment was made.

The Catholic Church in England & Wales website gave the following information:
The bishop-elect was born in Oldham, Lancashire in 1951. He took final vows in the Society of Mary [Marist Fathers] in 1981 and was ordained priest in St Anne’s Whitechapel in 1983.

Father Alan holds degrees in theology, psychology and religious education [he is an MA and a Ph.D] and has served in a number of pastoral roles. He has worked as a teacher and chaplain in secondary schools. He also served as Catholic Chaplain at Sheffield Hallam University and taught Christian Spirituality at postgraduate level.

He is a former major superior of the Marist Fathers in England and has worked as a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Southwark. At Walsingham he has had overall responsibility for pilgrimage and retreat work.
His words at the press conference announcing his appointment were:

“I am both surprised and humbled to have been appointed by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of Brentwood. There is indeed a God of surprises and in my life as a priest and religious I have learned to trust ever more in the grace of God for whatever task has been assigned to me.

“The Diocese of Brentwood embraces many and diverse communities in city and rural locations. I look forward to getting to know the people and clergy of the Diocese; I am aware that I will have a lot of learning and listening to do.

“Emeritus Pope Benedict encouraged Shrine Directors to have a special regard for those on the margins of the Church, ‘of weak ecclesial affiliation’. Great numbers of those on the margins make their way to England’s National Shrine at Walsingham. I believe that the pilgrim journey is an invitation to everyone; Pope Francis reminds us that those who accept the gospel are set free- ‘With Christ joy is constantly born anew’.

“There are many parishes, educational and other communities in Brentwood Diocese and my previous ministries as parish priest, teacher and school and university chaplain, have made me eager to share Christ’s joy with all whom I meet.

“I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor Bishop Thomas McMahon for his faithful and long service to the Diocese. I have worked in a number of different dioceses in England and I know that I can count on the generous support of the priests and deacons of Brentwood.

“I ask for your continued prayers as I undertake my new ministry. Over the years many pilgrims from Brentwood Diocese have made their way to Walsingham; my own pilgrimage now takes me to Brentwood under the patronage of Mary the mother of Jesus and all the saints of the Diocese.”

The Brentwood Diocese website contains more information here:
Blogger Mark Lambert goes into some detail in his blog post <here>

On a personal note, I have met Bishop Thomas McMahon on many occasions. He was my grandparents' parish priest in Westcliff-on-Sea and through my involvement with the BCYS, I have got to know the Bishop well; I was fortunate enough to be at the celebration of his 25 years as Bishop. He passionately cares about the youth of the Church and has done a huge amount of ecumenical work and ministry to those on the 'fringes' of society. He will be sorely missed. Thank you.

Monday, 28 April 2014

4 Popes 2 Saints

Divine Mercy Sunday (The Sunday after Easter) was a particularly special day in 2014. On the 27th April two much-loved Popes were made saints by two other much-loved Popes. John XXIII and John Paul II were canonised by Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in a single ceremony in St Peter's Square, Rome.

Watch this powerful 3D clip: 

Watch the full canonisation Mass again:

Estimates are that around 1 million peoples tried to get close to St Peter's Square on the Sunday with big screens set up all over the city. It was also broadcast around the world to cinemas in 3D and other places of Catholic significance such as Lourdes (where I was!).

Photo from Telegraph

It was a day of many 'firsts', the biggest perhaps being the fact it is the first time in the history of the Catholic Church that two living Popes have presided over the canonisation of two of their predecessors.

Much has been written about the significance of the day, and its political motivations trying to unite the 'left' and 'right' of the Church, but ultimately it was a day of celebration for the 1 billion Catholics around the world.

Read more:

BYCS Blogs:

Did you watch any of the coverage? Where did you watch it? Did you know anything about these two Popes and what they did for the Church? Will you ask them to intercede your prayers?


Saturday, 5 April 2014

Rwanda: 20 Years On

Picture: The Observer

The 6th April 1994 will be a date forever etched in the memory of every Rwandan. This is the day the President Juvenal Habyarimana was assainated and it resulted in up to 1 milion people dying in just 100 days of violence.

I was aware of this event, but heard two nuns speak of a trip to Rwanda in the mid 2000's, 10 years after the genocide. As part of this, there was a showing of the film Shooting Dogs:

This helped me understand what an abolsute tragedy happened during that short time. Around 20% of the country's total population was killed and 70% of the Tutsi. Estiamte suggest that an average of six people were killed every minute of every hour of every day, while the international community failed to intervene. The UN faced harsh criticism for failing to act.

As the sign at the memorial says, 'Never Again'. The ethnic cleansing by Hutus was classed widely as a genocide, the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group. However too often history does and has repeated itself.

I urge you to watch Shooting Dogs; it's powerful and stays with you. Also remember those who died, and those who work around the world to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Read more:

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Queen Visits The Pope

The Queen fitted in a brief visit to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. They exchanged gifts during the visit which lasted around 20 minutes. 

This meeting came during the centenary of Britain re-establishing relations with the Holy See in 1914. There had been a divide for centuries after the schism caused by Henry VIII's divorce in the 1500's.

It was the Queen's seventh encounter with a Pope. She previously met Pius XII when she was the Princess Royal in 1951, John XXIII in 1961, John Paul II in 1980, 1982 and 2000, and Benedict XVI during his visit to the UK in 2010.

The gift for Pope Francis was a hamper filled with items from each of her estates (homes) including venison and whisky from Scotland, apple juice from Norfolk and honey from Buckingham Palace!

However the Pope indicated he would donate the contents to a “local poor house”. 

What would you give to Pope Francis as a gift? Do you think the Pope is right to give his present to the poor? Do you think the visit was as significant as some people were making out?

Read more: <Here> 
For Teachers: Download a lesson PPT <here>