There is always something exciting about a fresh start. As Christians we have two opportunities in quick succession. The Church’s Year begins a month or so before the calendar New Year, and here we are again at the beginning of Advent. I have told you before that Advent is a favourite season of mine. It is full of hope and expectation and is a reminder to us that the Christian is always called to be on the alert. There is the warmth of the Christmas story and of all those childhood memories, when we were first introduced to a God, who came among us as a child and spoke to us in our own language. Let’s do everything we can again to make Advent everything we would want it to be for our children, so that when we celebrate Christmas with them, the feast itself doesn’t become an anti-climax.
You will have noticed that during the autumn season I have sewn a number of seeds in the hope that our two parishes will continue to reflect deeply on how to ensure that we continue to flourish in the future. There has been the ‘Open Letter’, which has circulated widely and which is beginning to draw some challenging and helpful responses. I realise that it is long and some may not yet have found the time to sit down and read it, but I do urge everyone to do so. Genuinely, it is an invitation to you all to join in a conversation about the future. I deliberately did not choose to ask a lot of questions, but simply present my own take on what is happening, borne of my experience over a lifetime as a priest and particularly as your parish priest during the past six years. And of course it is not written in isolation. A similar conversation is taking place across the diocese: note the Archbishop’s three year plan, leading to a synod in the autumn of 2020, and stressing the importance of the Eucharistic Congress in our city next autumn. Our own Redemptorist Provincial Council recently went away for a three day workshop in an attempt to help us clarify our priorities as we try to remain faithful to our special charism as preachers of God’s Word to those most in need. Come the end of next year, we will be in the process of electing a new Provincial and Provincial Council for the following four years, which may precipitate changes of personnel in our different communities, and that is another reason why I am keen that we ensure that in both our parishes we have robust structures in place to ensure that we can cater for both the spiritual and material needs of all our people.
With the Eucharistic Congress next September and the Archbishop’s invitation to seize the opportunity of renewing our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and our prayer-life in general, I suggest we do not have far to look for a focus of our attention in the New Year. It would be wonderful if we could re-establish a full day of Exposition on Wednesdays in Bishop Eton and maybe find ways of having Exposition at St Mary’s as well. With a little imagination we may be able to conjure up all sorts of ways of deepening our spiritual lives. I am hoping Archbishop Malcolm will be able to visit our primary schools early in the year and talk to the staff and children about the Eucharistic Congress and how we can be involved, and maybe find an opportunity to meet with him as parishes at the same time. Watch this space and have a wonderful blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
Timothy Buckley, CSsR (Parish Priest)