News Parishes

Opening of our churches

We are awaiting clear guidance from the Bishops on how we may be able to open our churches again for public worship, after 4th July. What is certain though as we look towards reopening our churches after 4th July, is that every church that may wish to open for public worship will need to be able to fulfil all the various government requirements with regard to stewarding, hygiene and social distancing. We will need many volunteers aged between 18 and 69 years to monitor access to our Churches, ideally already DBS checked as this is also a requirement and who are not in the vulnerable or shielding groups. Permission will only be granted for public worship to resume in a church that has put in place all these government requirements, and completed a full Risk Assessment, in order that we may keep safe, and to help to avoid the spread of the corona virus. Guidelines and generic risk assessments are currently being prepared for us by the Diocese, after which we will need to assess each individual parish and await the Diocese to issue COVID-19 Secure certificate for each parish before any liturgies can be arranged. We ask for your patience and forbearance whilst all these safety measures are cascaded to us at parish level.

The following Churches in Leicester are open for private prayer only –

Sacred Heart, Leicester City East: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10.00 – 12.00; Wednesdays and Fridays, 17.00 – 19.00
Holy Cross, Leicester City: Tuesday to Sunday, 14.00 – 17.00

The following Catholic Churches are due to open shortly – please check the Diocesan Website as dates and times are yet to be confirmed
St. Patrick’s, Beaumont Leys Lane, Leicester City North
St. Joseph’s, Goodwood Road

Plans to open our Church buildings….

Bishop Patrick has sent details concerning the necessary preparation for the re-opening of our churches containing all the measures drawn up by the Government Task Force which need to be carried out, including the completion of a Risk Assessment document, before permission can be granted for a church to re-open for private prayer only.

Very few parishes will have the body of people available and be able to follow the directives. It is anticipated that as a first step only a limited number of churches in each Deanery will be open for private prayer, after consultation with the Dean and based on churches open during normal times.

We are celebrants not consumers!

Tom O’Loughlin, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham, has written an outstanding article on virtual Mass and liturgy during these COVID days. It has been attached as an addendum to this newsletter and can be found online on the ACTA webpage https://www.acalltoaction.org.uk/ along with commentaries on the Sunday Gospel by Dr Joseph O’Hanlon, priest of our Diocese.

Plans to open our Church buildings

Very detailed instructions on opening churches will be given when that time is appropriate. That is when the guidelines have been fully agreed by the Government and the Bishops’ Conference. At present there is a multi-faith task force, including Cardinal Vincent, working with the Government on this matter. Please see the following link for the Government’s latest comments on the task force and the reopening of places of worship: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-taskforce-developing-plan-to-reopen-placesof-worship.

Year of the Word: Acts of the Apostles in lockdown

With our improving grasp of technology, the Bible Study group has resumed virtually after an Easter break to share the treasure of Acts. Two chapters at a time (we are currently at chapters 5/6), this adventure book is providing us with an undeniably timely opportunity to discuss what it means to be church.

We discovered that many of us, in the past, had intended to read the whole book, but had never succeeded. The first chapters, then, are very familiar, as they are to anyone who would normally be attending Mass at this time of year. The conversations, however, are new, as we listen to the God who Speaks, here and now, to a small group of us who feel a bit lost. We have started a journey with a small group of people, witnesses to the resurrection, who used to be a community built around Jesus in his full humanity. As we read what happened when their focal point changed, we are considering what has happened and will happen to our own community as a result of the current change of focus. And it is so good to be able to do this together. We have shared our experiences, positive and frustrating, of attending Mass online and considered the application of what we have termed the ‘template’ of the church at the end of chapters 2 and 4 to our current situation.

Our group are using Zoom. We have no particular knowledge or expertise in this, but it is working for us. There are 8 participants, connected through 5 devices. We have found this a manageable number for discussion, now that we have learned to pause differently to allow others to speak. I have been to meetings with more participants, which have been more difficult and really require an active chairperson. It is also not possible to pray together, due to the delay from various devices, though I have attended an excellent interactive Mass from CAFOD, which was run more like a webinar.

For me, this has been an enriching experience, which is why I share it. Perhaps others have different ideas which could also be shared? I wonder if a network of groups would allow us to re-establish our connections and move us forward in a space where social distancing seems set to continue for a while. It would be great to hear other views. If anyone wants to know more about what we have done, feel free to email me on cmdanaher66@gmail.com

Celebrate our birthday

In the Gospel for Pentecost Sunday we hear about the Risen Lord “breathing” on his disciples. Breath is essential to our bodies. Our first breath marks the beginning of our earthly life as our last breath marks the end of earthly life. In the Book of Genesis we read of God breathing life into Adam (Genesis 2:7) and “thus he became a living being.” In breathing on his disciples, Jesus was giving life to the Church. Perhaps for this reason, Pentecost is known as the birthday of the Church – our first breath!
Our Church buildings remain locked, but some Churches are displaying notices reminding us that the Church is not a building – you are the Church, and you are to remain open! Pentecost Sunday this year might be a day to ponder how we might be and remain open to new ways of being Church without our communal prayer and without sacraments for the time being until our buildings do eventually reopen.
Cardinal Vincent Nicholls in pleading the cause for our Churches to be open, at least for private prayer, spoke of the “painful fast from Communion” and that we, as a Church, the Body of Christ, are all longing to receive communion.
Our Eucharistic fast

  • unites us with the disappointment and sadness of our young people of having First Holy Communion and Confirmation celebrations postponed as they too long for the sacraments.
  • connects us with those who were unable to be received into the Church throughout the world at Easter; they too like us are yearning for the sacraments.
  • empathises us with those who for whatever reason, be it lack of priest or marriage impediment, who will still be unable to receive communion when our buildings reopen and the celebration of the sacraments resume in time.
  • calls us to remember that our priests continue to celebrate daily Eucharist for us, continuing to minister to us in spiritual communion despite the loneliness and strangeness of their priestly ministry during these days.

Pentecost is the day when Jesus’s disciples waited patiently in longing for the Risen Lord and are empowered with the Spirit to be commissioned as the Body of Christ. Our Eucharistic fast will come to an end. Until then the Body of Christ (church), awaits the Body of Christ (sacrament).

Jackie Williams

Catholic Bishops’ Conference Update

CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE UPDATE AND RESPONSE TO GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT “OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: THE UK GOVERNMENT’S COVID-19 RECOVERY STRATEGY

The Government document states that the re-opening of public spaces including “public places of worship” will not take place until at least 4th July 2020. The full report and plan can be downloaded at gov.uk website.

Statement from the Catholic Bishops

The timing and the manner of the opening of churches touches profound sensitivities and spiritual needs. The Government’s document and statements fail to recognise this.

The Government’s position, established today, includes these steps aimed at opening churches as soon as possible: the establishment of a task force for places of worship, to work closely with ‘stakeholders’ in ensuring that premises are COVID-19 secure; and heeding the experience of other countries in which churches are already open for worship.

In dialogue with the Government, the Catholic Church will continue its engagement in this process and has already submitted a detailed plan, in full accordance with public health guidelines, for churches to be opened for private prayer.

The Church is ready to play its full part in the task force, understanding that this includes the possible earlier use of churches for private prayer, as a first safe step towards their use for public worship.

During the daily Government briefing on Wednesday 13th May the government confirmed that they will begin consultation and discussions with all faith leaders next week re the opening of places of worship prior to 4th July for private prayer only.

Live Streamed Masses are being offered for the Sick, their families, NHS staff and those working in social care. Cardinal Vincent Nichols has expressed his “deep appreciation” for all those caring for others during the coronavirus pandemic. Acknowledging the community solidarity behind the “Clap for our Carers” initiative Cardinal Nichols has said that “on Thursday evenings at 7.00pm, a Bishop will celebrate Mass in one of the cathedrals for the care workers.” These have already taken place at Westminster Cathedral, Arundel Cathedral, Leeds Cathedral and this last Thursday at Newcastle Cathedral The next two Thursdays they will be live streamed from:

Thursday 21st May Shrewsbury Cathedral https://www.shrewsburycathedral.org
Thursday 28th May Middlesbrough Cathedral middlesbroughrccathedral.org

Cardinal Nichols goes on to say “Use that time before 8.00pm on a Thursday to offer your prayers of thanksgiving for these generous, courageous people. We applaud, but we pray and we pray fervently for them. May God bless them all”

Who do you think you are

Each of us has a geneology, a family tree. In my own family tree there are famous and infamous characters, ordinary people and extraordinary people. They each have had an influence on me and who I am today, either consciously or intuitively. The Gospel of Matthew begins with the geneology of Jesus in much the same way bringing into his family tree many of the Old Testament individuals and their stories such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon, and finishes with Joseph of the Gospels, “husband of Mary”. Our ancestors and their stories to a certain extent explain who we are today and where we belong in the world.
Over the Easter season the Gospels give us a deeper insight as to who Jesus is and where he came from, not in the genealogical or geographical sense that was proclaimed to us at Christmas but from individuals such as Thomas proclaiming “My Lord and My God” and from Jesus himself letting his disciples recognise him in the Scripture stories and the breaking of bread at Emmaus. Jesus is also very specific in describing himself: “I am the gate of the sheepfold” and “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. When God revealed himself to Moses in the Old Testament he said “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14) so when the Jewish people around Jesus heard him making “I AM” statements they would have known instantly that he was relating himself to God.
This week we mark the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. The day also marks 40 days since we began to celebrate the Resurrection and we have 10 days left before the Easter Season comes to a close on the Solemnity of Pentecost.
At the Ascension Jesus gives a clear commandment to his disciples to baptise “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. We hear in the Gospel today the same baptismal formula that brought each of us into a unique and special relationship with the Risen Lord. By Baptism we are embedded ever more deeply into the family of God. By Baptism we are called into a relationship of trust and love that exists between God and each of his children (Romans 8:15 and Gal 4:6) By Baptism we are plunged into the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, what we now call the Paschal Mystery. Baptism gives a new and everlasting geneology as a member of God’s family, the ties of which cannot be broken or reversed, such is the unconditional and steadfast love the Risen Lord has for each of us!

Jackie Williams

Christian Aid Week (10 – 16 May)

‘Love never fails. Coronavirus impacts all of us. But love unites us all.’
Christian Aid Week has gone online. Information about prayer, events and fundraising can be found at: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/appeals/key-appeals/christian-aid-week
Sunday 10th May 11.00am live-streamed Christian Aid Week service with Dr Rowan Williams on Facebook and Film for Christian Aid Week 2020: Link to Florence’s story (YouTube)
You can pledge your donation online at https://www.christianaid.org.uk/

VE Day

Friday 8th May 2020 marks 75 years since VE (Victory in Europe) Day when the Second World War came to an end in Europe. The long anticipated news resulted in spontaneous celebrations breaking out across the nation. A national holiday was declared and people from all walks of life came together to mark the moment. Sadly plans to mark this historic day across England have been delayed as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Instead, you may like to mark the anniversary with your own VE Day celebration at home with the help of these on Friday –

  • 11.00am BBC One will lead a poignant two-minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. This national moment of remembrance will pay tribute to heroes of the past and present.
  • 2.45pm BBC One will broadcast Sir Winston Churchill’s famous victory speech in which he addressed the nation to announce the end of the war in Europe, which he made from 10 Downing Street on 8th May 1945. Commemorating the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe while in these unprecedented times of lockdown, will give everyone in the UK an opportunity to come together, albeit virtually, to pay tribute to the Second World War generation and show our gratitude to them for their service and sacrifice during the war. This is a pre-recorded event and will be presented by Sophie Raworth
  • ‘Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WW2’ will take place at 3.00pm, from the safety of your own home stand and raise a glass of refreshment of your choice and undertake the following ‘Toast’ – “To those who gave so much, we thank you,” to pay tribute to the many millions at home and abroad that gave so much.
  • Special message from HM The Queen who will speak at 9.00pm – the exact time her father spoke to the nation three quarters of a century ago.
  • BBC Local Radio station have launched an initiative in making your own VE Day Great British Bunting. Download everything you need including bunting templates at co.uk/makeadifference

(Please check press and TV guides as timings may change)

This will also be a day of personal reflection for many, remembering our parents, grandparents and great grandparents stories who fought for our freedom. On this day we remember with both pride and sadness all those who gave their lives in the service of their country and all those who lost loved ones in the WW2 conflict.

Today we are fighting a different kind of world war. On this historic day when we remember the sacrifices that brought about victory in Europe, let us pray for those in service of our nation today: our NHS, carers, and key workers and key services and for all those who have died as a result of the war on COV-19. May the service of our ancestors, their generosity and sacrifice, be it in the laying down of a life or in service on the home front to win their war, be an inspiration to each of us to win our war today. May their resolve, patience and forbearance during their darkest days shine as an example to remind us that light and victory will come for us also in our time.

Jackie Williams