Thursday, November 06, 2008

Stephen Whittaker RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Stephen Whittaker, a third year student of our seminary, who died in his sleep on 19th October.

Half Term had just begun that week so Stephen was at home with his family. We were informed by a member of staff who called every single Seminarian on the Tuesday evening to inform us of Stephen's death.

Upon our return to the Seminary we entered a week of mourning, meeting together every day to pray Midday Prayer for the dead.

On Monday last the entire student body, including those on Extended Pastoral Placement, travelled together to Manchester for Stephen's Requiem Mass at St Joseph's parish, Reddish. Mass was said by the Vicar General of Salford and concelebrated by the rector and priests of the Seminary and priests who knew Stephen. The Bishop of Salford had received his body into the church the previous evening and led a Holy Hour and given Benediction, which was beautifully appropriate as Stephen had a great devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Mass was beautiful, the Seminary schola sang the Psalm, the Contakion for the dead and In Paradisum. All agreed that Stephen would have greatly approved.

We then all went from the church to the cemetery where Stephen's Parish Priest led a very emotional Service of Commital and the Dean of Students intoned the Salve.

Please pray for Stephen's family and for all his brother Seminarians who greatly miss him and are currently trying to adjust to life without him.

Requiescat in Pace Ste!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Visiting the Travellers

As it is Half term this week I replaced my school day by joining the Sister who has pastoral care over the travelling communities in the Diocese. I asked to have some involvement with the travellers when I began my placement because they seem to be an important aspect of pastoral life in my Diocese.

It wasn't what I expected at all. I was expecting large families living in tiny caravans but in actual fact each family has built a makeshift house and has a few caravans parked outside, so they live in the house but sleep in the caravans. New mothers also have a caravan each in order to bond with the babies.

Sister told me all sorts of scary stories so I was very nervous at first but really enjoyed the experience when I discovered it was no different to visiting ordinary homes. The women were very hospitable. The men were a little suspicious, they are very protective of their property (which includes their women and children). However, when they saw me with Sister they assumed I was a priest and apologised.

They are in great need of prayers. They are hated by the local community and ignored by the local councils. The local school is populated entirely by travellers because the locals won't send their children there. They go over to Ireland every Christmas and the locals go and destroy their site. The road leading up to the site is treacherous but the council won't repair it because they are travellers.

Their culture is fascinating. Only the first generation were born and raised in Ireland, all generations beyond that were born in England, yet they all have Irish accents. This is simply because they pronounce words as they hear them and they don't meet English people as they rarely leave the site.

I had a very positive experience and look forward to visiting another site some time in the future.

More death

This seems to be a common theme of my placement, and with the darkness coming in thick and fast it is becoming a common theme of my life!

I did two more crematorium services last week and I wanted to share my experiences of one of them with you. It was a small gathering of family members. I was invited to the wake afterwards, I went because it was a privilege to be invited to a family home when they had only met me once for 15 minutes to plan the service. A couple of days later I received a Thank You card in the post.

I was deeply touched by this experience and realised just how important my presence and role is to people. It is experiences like this that make me sure Our Lord is truly calling me to priesthood.

Please continue to keep all Seminarians in your prayers.

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Blog

Anna Arco of Catholic Herald fame has published a blog on the Catholic Herald website. Its looking good so far and is now on our blogroll. Perhaps if we ask nicely she will add ours to hers?!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pilgrimage Prayers

Please pray for the Parish Priest and some of our parishioners who have just left to begin their week's pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Race Night

Last night I attended a fundraising evening in the parish. It was a race night. After every Mass over the last few weeks parishioners have been asked to sponsor 8 races and buy 64 horses in order to have an evening of simple betting whereby you pay 50 pence to back a horse and if it wins you win a cash prize.

At first I was a little wary as I don't like gambling and only intended to show my face. I had been coerced into buying a horse the week before and so the only one I intended to back was my own - I called it St Hippolytus. However, I got there and took a table with some parishioners, shared their food and drink and they encouraged me to back a horse in the first race - St Hippolytus was running in the seventh race.

By the end of the evening I had bet on at least one horse in every race, won 4 of them, St Hippolytus had won his race and so I was £20 up on the beginning of the evening.

It was a great evening and has given me ideas for fundraising events when I get back to Seminary!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Requiescat in Pace

The last couple of weeks have had a common theme in the parish - death.

The parish priest has a policy at funerals that the priest will do a Requiem Mass or Service in a church but graveside commitals and crematorium services are done by laymen. As I am a Seminarian I have first refusal whenever a funeral comes up.

Therefore I had my first graveside commital last week and two crematorium services this week. They all went very well. For the commital the Father lent me his Holy Water sprinkler and at the end of the rite I offered it to the family as I have seen done at numerous funerals. As one of the grandaughters sprinkled the lid came off the sprinkler into the grave. As it was an Irish funeral all the mourners cracked up, unfortunately the priest didn't see the funny side and has banned me from carrying out that practice again.

The crematorium services were very interesting. At the first one I was concentrating so hard on what I was doing I didn't notice the emotion of the mourners, which is normally so noticeable. When I met the family with the parish priest to arrange the service he told them it was my first time and the eldest son found this quite amusing. As they arrived at the crematorium I greeted the family and he turned to all the mourners and announced that it was my first time. At the end of the service he took my hand, thanked me and said, 'Ten out of ten, well done.' That meant a lot to me.

At the second one I was asked to read the eulogies the children of the deceased had prepared (something I don't mind doing at a crematorium service but I would not encourage at a Requiem Mass) and the emotion was very noticeable. I found it hard to keep the tears back as I read their beautiful words and listened to their crying. At the end they didn't shake my hand or thank me and I thought I had done something wrong. When I asked the parish priest he said that happens sometimes, they feel that now the funeral has happened they no longer need to deal with the Church and thus ignore Her ministers.

This evening I am meeting the son and daughter-in-law of a lady I will be cremating next week to arrange the service.

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.