Mgr Paul Grogan

Mgr Paul Grogan
Mgr Paul Grogan

Thursday, 31 May 2012

God bless Her Majesty!

I gave a brief impromptu speech in honour of the Queen this evening at our Diamond Jubilee Student Barbeque. I recalled how she exerted a good influence on public life precisely because she is a Christian sovereign. I mentioned that during her reign the United Kingdom has known long periods of peace. I also mentioned that successive prime ministers had benefitted from her long experience in world affairs. The Jubilee was a moment to be truly thankful. Then I said, "Let us offer a toast: 'Her Majesty the Queen!'" To a person the 20 or so students present stood up, raised assorted glasses and the toast rang out loud and clear. It was all rather moving. Students are not usually marshallable and shyness will prevent some from speaking publicly. At that moment, we were all caught up in a lovely dynamic in which pride, patriotism and fellow-feeling were expressed. Earlier in the day, we had put on a Jubilee High Tea for members of staff. Dominica Richmond, the Chaplaincy Administrator, had baked lots of delicious cakes and pastries. My job was to sit on the Chaplaincy Landing for an hour-and-a-half eating them while chatting to successive waves of staff bunking off work. Here are some of the barbeque students and beneath them our Principal, Professor Freda Bridge, sitting at the centre of a group of five during High Tea.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Beaming with pride

I had a lovely moment at St Winefride's Church, Wibsey, in south Bradford this evening. I attended the first of two back-to-back Confirmation services in this capacious building. Bradford Catholicism remains strong, as such numbers of children being confirmed illustrates. In recent years, a number of Catholic churches in the city have closed and parishes have joined together. The parish where I was parish priest, St John's, Buttershaw, has now merged with St Winefride's. In these circumstances, we know that it's not enough simply to belong; we need to belong wholeheartedly. We need to make as clear a statement spiritually as Lister's Mill, St George's Hall and City Hall - jewels of the wool era - make a statement architecturally. Our Confirmation Service this evening constituted such a statement. The girls outnumbered the boys: many of them are students at St Joseph's High School which was established by the the Cross and Passion Sisters, who co-founded Leeds Trinity. One mother came up to me afterwards and said: "This is Lizzie (not her real name). You used to throw her up in the air after Mass!" "That was eight years ago when you were only five, Lizzie. You won't remember me, but it's nice to see you. Congratulations!" "I do remember you," she said. What a great girl! So here she is, witnessing to Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a full member of the Church with her ex-parish priest beaming beside her.

Surpised by joy on the moors

I had a great day off on Monday. It started a little unpromisingly; I had to mark some scripts from students who had completed the sacraments module that I had taught for the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies. I say unpromisingly because this was work rather than leisure, but within a few minutes I was absorbed by what they had written. They were writing about the nature of baptism, how baptism and confirmation are distinct but related and about the theology of marriage. It was a pleasure to read how they engaged with the teaching of the magisterium and related it to scripture and their own experience. Then occasionally they would make connections that had never occurred to me and there, as I stared at the script, new horizons of understanding unfolded and I was party to some bold and direct theological enquiry resulting in beautiful if tentative conclusions.

It was lunchtime before I had got through all the scripts - I am a slow marker - and I set off for Ilkley Moor. As I was putting on my walking boots in the car, I listened to Richard Holloway, the former Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh, beginning the first in a series of programmes called "Honest Doubt." His basic thesis was that all thinking people doubt the existence of God, even those who, at other moments, believe in God's existence. He said that the universe had been evolving for a long time and that it was only in the last 50,000 years that man had reached a stage of self-awareness that he was able to question the purpose of his existence. He had created gods to give meaning to his life and had then had dismissed them and had embraced scepticism and accepted his own insignificance. We can never know that God exists, he said.

As I strode out across the moors - it was a 15-mile walk, beginning in Morton, with a restful cup of tea in Ilkley and then back via the fourth century BC swastika stone - I thought, with all due deference to an academic: "I disagree." The scenery was typically magnificent: broad shafts of light emerging from a thin bank of clouds illuminating Pendle to the west and Leeds and Bradford to the east, each attractive at a distance. I received this as a gift; it's frankly a bit hard  not to do so. I'd feel a bit daft thinking: "How extraordinary that I should chance upon such randomly occurring harmony." Also, as I looked around I didn't feel remotely insignificant. I felt very important: I was the recipient of the gift that I beheld. And what a gift!: I saw a grouse with all her chicks; a skylark; a roe deer; a pied wagtail; countless butterflies; banks of bluebells - I could go on. Halfway through the walk I remembered that one of the students had written about how in the Sacrament of Confirmation we receive not just the Gift of the Holy Spirit but also seven others gifts, one of which is knowledge. It occurred to me: I do know that God exists because he has granted me this knowledge. I can't, as it were, remove God from my life and then investigate whether he exists, needlessly adopting some kind of pseudo-scientific mode of enquiry, excluding from my consciousness all my lived experience of God's goodness. When push comes to shove, why on earth should I wish to divest myself of joy?

Monday, 28 May 2012

Cream cakes and song

It is often standing room only these days at St Patrick's Church, in inner city Leeds. I celebrated the Vigil and the Sunday morning Mass there this weekend. When I was a young priest St Patrick's was a massive church on the York Road, a symbol of the renaissance of the nineteenth century Catholic Church with the advent of Irish immigrants: that building - a short distance from the current one - still stands, but it is now used as a storage warehouse for the West Yorkshire Playhouse, I understand. Its closure as a church was sad but the atmosphere that I experienced today in its smaller replacement, a very modest building by comparison (though pleasing), is exciting. There were people there of all ages and from lots of different ethnic groups - and just about everybody sang! Moreover parish stalwart Ann Norman was celebrating her birthday and two other parish stalwarts, Patrick and Regina Stapleton, were celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary, so they forced me to eat cream cakes with them. Today especially I realised the truth of the dictum that the Church is the people within the building.

A ruby wedding anniversary

Forty years ago today, I attended a wedding (probably in short trousers), my first such, in the chapel of Leeds Trinity. I remember exactly where I sat with my family. My teacher, Miss Seager, was marrying Mr Rogers. As a young priest I met Mr Rogers again: he was the Headteacher at St Theresa's Primary School, in north Leeds and one who was very highly respected by his colleagues; I was a curate in the parish. This evening I celebrated the Mass to mark Keith and Teresa's ruby anniversary. It was a great occasion and many of their friends gathered for it. Some had not been to Leeds Trinity for forty years. After my homily Keith and Teresa came up to the sanctuary and I gave them the blessing which the Church offers for such occasions. After Mass they invited me to join them for the reception. Ordinarily I don't linger at such events, but this evening was different. All around me were seasoned Catholic teachers, most of whom had recently retired, all of whom are imbued with the faith. I felt greatly encouraged by my several conversations. I think that we will look back on the seventies, when their teaching careers began, as a highpoint of Catholic culture in our country. Every advance now seems somehow so hard won, in contrast. I left the party and felt a little bit deflated. Then a friend rang: "My daughter has decided to get confirmed," she told me delightedly. The Holy Spirit has won through again. If only 13-year-olds knew what they put us through! Here are Keith and Teresa and their two daughters by the Easter Candle.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Boating and Mass at an ancient shrine

On Thursday I had an important meeting with the Principal. I said that I had to leave after half an hour, not specifying the reason but giving the impression that I had to attend to something pretty monumentally important. "Enjoy your day out in Knaresborough," she said as I exited. My cover had been blown. We were going on a Chaplaincy outing to this beautiful Yorshire town just north of Harrogate. After some rather chaotic boating on the River Nidd, we had tea overlooking the water and then gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Crag. Julie, one of its custodians, gave us a fascinating talk about its history: it is believed to date from the fifteenth century but may well be much more ancient; it has connections with the Knights Templar one of whose training camps was nearby. Then I celebrated Mass on an outdoor altar; the sound of the birdsong in the silence after Communion was breathtaking. Afterwards we walked along the riverside path saying the Glorious Mysteries while teams practising for the famous Knaresborough Bed Race sped past us and joggers dodged between us, and the reflection of the handsome railway viaduct on the waters of the river beneath us was slowly elongated by the declining sun in a cloudless sky. The day, we might say, lived up to our expectations!

Substance and fun

Last weekend we had a Chaplaincy trip to Sutton near St Helen's for the annual Mass in honour of Elizabeth Prout, the nineteenth century foundress of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion. In a fascinating address during the Mass, Sister Elissa Rinere, one of the order's sisters in the United States, told us that a team of theologians attached to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints has recently concluded that Elizabeth Prout possessesd the virtues of faith, hope and charity to a heroic degree. Their work has to be scrutinised by a commitee of cardinals and other scholars but it now seems quite likely that she may be declared Venerable, the first stage in a process which may lead towards canonisation. It's all exciting stuff: another saint for England! We are pictured at her tomb, which is adjacent to the tomb of Blessed Dominic Barberi who received Blessed John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. In the centre of our gang at the back is Sister Dominic Savio who was recently awarded a doctorate for her work on Elizabeth Prout's life and writings. Leeds Trinity was co-founded by the Sisters. Afterwards we had a tour of Liverpool Cathedral and then had a pizza in the atmospheric Albert Dock. We do substance; but we also do fun.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Head and heart engaged

We've been working hard in the last couple of days on our forthcoming conference: "Vatican II, fifty years on: the new evangelisation." All the signs are good. The programme has been finalised. In addition to the lectures from very eminent theologians and Church leaders - and they are very eminent! (see programme) - there are forty shorter papers by a series of academics and pastoral practitioners. This morning, I went with my colleague Professor Kirsteen Kim (Head of Theology and Religious Studies) to Durham where we met with Professor Paul Murray, Head of the Centre for Catholic Studies, who is helping us plan the event.

This evening, after Mass, I did something totally different: I joined in a prayer meeting in the Leeds Trinity chapel to ask the Lord to bless an event which is happening three months after the conference: a two-week ecumenical mission which is taking place in Horsforth and in which we will be participating in - it'll be great for Freshers' Week. A group of about twenty of us from a number of churches in the town, walked between temporary boards displaying particular prayer needs associated with the mission and offered spontaneous petitions; and we gazed upon a big map of our area - fifteen metres long - laid out on the floor, and said more prayers for the local inhabitants.

So at one moment today, I was reflecting on what the new evangelisation is; and at another moment I was doing it, in company with evangelical, Baptist, house church, Catholic and Anglican brothers and sisters. It would help me to be able to measure the fruits of these activities. How far will our conference further the conversion of our nation? How will our prayers for the mission be efficacious? We cannot know. However, that both will make a significant difference is beyond question to one who has faith. Here is a picture of our gang this evening with the map on the floor beneath:

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Praying well and looking good

We had a brain storming meeting at Hinsley Hall today to plan for the School of Prayer next year. This is a two-day event which the diocesan Vicariate for Evangelisation runs at Leeds Trinity: the Friday session is for teachers, the Saturday session is for everybody else. It has worked well over the last four years. The 2013 School is to run on 1st and 2nd February and the workshops are provisionally as follows: the prayer of faith and Youcat; gesture and movement in the Dominican tradition of prayer; Eucharistic spirituality; and meditating upon the Angelus. I'm looking forward to it already. I'd book straightaway if I were you: . Here's Linda Pennington, the diocesan Coordinator for Catechesis, who led us in the discussion.

Afterwards I returned to Leeds Trinity for a photo shoot. They didn't train us for this at seminary. We are going to have a panel put up on the wall of the Chaplaincy Landing with a picture of students discussing YouCat and next to it Pope Benedict's words: "There is nothing more beautiful than to know Christ and to speak to others of our friendship with him." I hope that it will be up in time for our forthcoming conference on the New Evangelisation because, frankly, it'll make the Chaplaincy look "of the moment." We had a proper YouCat session beginning with a prayer, and then discussed Paragraph 153, "The Resurrection of the Body" while Tania Clarke, our ever-helpful Marketing and Communications Manager, caught it all on film. The students' comments were as insightful and probing as ever: will we look like we do now?; will we have a relationship to everybody in every generation?; how can I not have a special love for my husband and children in heaven, a love which is greater than my love for others? Because the discussion was in a public place rather than in my flat, it became an act of witness in itself. We'll hold our YouCat sessions there from now on. I hope that I look friendly but authoritative on the picture.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

First confessions

I had a pleasant evening hearing confessions this evening. It was at a service for the families at Ss Peter and Paul's Parish, Yeadon whose children are soon to make their First Holy Communion. I made my first confession in the same church 41 years ago. Mgr John Wilson preached very directly on Jesus as the shepherd who rescues the lamb that has gone astray. Lots of people were grinning during his  homily - and that was before they had been to confession! All the children knew by heart the introductory line - "Bless me Father for I have sinned. This is my first confession," - and the Act of Contrition. They were assured and confident. Congratulations to headteacher Mrs Diane Todd and her team, pictured with Mgr Wilson under the statue of Our Lady after the service. And of course, lots of parents, inspired by their children, took the opportunity to receive the sacrament too. "Thanks for coming," one of the teachers said as I headed home. "Not at all," I said. "It was.." I couldn't think of the word immediately; "..well, it was a joy actually."

Monday, 14 May 2012

The priest does not have a home

Striding down the lane from Heptonstall to Hebden Bridge in Calderdale this afternoon, on the final straight of a seven-mile walk, looking forward to a celebratory cup of tea at the bottom I met a smartly dressed man about my age walking up the lane. "It's much better going down!" I ventured. "No, going up is better. That's where home is!" The way he said it, the look on his face as he said it, I knew he was talking not just about his abode but about loved ones. He is clearly a man who appreciates his family. The thought of his candid and straightforward avowal of what is important in life put a trip in my step as I reflected on it for the remainder of the descent. And, of course, it made me think a little too of the differences in our life situations. Priests do not ordinarily have homes. That's something that lads who are thinking about the priesthood have to come to terms with in time. Canon Belton, may he rest in peace, with whom I did a parish placement as a seminarian, told me that when the second parent of a priest dies and the family home ceases to be such, it marks a significant new phase in the man's priesthood and, like many of my brothers, I have found that to be true. This not having a home is part of the understated asceticism of diocesan priesthood and hence, (hopefully!) a means of our sanctification. We are to be generally (though not always, thank God!) available, and so we should be. Moreover, we must always be ready to move in response to pastoral needs.

Mind you, the ascetical side of our life can be overstated. When I moved into Leeds Trinity, the Principal ensured that I got a new carpet and a new dining room table and side-board and the bathroom was renovated. The other day I said to one of the students, "Do you know, I rather like being here." The student, who if he is like most of his peers, has to choose between the chips or the pie for lunch because he can't afford both, said "I bet you do. You have a bijou bachelor pad with a guest bedroom. I'd like being here too if I had everything that you have." He had a point!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Preaching the word

I wrote my homily for this evening's Mass yesterday afternoon. I think that's the most organised I've been in eighteen years. I'm at a loss what to do this afternoon. I am missing the stress of the impending deadline. I love preaching. I was struck when I read the lapidary line in Sacramentum caritatis (2007): "...the quality of homilies needs to be improved (46)." Mine certainly do! You're only ever as good as your last gig. No preacher is always on form. I have been to a couple of workshops organised by the College of Preachers, an Anglican foundation which operates ecumenically, and I found them both very encouraging. The key thing about preaching, I think, is that it is the preacher's gift to the congregation. At a birthday party, if I give somebody a £10 book token and somebody else gives that person a Ferrari, my book token remains significant. In the Church we are en famille: I pray about the readings, I reflect on my own experience, I throw in an anecdote if one comes to mind (apparently three or four recur regularly, the students say!) and I seek to communicate something of my own joy as a believer. Job done! If I try to be impressive, it invariably comes out all wrong. Why should I seek to impress members of my family? They know me; they are ready to accept my gift. If I remember to be straightforward and respectful, I can generally sense that some kind of authentic interaction has occurred, enough for the Holy Spirit, who inspired me in the first place, to do further work in the hearts and minds of my auditors.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Being direct about vocation

We had a good meeting yesterday at Oscott College, Birmingham, on promoting vocations to the priesthood. I met with Fr Stephen Langridge, the Chairman of the Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors, and Fr Paul Moss, Vocations Director for Birmingham. It was a planning session for our annual national conference in November. A key thing that emerged for me from our conversation was the need for us to be direct about inviting young men to consider the priesthood. There are sensitivities to be observed. We cannot do this in such a way as to suggest that everybody who isn't a priest is just an "also ran." But equally we cannot simply say that everybody is called by God and hope that some young men may decide to approach us about the priesthood. I think that the trick is to help create a culture of personal generosity among young people through good group catechesis, worship, and volunteering initiatives. Then as priests we need to spend time with them. Very naturally a moment comes when we say to a particular young man (usually upon reaching a good view on a long walk), "Have you ever thought about the priesthood?" The fact that we have a special interest in his vocation does not mean that we are uninterested in lay and religious vocations. On the contrary, if this man does go on and get ordained he will exercise his ministry serving his brothers and sisters in the Church. I think most young Catholics are cool about this - to use youth parlance! They don't think I'm a clericalist or a misogynist because I devote quite a lot of time to accompanying young men who wish to explore the priesthood. They just want me to get on with encouraging some of their peers to be as generous in offering their lives in the priesthood as they hope to be in, for example, the state of marriage.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Feeling Christ's strength

I had a good day off yesterday - I went for a walk around Kirkby Overblow and Sicklinghall between Harrogate and Wetherby. The bluebells and the wild daisies in the hedgerows contrasted nicely with the vibrant yellow of the oil seed rape in the fields. I saw great tits, red kites and a skylark ascending, pouring out his song all over the surrounding countryside. Halfway round I popped into the Catholic church at Sicklinghall which is part of St Joseph's Parish, Wetherby, where I did my first curacy. Sunday Mass has not been celebrated in Sicklinghall for some years: the number of Masses has had to be reduced due to the shortage of priests. As I sat there in the quiet, remembering the many weddings at which I had officiated there in summers past, the fact of our decline as a Church struck me quite forcibly. No doubt more churches will have to close or lose the Sunday Mass in the years to come. Yet, I was also struck by our unassailable resilience. The sanctuary lamp indicating the Blessed Sacrament burned near the tabernacle in the church. Christ will not withdraw his presence from us, so we have nothing to fear. Outside I said a prayer at the attractively carved grave of Bishop Cornthwaite, the first Bishop of Leeds. He did his work then; we do ours now; Christ sustains and unites us, uses us for his purposes and draws us to himself; really, notwithstanding all our heartache, where's the problem?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Confirming three young women

I had the great privilege of confirming three young women this evening. Bishop Roche kindly delegated to me his powers of confirmation for this occasion. Two of the women - Sophie Swain and Claire Burke, both primary education students - were member of the class I taught for the Catholic Certificate of Religious Studies earlier in the year. The third, Terrimarie McKeown, graduated a couple of years ago and currently works as a carer for one of our disabled students: we have known each other for several years. I've greatly enjoyed meeting up with them in recent months. It was clear to me from the outset that each was firmly resolved to become a full member of the Church. We have used YouCat as a basis for our discussions and it has been very frutiful. This evening their parents, friends and boyfriends attended the Confirmation Mass, which was our usual 6pm Mass. The young womens' decision has clearly made an impact across their circle of acquaintance. I said to one of them, half in fun, that next year I might just announce that I would hold Confirmation classes for anybody who had missed out on this sacrament as a teenager. "I think you should," she said. So I will. Here are a few pictures of our joyful evening. The lower ones are of the girls with their families, sponsors and boyfriends. Thank you to Dominica and John for preparing our post-Mass champage (-type) reception! This was certainly one of the highpoints of our Chaplaincy year.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A new vocations group is launched

We went on a six-mile "Faith Walk" to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Grace in Osmotherley today. The "we" is a new group called the Vocations Pathways Group which is aimed at young practising Catholics aged 15 and over who want to develop their faith and discern how God is calling them to serve in his Church. It is a joint initiative between Middlesbrough and Leeds Dioceses. Eight young people turned out for our inaugural trip. We hope to have a number of such walks each year. When we got on the top of the North York Moors it began to snow so we had our sandwiches crouched under fir trees. After warming tea and cakes, Fr Massie, the vocations director of Middlesbrough, gave us a great talk on the theme "Saying 'yes' with Mary" and then we processed up to the shrine chapel, saying the joyful mysteries of the rosary (in keeping with his exposition of the story of the Annunciation). Fr Damien Humphries osb gave a beautiful homily at the Vigil Mass on the need to "remain in" the Lord and after Mass (and more tea) he gave us a fascinating talk on the history of the shrine. One of the many things that I learnt is that Katherine of Aragon was a patroness of the Carthusians, who once owned the chapel, and her coat of arms is inscribed in its principal window. Moreover there is talk of a beatification process.

The walk nearly did not take place at all because these days safeguarding requirements are so stringent: we needed to have four designated adults in order that we would have two adults to accompany a child to hospital in the event of an accident and two to remain with the group. Fortunately, staunch Catenian John Wood, who helped Celia Blackden at the Vocations Office and me set the group up, persuaded two of his fellow parishioners in the Parish of Ss John Fisher and Thomas More, Burley in Wharfedale, to join us. In fact, the presence of John and Michael Hanogue and Rosalia Roberts was not just a safeguarding necessity, it was an enrichment of the event: they testified to their particular vocation as lay people in the very act of accompanying the young people. It all felt balanced and right. The picture above was taken outside the shrine and the one below shows us all standing by the lady statue with Fr Damien in the middle. If you are on Facebook, there are full details on the page of the Vocations Pathways Group.

These young people are inspirational. They face a lot at school. "I thought you were intelligent, I didn't realise you were a Catholic," one of those on the walk was told recently. They value the faith: "I love confession. I go every fortnight," said one today. It was moving seeing them lined up for our photo in front of the shrine. "It's going to be up to you soon," I said. They'll be ready for it.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Vatican II and the Bible

We had a fascinating evening yesterday. Mgr Kieran Heskin gave the men's discernment group a talk on how the Second Vatican Council helped us to understand the bible. He provided an overview of the history of biblical criticism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Then he showed how the original draft of Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) was rewritten in order to take account of the new Catholic understanding of the importance of scripture consequent upon studies of the early Church and the writings of the Fathers. He also showed how our awareness of God's speaking to us is rooted in Jewish worship. Three insights struck me especially. Firstly, God does not reveal things about himself; he reveals himself, indeed all of himself. Secondly, the New Testament is "hidden" in the Old Testament. Thirdly, Christ is fully present to us in his word, as he is in the Eucharist. The talk followed a holy hour during which lots of the lads went to confession, thanks to Fr Pasquino Panato, the Comboni Missionary whose community house is opposite the College. Afterwards we went for a bite to eat at Cafe Marinetti in Hosforth and I had Saltimboca alla romana. Not all the lads are ready to appear on a photograph, but here are some members of the group, which also happily comprises Middlesbrough men. Mgr Heskin is second from the left and my friend Fr William Massie, Vocations Director for Middlesbrough Diocese, is just behind him. The group meets every month at Leeds Trinity and we're always glad to receive new members.

Facing a hundred 15-year-olds

I went to All Saints' Catholic High School in Huddersfield to give a start-of-day presentation on Christian Vocation to one hundred 15-year-olds. I have always enjoyed this kind of thing. When teenagers are all looking in the same direction they forget about the need to be coolly dismissive of everything to do with Christianity: you can see yearning in their faces - well at least for a while! I told them stories about the two beati mentioned by Pope Benedict in his recent 2012 World Youth Day Message: Chiara Badano and Pier Giorgio Frassati. Then I read them the story of the Annunciation and said that we thought Mary was about their age when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her. They were still on board - and indeed they were a credit to the school throughout - but by this stage, half an hour in, attention was inevitably waning a bit. Right, I thought, I'll finish by enthusing about the priesthood. By this stage, however, I knew that I was flagging and after eighteen years as a priest, I am sure of one thing: children pereceive weakness with unerring accuracy. I nodded at the very able Assistant Chaplain, Rebecca Coyle who had assured me just before the assembly that, if I needed it, she had discovered a great DVD on YouTube about the priesthood. She pressed a button and the best resource I have ever seen on this subject appeared on screen. That's what I call team work! Entitled "To be a Priest," the DVD has been produced by the Vocations Office of the Diocese of Rockville Center in the United States. Here is the site: . At the end, Miss Coyle invited the students to applaud me. Whatever they are paying her, they ought to double it. Here is a picture of two of the lads from the year group who helped me set everything up and the headteacher, Miss Anita Bodurka, who kindly gave me a coffee afterwards.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Evangelising Britain

We had an important planning meeting today for the forthcoming international theological conference which is to take pace here at Leeds Trinity. It's entitled "Vatican II, Fifty Years On: The New Evangelisation" and will run between 26th and 29th June. Though I say so myself the list of lecturers is impressive: Archbishop Fisichella (below), who is the President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation (and who taught me when I was at seminary - not, I'm sure that he is aware of that fact!), Cardinal George of Chicago, Cardinal Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelisation and a host of leading Catholic theologians, such as Professors Gavin D'Costa, Tracey Rowlands and Mathijs Lamberigts. Every continent on the earth is represented (apart from the polar regions). It'll be (one might say without a touch of hyperbole)  the most significant event in the Catholic Church in Britain since the Papal Visit. You could be there. Any educated Catholic who loves the Church will find it stimulating and energising. Here's the website link: .

With the conference still in my mind, I watched an interview this evening with Archbishop Fisichella on Salt and Light Television. He described how the new evangelisation requires a new enthusiasm to share our faith. I was interrupted by a knock on the door by a student who had asked to see me about being baptised. Why do you want to be baptised? I asked. "I want to take part in the life of the Church," she said. "I want to give myself in the faith, I want to share my faith with others." No sooner had she gone than a young man arrived who has been thinking off and on about the priesthood. "For the moment I just want to concentrate on responding to the universal call to holiness," he said. People in my generation didn't use to speak in these terms when we were young. Sharing our faith was simply not a priority. Responding to God's call seemed to be the preserve of those who were called to the priesthood and religious life. I think I'm perceiving the first beginnings of a change.