Updates from the Parish Priest
Father Paul's Blog will now be published weekly. The next instalment will be on Saturday 23rd October 2021
Saturday 16th October 2021
I need to settle into this new routine, and a meeting with the Tekkies in the week helped to fix for all of us that Saturday Morning would be the ideal time for sending the new Weekly Blog over to them, to do whatever magic it is that uploads it onto the website.
Picking up from last week’s drivel, I left you all with bated breath and panting hearts [shome mishtake shurely? Ed] at Saturday lunchtime. Two Baptisms then, the Flannagans at 12.00 noon and the Collins’ at 1.00 pm. A moment of panic when I saw our old friends from Rowton Mass, Tony and Leslie Collins, sitting there, large as life, at 11.45. I haven’t made a mistake, have I, and got the times wrong? Fortunately, no: they were friends of the Flannagan family, and wanted to sit through their Baptism first before their own an hour later. Fine, great to see you – the only snag being that I have just one set of Baptism jokes, as they were about to discover…
Saturday afternoon was a very pleasant catch-up with Jack and Jessica, marrying here on 4th November. Jack was seven when I first met him in 1997 when I arrived at St Luke’s Bebington. He was a lovely little boy, with his two younger sisters and smashing mum and dad, all pillars of the Parish. I don’t know whether to be surprised or just delighted that twenty-four years later, he has grown into a lovely young man, with an equally super young lady in his life. I’m thrilled skinny to be marrying them both here, their home now down in Crystal Palace in South London. It’s the bride’s prerogative, of course, to choose where and how to marry, but delighted they want to come back to Cheshire to tie the knot, and that they asked yours truly to do the bizz.
Numbers last Sunday continue to show that steady increase I was hoping for. Three weeks ago, it was 369, then 372 a fortnight ago, and up to 380 last week. Another couple of Baptisms at 1.00 and 1.30 pm, and then a chance to settle down with a sandwich and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, a powerful novel which first appeared in Charles Dickens’s periodical Household Words, in weekly parts, September 1854 to January 1855. Its immediate predecessor was Dickens’s own Hard Times, both novels set in the industrial north and focusing on labour relations in the cotton industry.
Talking of slave labour conditions in the industrial north, time on Tuesday to let our two Tekkies out of their basement for a short celebration of all at they’ve done for us in the last twenty months. I don’t begin to understand what’s involved in uploading the blog every day. I volunteered last Christmas to do it myself if it could be explained to me in words of one syllable. Their reaction was strongly worded: “You leave the blessed thing alone! If you start trying to do it yourself, you’ll gum up the entire works. Pain as it is for us to have to do it every day, we’d rather do it ourselves, qualified tekkies, highly trained experts, than have some half-witted priesty-person interfering.” OK. Fine, sorry I asked. But not sorry. Know where I’m not wanted.
So, Tekkie One (Brian McMahon) and Tekkie Two (Pete Penson), a thousand thanks to you both for looking after the blog every day for the past twenty months. It’s meant not just the work but actually being there every tea-time to press the buttons, click the mouse, do whatever it is you do to bring to my adoring public this cascade of golden prose. [Shurely ‘Usual load of old rubbish’? Ed]
Here’s a lovely photo from the Year Seven Welcome Mass at the Catholic High School last Friday: three generations of Kenyons! John is our excellent Club Steward, as you all know: on the other side, his son Niall, and between them, Niall’s son Finlay. As well as starting all his High School lessons, Finlay is also a dab hand, I gather, at pulling pints and mixing cocktails. It’s never too early to learn!
Great to hear from our dear friend Lionel Dumont in the week, out in Japan but still missing Chester:
Dear Fr. Paul,
I hope you are doing well and keeping safe. It has been some time since I last wrote and I apologise for the delay.
How are you keeping? I have read that Masses are back and restrictions are slowly being lifted which must mean some normalcy returning. Will you need to take a booster shot? I am all fully vaccinated now so a positive on that front.
I am fine and still in Japan. We have just had a state of emergency lifted and was able to attend Mass today and extremely delighted for it. Really difficult for the industry at the moment but I am thankful for God’s graces and that I have a job. Hopefully it will start to pick up soon. I am not sure what God’s plan are for me next and I will keep you posted.
Please take care and love from our family to you and all at St Werburgh’s.
Lots of love,
Booster shot? Moi? How very dare he – I’m nowhere near old enough…
And great to hear that Ed Black completed his London Marathon last weekend, with his proud parents Simon and Consilia to watch him over the finishing line. His time was 3:48:23. (Three days, forty-eight hours and twenty-three minutes? – fantastic!) And a total of £2,800 raised. Well done, Ed!
Finally, our own John O’Sullivan has done another excellent edition of the SVP Prisons Newsletter, and here it is:
May God bless you all,
Sunday 10th October 2021
And so the Blog goes weekly - and not a moment too soon, judging by how these days are filling up. I will always have some affection for the days of Lockdown, March 2020 to July 2021, for the space they gave for writing blogs, reading books, going on dreamy walks along the riverbank or round the racecourse. But there’s no mistaking that those days are well and truly over.
Total numbers last Sunday were slightly up on the week before, 372 against 369. The Chester Marathon (Triathlon? Doodathlon? Who knows?) certainly impacted the 10.45 numbers, and the weary runners were still dragging their poor bodies past the church when the two Baptisms were under way at 1.00 pm and 1.30 pm. Arielle at 1.00 was the first child of Ian and Gemma, married here four years ago; and Maxwell at 1.30 was another grandchild for the eternally youthful Trudy Jones from Waverton. So good to see husband Bob there, looking good after his recent medical treatment. Well done, Bob!
10.45 Mass witnessed the Reception into the Church of Shaun Hingston, the young man from Saltney who’s been coming for weekly instruction since February. A joy to welcome him into the Werbies Family, with his mother brother and great-grandmother:
2.30 pm when I eventually lock up, a sandwich and a mug of coffee, and there isn’t a lot of time before thinking about opening up for the 6.00 pm Mass. Followed, as always in Term Time, by CathSoc. This was our second session, and a “Meet the Wrinklies” evening, greeting our old friends, David, Jane, Geoff and Jill, Eileen not able to be with us – and welcoming new Wrinklies, Lal, Bernice, Paul and Natasha. Lal needs no introduction, and great to have her on board, having both her children either through University or still there. Nor does Bernice need any intro. But here’s a quiz question and a half. I myself wouldn’t have had a clue: what subject did Lal read at University?
Paul and Natasha met at Liverpool University CathSoc and married four years ago. Delighted to hear on Sunday that they are now expecting their first child. Congratulations, both! And when Junior appears, he or she will be the youngest Wrinklie by a factor of at least 82 years… That’s Natasha on the far left:
David and Jane, in the photo below, met at London University Catholic Chaplaincy in 1955!
Here’s a profile shot of Madame Prezzie, with a pensive Geoff next door, then the two Pauls – could be brothers? – and Bernice. Thanks one and all for your support for our Students here in Chester.
Monday morning was Taskforce as usual, then into Abbey Gate College for another session with their two Oxbridge hopefuls, a mathematician and a musician, before heading off to St Francis to join all the Friars for lunch for their Feast Day, St Francis of Assisi. Very sorry to hear news that Fr Adrian had had a fall and broken his hip, now in the Countess, awaiting surgery. We all send him our warmest best wishes for a speedy recovery. Bros Jinson, Michael, Piotr and Jim allowed me to join them for an excellent lunch, cooked by Bro Michael, before heading into the High School for a meeting with the School Chaplain.
Tuesday was Peter Thornton’s Requiem Mass, Mary being joined by other members of their family and many, many Chester friends of Peter and Mary. Lots of non-Catholics – you could tell by how well the hymns were sung. Zoom lesson with Bro Edmund from Ampleforth afterwards and time to get ready with Louise for the First Holy Communion Launch Meeting. We had to cap numbers at 20, and we’re sorry for those who contacted us after the deadline, but with such high numbers we regrettably had to ask them to think about next year instead. It will mean two groups, which is double the work for Louise and her team, for which we are all extremely grateful. A splendid group of parents gathered for the Launch at 6.30 pm, the majority of whom had already had children through the programme. It was a case of greeting a lot of old friends as well as a few new ones. Welcome, one and all!
Wednesday was Giuseppe Labella’s Funeral, many of you remembering Giuseppe and Anna from their time running Mamma Mia restaurant here in Chester and then Labella’s out in Kelsall. A full afternoon in our High School, meeting a young student who moved here from overseas, and missing out on her First Confession as a result, even though she made her First Holy Communion when she arrived here. No problems in fixing that one up! Then good sessions with the Year 11 and Year 12 Oxbridge potentials, and a chance to work with our Year 13 mathematician on his Personal Statement, all Oxbridge applications due in by 15th October.
Thursday morning saw me up in Our Lady’s Birkenhead for Tom Farrell’s Requiem Mass. This was the Pro-Cathedral of the Diocese for some years. A very beautiful church, it is right in the North End, the Docks area of the town, and was almost destroyed in the bombing of the last war, the Parish Priest, Canon Tallon, and Housekeeper killed in one particularly deadly air raid:
That same night, Wallasey Town Hall took a direct hit:
In case you’re wondering that’s the Organ totally destroyed. Cue our Thursday evening meeting, the re-Launch of the Choir, and an amazing twenty-two turning up, some new faces, some old, some positively ancient. It was a chance for our new Choir Leader, Tom Rozario to outline his ideas, and for everyone to contribute theirs, as we take the Choir forward into the next exciting chapter of its history. Here’s Olive from Orford modelling her suggestion for the new Choir Vestments:
Friday morning was the Year Seven Welcome Mass at the High School, parishioners invited for the first time. Good to be over there with them all, and praying for these eleven-year-olds, that they’ll have a much more normal education than has been possible any time in the last twenty months.
Straight from the High School to Reg, our 93-year-old potential convert, for Conversation II. Last week it was “In what sense is the Catholic Church the Church Christ founded, and in what sense is it not?” Today, “What does the Catholic Church mean by Authority, Tradition and Magisterium?” I gave Reg the big Catechism of the Catholic Church as a reference tool; blow me, he’s read up to page 150 already!
Saturday morning was Berwyn Mass, and great to welcome two of our younger SVP members, Craig and Teresa, to join us. Chatting to Craig afterwards, he shared all my initial impressions, that these prisoners are quite different from what one might imagine, so much younger, so much nicer and more approachable, so much easier to engage in conversation, both during the Mass when we go round and ask everyone for their individual prayers and in the tea and coffee session afterwards.
Mind you, dressed in his tee-shirt and jeans, looking so young himself, and with the requisite amount of designer stubble, I had to remind Craig to make sure they let him out afterwards…
Next Blog: Saturday 16th October!
May God bless you all,
Saturday 2nd October 2021
As I sit down, 5.00 o’clock, to write this final Daily Blog before opening up for Evening Mass at 5.30 pm, an email pings into my inbox from Dr Sam, one of our most faithful bloggers, and a wonderful personal friend. Sam left the Catholic High School ten years ago to start his Medical Training up at Edinburgh a city with which he totally fell in love. He was stupid enough, you may remember, to invite me up to visit. I met an amazing city and an unforgettable crowd of fellow students. Sam was brilliant at keeping in touch, and over his six years there, I was introduced to Jac from Ruthin, James from Bramhall, Fraser from Edinburgh, James from Cockermouth, Becky from Oban, Charlie from Exeter, Rohan from Glasgow, Ari from London, Tubs (Kirsten, but always Tubs) from the Borders, Samantha from Grantham, Ali from Belfast, oh such a fantastic group of Medical students, some names I have probably omitted and for which Sam will exact punishment later. But I can see each one of them as I write and will never forget any of them. They really would have restored my faith in students if that needed restoring which it didn’t. That final house at 13/2 Gilmore Place was a golden student apartment, and I know Sam misses it as much, in my own way, as I do. To say it was a welcoming home would be a ridiculous understatement. The meals that were cooked there to which everyone, literally everyone, would be invited! What a privilege that I was a part of some of them, and Sous Chef for a couple… Here it is in the 1970’s:
Sam’s now down at University College Hospital, next door to Euston Station, on his Acute Medical training, before beginning his speciality in earnest, Anaesthetics, in February. Unfortunately, I cannot share his contribution to tonight’s Blog – Sam! What would your mother say! – but after the Baptism of Phil Clemo’s second child at 12.00 noon, I can share this:
Immediately after the Baptism, it was Rehearsal time for Shaun and Godparents, being received into the Church tomorrow morning, his Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion all during the 10.45 Mass. Earlier on, after finishing the Newsletter, it was Confessions in the 9.00-10.00 am slot, and then out for the Sacrament of the Sick for Ally Tyrrell’s mother. Ally is one of our super Teaching Assistants in the Primary School, with two very special children to give one-to-one support to this year. Mum has come down from the Wirral to stay with Ally for a while as she begins her treatment at Clatterbridge, so it was powerful to be able to celebrate the Sacrament together, to give her that extra strength and grace as the treatment begins.
Then, after Shaun’s Rehearsal, out to the Cottage Hospital at Ellesmere Port for the Sacrament of the Sick for our own dear Evelyn Hughes. What a servant of the church Evelyn has been! Her health has been worrying for the past six months. She only went into the Hospital for assessment, but while there took a sudden dive down, and now is on her way to the Lord. Please keep her and her three children, Sue, Gill and Michael, in your prayers.
Next Blog – a week today! For heaven’s sake, keep those contributions coming, or I shall send Olive from Orford round to sort you out in person!
May God bless you all,
Friday 1st October 2021
Another of those days that demonstrate why the Blog has to go weekly, starting tomorrow!
Early start with Reg from Boughton Hall, my inspirational 93-year-old who is interested in joining the Catholic Church. We are going to have six conversations together: five topics of my choosing, and the final one a general “Question and Answer” session to respond to any doubts or queries Reg may have. Topic One today: what do we mean by describing the Catholic Church as “The Church Christ Founded”, and what do we not mean? That would keep all of us absorbed for an hour, wouldn’t it?
Straight from there to Neil Longridge’s Requiem. Neil was not a Catholic, but a privilege to celebrate a Requiem Mass for him. “Requiem Masses are only for Catholics” is a common and unfortunate misconception. The church was packed, so well-known was he is this town. His son Nick was a superb assistance in putting the service together, a son for Neil to be proud of, as he was of all his family.
Straight from there to Pat from Pulford, a wonderful friend to so many of us, and deeply inspirational in the way her spirit burns when her body is failing. She has so many health worries it would be hard to know where to start: but her faith and love of life shines as brightly as ever, and I always come away from there feeling my own faith, hope and love have been renewed. Thanks, Pat!
Straight from there to see Andrew, a lovely young man who was a very committed Werbie until moving down to London six years ago with his job. But he regularly revisits Chester, and always looks in for a catch-up. Thanks, Andrew – we miss you!
Straight from there to Brett of Broughton, and his First Confession, all ready for his momentous weekend of being received into the Catholic Church on Sunday morning. I always set a complete evening aside for these wonderful First Confessions. Neither of us knows where the conversation will take us. The only one who does is the Holy Spirit, and it’s his evening, not ours!
A lot of “straight froms” today. It’s been that sort of day!
May God bless you all,
Thursday 30th September 2021
An early morning Blog, as I shall be out of town most of the day – and a reminder of why sadly, the Blog needs to go weekly, as the lush days of lockdown (good, eh?) give way to the manic months of madness. (He’s on fire this morning!)
Lovely last night to be able to join the SVP for their first five minutes, and pay my own personal tribute to Celia Murphy, a stalwart of the SVP for so many, many years – as her father had been before her. Being in the old Crawford’s Walk two days ago to Anoint Pauline had been a powerful reminder of how Pauline and Celia took Holy Communion to our Nursing Homes for more years than any of us can remember. Pauline and Celia were a dynamic duo, and it was good to share some of those memories with the SVP last night, before they got down to their proper meeting, John O’S in the chair, their first in-person one for over eighteen months.
And then Shaun from Saltney – Shaun Hingston – had the chance, in the back Sitting Room, to meet his four godparents: Bernice, Gerry, Barl and Jane. Each of us shared with Shaun our own Faith Journeys, some of us cradle Catholics, others converts, and to hear a little of his. He asked us what advice we’d give him, an eighteen-year-old about to come into the Church on Sunday morning: not to expect it always to be plain sailing, never to neglect his prayer life, always to realise that the centre of it all is Love, and that Almighty God is with us every step of the way, in the good times and the not so good.
Please keep Shaun in your prayers as this momentous weekend approaches, four Sacraments in the space of three days – Confession, Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. Friday Morning, our next potential Convert starts his lessons, Reg from Boughton Hall, a marvellously sprightly 93-year-old. 18, 93, who’s counting?
I leave you with this beautiful photo from Sunday, the Baptism of Emily Ffion, and her two proud parents, Mike and Alyson. They were the couple who went through that painful miscarriage eighteen months ago, A&M, and so many of you were kind enough to keep them in your prayers. A year later, they were blessed with Emily.
The Lord is with us in the good times, and the not so good – agreed?
May God bless you all,
Wednesday 29th September 2021
Grateful thanks to the Team who came in yesterday afternoon to start sorting out one of the two back corners in Church. We cordoned these corners off eighteen months ago to store the tables and chairs we were no longer using. In the process, of course, we were taking out of action the Repository in one corner and the Library in the other. Yesterday, we cleared out the Repository Corner, all clean and ready to go for Bernice and Paula when they return from their extended break at Mrs Peabody’s Guest House on the South Shore at Blackpool.
Then last night we held our Training and Information session for new Sunday Morning stewards. Delighted with the number that turned up, and the many who indicated their interest but couldn’t come along yesterday. We covered all the aspects of training and answered lots of questions: at the end of which, they all said “yes”. Blimey! Could it have been anything to do with the fact that the doors of the church were locked and no-one was getting out until they said “yes”?
This morning, more work on getting Frs Edmund, Humphrey and Jinson on the Hospital Rota. Then straight after 12.15 pm Mass into the High School, working with some of the Upper Sixth on their Personal Statements for their Uni applications, and with the Year 11 stars who will be the Uni applicants of the future. “Macbeth” is their GCSE set book, so we spent some time today dissecting the hero’s famous soliloquy from the end of the play:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
What’s happened to Macbeth over the course of the play? Where has this nihilism come from? How far is it connected to the development over the same period of Lady Macbeth, from strident motivator to murder to deranged suicide?
Judi Dench and Ian McKellen, RSC, 1976.
What about those images, the candle, the actor on the stage: what’s the last we see of either? The candle blown out, the curtain coming down. And what about the poetry of the ten-syllable line? “But there are eleven in the first line” says Caitlin. Spot on. So, what’s the effect of that extra syllable? Going out at the end, Andrew says, “Can I ask you something? This reminds me of something else in Shakespeare, but I can’t get the quotation accurately. Isn’t there something about life itself being a stage and all of us being the players on that stage?” Well done, Andrew!
Over to the Sixth Form, and Vernon who can’t decide between Maths and Physics for Uni with the Oxbridge application deadline of 15th October looming. We spend half an hour batting it about. The Cambridge Natural Sciences option doesn’t appeal, and he knows he can do Joint Honours at other Unis, but I pick up early on that he wants to make a decision and is finding it hard. I share with him my own experience of going right through the Sixth Form torn between English and History, and finally coming down on the side of English. Some decisions you just have to make, and not spend an eternity looking over your shoulder, wondering how it would have turned out if you’d chosen the other one. We’re going to email backwards and forwards over the week ahead, and by this time next week, a decision must be made. Preferably not by tossing a coin.
Tonight, Shaun from Saltney (aka Brett from Broughton) comes along for his final session, meeting his four Werbie Godparents, chosen by myself as he knows no Catholics himself who could take on that role. I won’t divulge their identities at the moment, but here’s a picture of one of them:
May God bless you all,
Tuesday 28th September 2021
Very special to be with Pauline and three of her children yesterday teatime for the Sacrament of the Sick. Even more so, that we were in Grosvenor Gardens Nursing Home, which used to be known as Crawford’s Walk, a Home Pauline visited so faithfully for over twenty years. For most of that time, on a Thursday morning, her faithful companion was Celia, and I think the two of them knew every single resident in that home and regarded them as old friends. When Celia felt no longer able to continue, Elizabeth Hoey took over. The Grace of those Thursday mornings cannot begin to be calculated. Well done, thou good and faithful servants!
From there, straight up to Our Lady’s Ellesmere Port to give Edmund and Humphrey a thick ear. Bless’em, they’d cooked supper for me. Honestly, you lads, you are stars! Then Edmund had to be on the road down to the Cathedral, wearing his Vocations Director hat, ready to meet a new applicant at 9.00 am this morning. Edmund, you’re a good’un - but I’d never say that to his face, of course.
Being of a mercenary cast of mind, I had to check with the Counters what difference having back all four Masses last weekend, and shuttling the old collection baskets up and down the rows, made. The weekend before, the basket collection was £609.93, last weekend it was £924.30. Half as much again! Collection baskets, keep shuttling!
Serious point: during lockdown, income slumped to two-thirds its normal level, but then so did expenditure. Now we are coming out of lockdown, two items will be back on the expenditure side of the ledger: fuel bills for heating the church, and organists’ fees for Sunday morning. Total expenditure is bound to rise, so we just hope total income can keep pace with it.
Thinking about the good old days of Pauline and Celia on their Holy Communion rounds, two wonderful friends and two magnificent Servants of the Lord, a member of our Choir kindly forwarded a letter he’d written to Celia when I first announced on the Newsletter that she was far from well. Sadly, she went Home to the Lord before she was able to receive it. But it was such a lovely letter, from one Choir Member to another, that I asked the writer’s permission to share it with the rest of you:
You were very much missed at the 9.00 am Mass yesterday and I was sorry to hear later that you have not been feeling too brilliant recently.
I have been thinking about you, especially yesterday when we were at last able to sing together in Church once again – three wonderful hymns – and your lovely voice was not there to support us all. Which was a real shame because 18 months of not singing together had certainly taken its toll on our collective voices and we did sound a bit like a ‘cats chorus’ (!!)
I can’t wait to be singing with the Choir again – and to you see you back with us all - in full and resounding health.
Take Good Care and I very much look forward to seeing you soon!
Much Love and Kindest Regards from your old Choir Pal.
Thanks, Choir Pal. I know Celia read that letter from Heaven, and she would have loved it.
Great yesterday to be back in our Nursing Homes conducting a little ecumenical service. Up at Crabwall Manor, Karen, the wonderful Activities Manager, had assembled a lovely group of twelve residents for our service, and we sang lustily, prayed heartily, and shared beautifully some fantastic memories of our younger church days. Monica Littler, a Blacon parishioner, has just celebrated her 100th birthday, and she proudly showed me her card from the Queen, now framed on her bedroom wall. Talking of growing old disgracefully, here’s our fantastic 95-year-old Blogger from the South of France, Nikki’s wonderful mother:
And here’s her great-grandchild being Baptised recently. I don’t know who’s looking more evil, Dan the father or the malevolent Priest:
I think Mikhail in the background is saying his prayers for the poor child, that the Baptism may indeed be canonically valid.
Finally, I leave you with this gem, having just been informed that my last donation has ended up in Pinderfields, the main Hospital for Wakefield.
Think about it, Choir, think about it…
May God bless you all,
Monday 27th September 2021
Just sitting down to write today’s Blog, 4.00 pm, when I get a call-out to Grosvenor Gardens Nursing Home for the Sacrament of the Sick for Pauline Hackett. Spoke to her daughters Anne and Christine, and they filled me in on developments. It’s a call I’ve always known would come one day, but still a shock when it eventually arrives. The Werbies without Pauline just seems unimaginable, doesn’t it?
Then I’ll need to go straight from there up to Ellesmere Port to see Frs Edmund and Humphrey for their DBS checks, and to make sure the little monkeys are behaving themselves, of course. Fat chance.
Taskforce first thing this morning looked at the very encouraging numbers from the weekend, a bumper 53 at Sunday Evening Mass rounding off record numbers all round. Numbers at 6.00 pm Saturday night and 9.00 and 10.45 Sunday morning had already taken us into new territory, even without last night’s 6.00 pm Mass to add on:
- Saturday 6.00 pm: 26
- Sunday 9.00 am: 130
- Sunday 10.45 am: 160
- Sunday 6.00 pm: 53
- Total: 369
I would hope those figures would now edge up, perhaps ten more each week as news gets round that we’re opening for business at the old times. But how far they approach the “old” total of 600-650 is anyone’s guess. Time will tell.
Great to have you reading at Sunday Masses yesterday, Jean at 9.00 am and Geoff at 10.45. Geoff also took the opportunity to snap the War Memorial Chapel in the bright September sunlight:
CathSoc kicked off last night, with seven of us on a very enjoyable walk around the Walls and Tea and Cake afterwards. One new girl made the mistake of telling us she was an Altar Server in her home parish. Plus a Eucharistic Monster. The fool! She’ll never escape our clutches now.
Earlier in the day, we were honoured by a visit from Madame Ex-Prezzie, the fragrant Chlo-Jo, and her even more gorgeous sister, Georgia. In case any of you have forgotten what Chlo-Jo looks like, she very kindly sent us this snap from her walk in Chester after Mass:
No, she hasn’t changed a bit.
BT want me to update my payment records with them. Nothing private or confidential, you understand, just my full bank details, passwords and PIN codes. A pleasure! One of the guides to these scams is to look at the email address they’ve come from. This one certainly made me smile:
BT bill: email@example.com
I mean, with an address like that, they’ve got to be genuine. Haven’t they?
May God bless you all and keep you all out of the Scammers’ hands. Off now to Grosvenor Gardens and Pauline,
Sunday 26th September 2021
Numbers at 6.00 pm last night and 9.00 and 10.45 this morning already take us into new territory, even without tonight’s 6.00 pm Mass to add on: 316 so far!
- Saturday 6.00 pm: 26
- Sunday 9.00 am: 130
- Sunday 10.45 am: 160
The 10.45 had the feel of the old days. At both morning Masses, we were singing not just the hymns but all the Mass Parts. Plus, endless tedious notices at the end. Plus, the Collection Basket passing up and down the rows. Quite like the old days!
Met a couple of students this morning, so interesting to see who turns up tonight for our first CathSoc meeting. Then an exciting week of re-starts ahead: Monday the first Nursing Home Service for eighteen months up at Crabwall Manor in Mollington. Tuesday evening is our Introductory Sessions for new Mass Stewards – do come along if you are at all curious, as there’s no commitment at this stage. Wednesday evening Shaun meets his Godparents, and at the same time the first in-person SVP Meeting since March of last year. Thursday I am over in York all day, Friday is Neil Longridge’s Requiem, Saturday afternoon is Shaun’s rehearsal, and then we’re back to Sunday again. You meet yourself coming back in this Parish, don’t you?
Two good Baptisms after Mass this morning, the first one for Emily, daughter to Alyson and Michael. They were the couple, you may remember, who experienced the distressing miscarriage, and took it particularly badly. We called them A&M in the early days, to protect their privacy, but since being blessed with gorgeous little Emily, they can come out into the full glare of publicity! Alyson’s dad owns the farm in Carden next to Carden Park, and they had their wedding reception in a marquee on a fabulous July day three years ago out on one of his fields. I haven’t got an exact picture of the farm, but this one of the golf course at Carden Park exactly captures the view from that field:
After the second Baptism, out to Broughton, to see the Labella family, preparing for Giuseppe’s Funeral. They come originally from the Foggia area of Italy, in the deep south of Puglia, just before you get to the heel of Italy:
I can’t think why of you are jumping to the conclusion that I am getting more bitter and twisted than usual at not visiting Italy this summer. Nor last one. As if I would. Perish the thought.
May God forgive you all,
Saturday 25th September 2021
Another of those very enjoyable but utterly non-stop days today that tells me the Blog needs to go Weekly! (Weekly, not weakly, Choir. How very dare you!) No Berwyn Mass for me this morning, so an hour to complete the Newsletter before Confessions at 9.00 am. The slot was busy today. I always take my spiritual reading with me in case there are any gaps, but no chance this morning. The book remained unopened.
A chance to catch up on emails afterwards, the Hospital Rota, CathSoc’s start of term and Shaun Hingston’s reception into the church a week tomorrow all big organisational challenges, none of which, unfortunately, will organise themselves. 11.30, and time to swing into action for Stephanie and Tobie’s Nuptial Mass at 1.00 pm. Many of you will know her dad, Frank Marnell, who ran the Watergate Inn next to the Racecourse for many years. Chester Race Company bought it in 2017, the cue for Frank to retire after twenty-five years as Mine Host. They then demolished it to make way for the new entrance to the Course, but it will always be part of Chester’s history:
Straight from the Wedding to the Baptism of Abigail Niamh, second child for Susan and Richard (married here in 2015), and then down to Julie Longridge’s in Saltney to start the planning for her husband Neil's funeral. If I say Julie is the daughter of Tony Mayers, you’ll know exactly who I mean. Tony’s first wife, Kathleen, died of Cancer at the age of 32, when Julie was only five. Although Tony went on to have a very happy second marriage to May, he never forgot Kathleen, and woe betide me if I didn’t bless her grave in Blacon every November or failed to say the many Masses he put in for her every year.
5.15 pm now, bashing these keys, and needing to get this finished and sent over to the Tekkies before opening up at 5.30 for the first Saturday Evening Mass for eighteen months. We were so looking forward to being out at Rowton, but the Diocese as you know have asked us to pause that reopening, as they need to sort out a few vital Insurance issues first with all our Diocesan Mass Centres. Let’s hope it won’t be too long before we are back in our beloved little chapel:
May God bless you all,
Friday 24th September 2021
3.30 pm as I thump, Madame Prezzie Barl expected down here some time after 4.00 pm with the first crop of Freshers she’s managed to recruit (dragoon? pressgang?) at the Societies’ Freshers Fair this morning. The plan is for us to say hello to each other, have a walk round the Racecourse to help the Freshers orientate themselves where Chester in concerned – St Werburgh’s, the River, the Boathouse Pub, all the crucial places – and then enjoy the fruits of my 2.00 am labours, two rather nice cakes, though I sez it myself.
Just come back from the Oaklands Nursing Home up in Littleton, a resident there requesting Holy Communion. Excellent news, that they are now open for business again. I asked our superb Elizabeth Hoey to come with me. Elizabeth arrived here from her home parish in East Anglia some five or six years ago, and immediately threw herself into assisting Pauline Hackett with her amazing Home Communions. At that stage, Pauline appreciated having a driver, but as the time went past and Pauline’s own health started to falter, Elizabeth increasingly led these visits with Pauline coming along as her support. I hesitate to call anyone “The new Pauline Hackett”, as Pauline was utterly irreplaceable, as you all know. But if anyone is going to step into her shoes, it will be Elizabeth, and I’m more grateful to her than I express. If anyone else is a Eucharistic Minister and would be interested in joining this crucial Ministry, do please let me know. This afternoon, we met Joe from Ellesmere Port, and had a very cheery visit with him. So good to be picking up this work again after eighteen long months.
The Baptism yesterday went well, and it was important to me and the parents that I should do it. But three hours in the car to get there, M56, then M6, A14 then A1 – was painful enough, FP’s Pumpkin swallowed up by gigantic lorries and enormous tankers, suddenly changing lane without an attempt at signalling. But the pain reached a new level on the return journey, leaving Buckden at 3.00 and not reaching Chester till 7.00 pm, right through the rush hour traffic in Birmingham. What a silly expression “rush hour traffic” is: the last thing anyone was doing was rushing. Buckden is a small village about twenty miles from Cambridge, and St Hugh’s, the Catholic Church there, looked pleasant if unexceptional when I googled it:
What I was totally unprepared for was its setting: in the middle of the medieval Palace, one of the residences of the Bishops of Lincoln from the twelfth century to 1838. It was then a private residence for the Marshall family, famous for this London department store, Oxford Street, Coronation Day 1953. Anyone know it?
Clue: it’s where the Choir always used to buy their hats.
Choir apart, I wonder if any of you could put a year on that advertisement? Answer at the bottom of today’s Blog!
The medieval house at Buckden was acquired by the Claretians, a Missionary Order, in 1956, in whose hands the house and Parish still are. Fascinating to talk to one of their Priests before the Baptism who had served all his time in Guatemala. And how many of us could place that country on a map of the world??
This photo shows how the new church abuts onto the Medieval buildings:
Didn’t go home, but straight from the M56 to the Catholic High for their Open Evening. So glad I went, as the place was buzzing with excitement. I couldn’t park the Pumpkin anywhere which shows you how busy it was. The school is alive with new ideas these days, and I love to see it. The library, for example, has been transformed, new books bought, freshly re-decorated, comfortable chairs installed, much more imaginative lay out, bookcases painted lively colours. Result? The place is packed out every lunchtime, and yes, they really are reading.
Adam Wilson, the excellent Head of English, had two specific requests: anyone willing to sponsor a new book for the library, and any gardeners willing to help with a sensory garden they are planning for the significant number of visually impaired pupils we now have in our High School? I told him the Werbies wouldn’t let him down, with either request.
May God bless you all, as I get the kettle on for those pesky students…
Date of the Hat Advert? 1930!
Thursday 23rd September 2021
Today’s a day which shows why, sadly, the Blog will have to go weekly at the start of next month. It’s 9.30 am as I thump, ready to receive the coffin into church an hour early for today’s Funeral at 10.30 am. Pastor Lee is taking the service, as you know, from Audacious Church, and he is very welcome indeed. Grateful thanks to our Stewarding Team for being on duty to help out where needed. Meanwhile, I shall be shooting off down the M6 and A1 to sunny Cambridgeshire for an important Baptism at 2.30 pm, the first baby for a very important couple I married three years ago. I know, I know – they are ALL important, but some are more important than others?
Straight back from there to the High School Open Evening, 6.00-8.00 pm, and straight back here for a Wedding Rehearsal for Stephanie and Tobie on Saturday. And then…
Approximately twelve hours from now, but it is a prospect that keeps me going, dearly beloved…
May God bless you all,
Wednesday 22nd September 2021
STOP PRESS: We shall have to pause the return to Rowton. Bishop Mark was interested yesterday when I told him about our plans to re-open our Mass Centre there, but suggested I give Carol Lawrence, our Diocesan Financial Secretary, a ring first to check it out. Spoke to Carol this morning and she’s advising generally pausing reopening Mass Centres for a brief period while the insurance situation is finally clarified. Basically, if Catholics hold a service in a Methodist church and there’s a major Covid-19 outbreak, who’s legally responsible: the Catholics or the Methodists? Whose insurers would pick up any claim? Carol was optimistic this can be sorted out fair quickly so just asked us to hold fire for a few weeks, as she is doing with all Diocesan parishes where a Mass Centre is in use.
So… We will have a Saturday Evening Mass, but down here at the Main Church instead of up in Rowton. I’ll find someone willing to go to Rowton to apologise to those who turn up there and re-direct them down here. I’ll start the Mass here at 6.15 pm, to allow time for anyone to make the journey along the A41. Apologies for any inconvenience caused, but essential to cover all bases where Insurance is concerned.
Great to have Barrie and Bettie’s latest graph of Sunday Mass attendance, especially as Barrie has had a spot of ill health since he last plotted his co-ordinates. (Good, eh?) Great to have him back on tip-top form! Now we’ll see what effect the re-starting of the two Evening Masses has on the figures.
Needed to go up to another of our Nursing Homes this morning to administer the Sacrament of the Sick to Trudy Nowakowska, Tony’s mother and Helen’s mother-in-law. Great to meet the staff there again and put in place some plans for re-commencing our monthly Ecumenical Services. Back for the 12.15 pm Mass, with lots of you coming along to keep me company, and straight out to the Catholic High for my usual very enjoyable Wednesday afternoon with the staff and students. Mrs McKeagney, the Head, would love to invite any parishioner who’d like to come along to the Year Seven Welcome Mass on Friday 8th October at 9.15 am, with the School Minibus picking you up from Church at 8.30 and dropping you back after Refreshments following Mass. There’ll be a sign-up sheet in Church on Sunday for those who’d like to take up this very kind offer.
From School, straight to Blacon for the 3.20 pm Funeral of Anne McLinden, and back to meet up with the Funeral Directors from another company to discuss logistics for tomorrow’s Funeral where we are happily allowing our building to be used by our friends from Audacious Church. Now 5.00 pm, bashing the keyboard and getting ready for Brett from Broughton’s final lesson before his Reception into the Church on Sunday 3rd October.
Gin O’Clock? Possibly a shade earlier than 9.00 pm tonight. Who knows??
May God bless you all,
Tuesday 21st September 2021
6.00 pm now, a little later than usual to be bashing the keyboard. Back from the Deans’ Meeting at 4.30 pm, and straight into the Tuesday lesson with Bro Edmund at Ampleforth, postponed from this morning. Before heading off to Shrewsbury, it was good for the Stewards Team to meet with Pastor Lee from Audacious Church to start the planning for Thursday’s Funeral, where Audacious Church is using our church for their service. They are more than welcome, and it was good to meet Lee in person today and talk it all through. Then off on the 10.21 train to Shrewsbury and the ten-minute walk up the other end to our Cathedral.
My first experience obviously of a Deans’ Meeting with the Bishop. We have nine Deaneries in our Diocese, and just for interest, here they are with the names of their Deans:
- Shrewsbury and West Shropshire: Jonathan Mitchell
- Telford and East Shropshire: Michael Hartley
- Central Cheshire: Paul Standish
- Ellesmere Port and Chester: Yours truly
- Warrington and Runcorn: Peter Montgomery
- South Trafford and Wythenshawe: Nick Kern
- Stockport and Thameside: Oliver O’Doherty
- Wallasey and West Wirral: Stephen Coonan
- Birkenhead and East Wirral: Bernard Forshaw
Two main items on the Agenda this morning: reports from all the Deaneries on the Covid-19 situation, which restrictions had been lightened, which were still in place, and how the “return to normal” was going. Secondly preparing the Agenda for the October Round of Deanery Conferences. Bishop Mark wanted three items in particular to be flagged up:
1. The 2023 International Synod of Bishops and kicking off the consultation process at Parish and Diocesan level.
2. The COP26 United National Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November, and specifically what each of our individual Parishes is doing to cut carbon emissions.
3. Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill, due to be debated in the House of Lords next month.
These are three big issues, I’m sure we’d all agree, and three issues we want to get behind as a Parish one hundred per cent. So, expect to hear more, a lot more, about all three in the weeks and months ahead.
I won’t write more now, as this needs sending over to the Tekkies for uploading, and they generally like to be in the Pub by 6.30 pm at the latest. Every evening. Here they are in the Egerton Arms last week, bless’em:
May God bless you, and the Tekkies,
Monday 20th September 2021
Very sad news this morning that our beloved Celia Murphy went Home to the Lord in the early hours. Whilst this came as a shock to those of us who went over to visit her last week, it was also a joy that she’s reached Journey’s End and heard those words that make sense of everything we go through in this life: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Enter into your eternal reward!” Family and faith were the twin centres of Celia’s life, and, as we all know, can never be divided: if we love one, we must love the other. One of seven children, she devotedly looked after their father in the last chapter of his life, even though it meant curtailing her teaching career, at which she was a star, finishing as Deputy Head. I believe she was the only one of the seven who did not marry, becoming absolutely devoted to all her many, many nieces and nephews, as they were to her. In many ways, she was the Honorary Head of the Family, a source of wisdom, love, support and encouragement for all who needed it. Proud of all of them, her nephew Robert, a Priest of the Birmingham Archdiocese had a special place in her heart. After his Seminary training at the English College in Rome, he was recruited for the Vatican Diplomatic Service – they tap you on the shoulder, dearly beloved you don’t apply – and is now First Counsellor (ie 2 i/c) at the Apostolic Nunciature to India and Nepal, based in New Delhi. I would very much doubt that Monsignor Robert would be able to come for the funeral, but I hope he knows how much he and all her magnificent family are in our thoughts and prayers today. May Celia rest in the Peace and Light of the Risen Lord Jesus.
Now it’s OK for you lot to scoff, but this energy crisis threatening supplies of CO2 is blooming serious. I mean, what am I going to do if one of the absolute staples of my diet is no longer on the supermarket shelves?
Taskforce first thing this morning addressed much less important issues, like the success of the reintroduction of singing at both Sunday Masses yesterday, the start-up for our First Holy Communion Programme next month, and the beginning of Evening Masses next weekend. It will be good but strange to say the 6.00 pm Rowton and 6.00 pm Main Church Masses after the past eighteen months. But always lovely to settle down afterwards to a nice evening with a large… No! I don’t know why I’m torturing myself in this way. It doesn’t help.
Straight out from the Taskforce to the Hospital, to pick up the DBS safeguarding forms for our three new Priests coming on the rota, Fr Edmund, Jinson and Humphrey, and then down to St Theresa’s to meet with Frs William and James and hear how everything is going with St Columba’s & St Theresa’s. We spent a humorous ten minutes wondering how to re-Christen the new member of the Hospital Team, coming to replace Fr Jude: Fr Kingsley! With our Lead Chaplain being Rev John Kingsley, a URC Minister, leaving names as they are will cause no end of confusion. Fr Kingsley is from Nigeria, so we left Fr William, a fellow-countryman, to come up with a suitable new name in Ibo.
Back for 12.15 pm, and so good once again to see so many of you there. Yesterday afternoon, was one of the best-attended SVP Autumn Masses for many a year. Well done, you! We put the tables at the back of church, all socially distanced, with a make-shift Altar, and the helpers sitting round the sides:
In case you’re wondering who Nanky-Poo was, our wandering minstrel, it was dear Bernard Gorman strumming his banjo to accompany the hymns. After Mass, our good folk only had to swivel their chairs, and everything was set fair for tea:
That’s our SVP Treasurer on his knees. According to his good Lady Wife, he should do it more often. I could not possibly comment. And here they all are, tucking into all the delicacies I knocked up for them. Happy little faces. Makes all those 2.00 am starts so worthwhile.
May God bless you all,
Sunday 19th September 2021
Wonderful to hear the sound of our organ in church once again, Tom playing for the 9.00 am and Bob for the 10.45, and three hymns for those who wanted to praise the Lord that way. Wasn’t it St Augustine who sad, “Anyone who sings, prays twice”? Qui cantat bis orat. As they say in German.
Number significantly up today from last Sunday’s 234, the first Sunday of two Masses rather than four. Today, we welcomed 275 across the two Masses:
- 9.00 am: 140
- 10.45 am: 135
- Total: 275
You’ll see how equally spaced they were across the two, in each case the church pleasantly full rather than bursting at the seams. Next weekend, we restore the Saturday Evening Rowton Mass and Sunday Evening in the Main Church, so it will be more than interesting to see what the numbers look like then. For those who like tracking the figures, here they are over the last two months:
- Sunday 19th September 275
- Sunday 12th September 234
- Sunday 5th September 321
- Sunday 29th August 308
- Sunday 22nd August 325
- Sunday 15th August 296
- Sunday 8th August 270
- Sunday 1st August 261
- Sunday 25th July 258
- Sunday 18th July 249
The context always, of course, is the Pre-Covid weekend totals of 600-650, so we are still only averaging half the numbers we saw then. Let’s see what happens when we are back to our usual four.
Meanwhile, so pleased we have Weekday Masses open to everyone next week. Thanks to Fr Neill, we are able to offer a 12.15 pm Mass Monday to Friday. Tuesday, I am at Deans’ Meeting at the Cathedral, and Thursday at a Baptism down in St Neots, so on those two days there will also be a 7.30 am Mass for the Early Birds. In fact, a busy old week coming up: on Monday, after Taskforce, a Decanal Visit down to St Theresa’s, to say hello to Frs William and James, and then into action with our three new Priests on the Hospital Rota, Frs Edmund, Jinson and Humphrey, on their paperwork and their DBS clearance. Tuesday is Deans’ Meeting with the Bishop, and back for a Zoom Lesson with Bro Edmund at Ampleforth. Wednesday is High School in the afternoon, with Anne McLinden’s Funeral at 3.20 pm, and Shaun from Saltney coming for one of his last sessions before the big day on Sunday 3rd October.
Thursday is jam-packed, with a Funeral here at 10.30 am, Lily’s Baptism at 2.30 pm, and back for High School Open Evening and a Wedding Rehearsal for Stephanie and Tobie. Friday is Freshers’ Fair at the University, Madame Prezzie leading the Freshers down to the Werbies at 4.30 pm for a Walk Around the Racecourse, followed by Tea and Tabnabs here. (Another 2.00 am start!) Saturday is Stephanie and Tobie’s Wedding, Abigail’s Baptism and the first Rowton Mass for eighteen months. Which brings us back to Sunday, two Masses, two Baptisms Sunday Evening Mass and the first CathSoc Meeting of the new Academic Year.
È una bella vita se non ti indebolisci?
For Thursday’s Funeral, we are just lending St Werburgh’s to our friends at Audacious Church down on Sealand Road. Audacious Church is a relatively new Pentecostal Church, meeting at four venues in the north-west: central, north and south Manchester and Chester. You will have passed their building if you’ve ever been down to the central Post Office Sorting Depot on Jupiter Drive:
Their Pastor, Lee Brown, rang us last week to say that sadly one of their members had died, their first such since opening five years ago, and they did not feel their church building was the most suitable for holding a Funeral. Could they possibly use St Werburgh’s, and how much would it cost? The answer to the first question was that we would be delighted, and to the second, you couldn’t possibly afford us! No question of charging them anything: we are only too pleased to help out. Lee and Lezandri are the husband-and-wife Pastors who run the church:
The first Werbie who says I should do my hair like that is going to get a smack. So, what do Audacious Church believe? This is their Statement of Beliefs:
1. We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
2. We believe in one God, who has revealed Himself in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3. We believe in the virgin birth, sinless life, miraculous ministry, substitutional death of Jesus Christ, His resurrection, His ascension into heaven and His second coming to bring everyone to account for their lives.
4. We believe in the fall of man and his separation from God through sin.
5. We believe in salvation through faith in Christ who died for our sins and was raised for our peace with God and victory in the life He gives. Through His blood we have redemption.
6. We believe in water baptism.
7. We believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an essential part of the Christian experience, designed to empower for service and witness.
8. We believe that our primary vision is to become like Jesus in all that we think, say and do.
9. We believe that deliverance from the devil’s authority, selfish habits and oppression is provided through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
10. We believe in both heaven and hell and that faith in the good news of Christ makes all of the difference.
I’ll give the usual very valuable prize for the first Werbie to tell me which of the above statements any Catholic could not sign up to. There’s the odd change of vocabulary – we would call No 7 simply “Confirmation”. Otherwise, what’s the difference?
For Heaven’s sake, what is this division amongst Christians all about??
May God bless you all, and all members of Audacious Church,
Saturday 18th September 2021
5.00 pm as I write, and this time next week, I’ll be on the road out to Rowton for the first of the re-started 6.00 pm Masses for such a long time. Typically mixed feelings: excitement that we are picking up our old life together, tinged with a slight regret that the last eighteen months of “free” Saturday and Sunday evenings are now coming to a close.
Out last night for my evening walk at 6.30 pm, round the Racecourse, the sun starting to set. Tonight, the Meadows? I am determined to protect as many of these evening walks as I can, as they have literally been my sanity since lockdown began in March of last year. Those weeks of a meeting every night were probably not the most productive use of time, and certainly not the healthiest: that’s one of the areas I’ll need to sit down with the Parish Council to discuss. It’s not a question of working harder or less hard so much as how we can all work together smarter.
Three conversations today encapsulate the day I’ve had. First in the Prison this morning. A new face, early twenties? Sensitive, finely drawn, shy. From Birkenhead. Wanted prayers for his mother who’d died some time ago. How long? Twenty years. So, how old were you at the time? Ten.
No time to take it further in the middle of Mass, going round to ask everyone for their special intentions. But over coffee afterwards, I learnt more. Let’s call him Les. Not his name, but it will do, especially for all of you to keep Les in your prayers.
FP: So, what happened to Mum?
Les: Alcoholic poisoning. She drank herself to death.
FP: Where was this?
Les: I found her dead in bed one morning.
FP: Anyone else around?
Les: No, just me.
FP: That sounds terrible. How on earth did you cope at the age of ten?
Les: I started drinking myself…
It could break your heart, couldn’t it? His twenties have been spent in and out of prison, drink always being the trigger for his behaviour. Les on everyone’s prayer list, please. An order, not a request!
Good to meet Joe, whose father had been rushed into hospital in Derry a fortnight ago, heart attack. Responded well to treatment, stent fitted, and now back home again. Looking after Mum, who has vascular dementia. Joe so grateful to everyone for their prayers, especially the good folk back home in my Parish. Nothing good about that lot, Joe. Home for a Baptism of ten-year-old Cole at 12.00 noon, a lovely little lad from Malpas who’s made this decision for himself, with his parents’ support. I told him that at that age the method of Baptism was to hold him by his ankles and lower him down into the font and keep him there. For about five minutes. For some unknown reason he found that hilariously funny and was still giggling at the prospect as I showed them all out of church afterwards. Easily amused at that age. Thank heavens.
Out to the shops to stock up on writing paper and ink, and come back to see a man, probably in his sixties, staring intently at our Notice Board. Moving into an apartment near here in a few months’ time, and just sussing out the local facilities, shops, station, Catholic churches. Moving down from Lancashire. His partner died four years ago, and he tried moving too quickly afterwards. That was a mistake. Now, he knows the time is right. The garden was their favourite place, but just too painful for him to go out there and he needs a fresh start somewhere. Has fallen in love with Chester and knows selling up the big house and down-sizing to an apartment is what he needs to do. So, I ask him, where is the apartment he’s bought? Forest Court. FOREST COURT!!! Ye gods, not another Catholic in that den of iniquity. Before you can say Holy Moses, Garden Gnome will have him collecting glasses up on the Rooftop Bar, Olive from Orford will have him joining the Call Centre Telephone Team for Christmas Booking, and Fifi, the original Wicked Woman, will have him baking cakes for their midnight feasts. Poor man, we must rescue him.
Then out to Mary Thornton at Boughton Hall to start planning for her beloved husband Peter’s Funeral. On the way in, I bump into Reg, our amazing 93-year-old, ready now to start his lessons for coming into the Catholic Church. “I gather there’s an eighteen-year-old beating me to it!” he quips. Yes, Brett from Broughton whose happy day is to be on Sunday 3rd October. 18 or 93, we’ll take’em at any age!!
As we are finishing discussing Peter and the celebration of his life, she asks me if I’ve heard from a certain lady. Yes, message on the answerphone as I came back from the shops, the daughter of the 96-year-old gentleman I’d been called out to in the Hospital last Saturday afternoon. Remember? Stroke Ward, communication very difficult, eventually established he was from Neston, name of Reg, National Service in the RAF out in India. A lovely, lovely chat, and, as I said at the time, so grateful that I’d persevered with it, and not given up in the early days when we were getting nowhere. Now for the real coincidence: apparently, and I didn’t know this, Reg was also a resident at Boughton Hall. He went Home to the Lord a few days after my visit, and Mary was talking to the daughter, who told her she was so glad a Priest had been called out to her father but hadn’t a clue who it was. Mary, who’s an avid reader of this Blog, said she knew immediately who it was – her own pesky PP from St Werburgh’s. Hence phone call from daughter to thank me for going. The pleasure was all mine.
See, you sceptics: this Blog does do some good after all!
May God bless you all,
Friday 17th September 2021
Stop Press: The Blog goes weekly at the end of the month!
It’s been wonderful writing this load of old rubbish every single day since lockdown began in March last year. But as the world wakes out of the Big Sleep, and I’m needing to gad and gallivant all over the place, the chances of being able to scribble an entry every day and get it over to our awesome Tekkies for uploading [What that? Ed] are looking remote. Last week I was in Stockport on Wednesday and Yorkshire on Thursday: next week it’s Shrewsbury on Tuesday and St Neots on Thursday. The demn’d elusive Parish Priest!
It’s not just the trips away, it’s the hour a day that the Blog takes to write. It’s been huge fun, and the most enjoyable part without doubt has been your wonderful, zany, completely bonkers contributions. For pity’s sake, keep them coming! They’ve given me such a smile, and I know that’s true for our readers all over the world. Yes, fans of this blog all over the world! None in Chester, mind, but in other parts of the world, it’s enormous.
So, we’ll keep going daily until the end of September, and thereafter it will appear once a week on a Saturday, about the same time as the Newsletter. Unless of course, there’s another national lockdown and we need to communicate on a daily basis… HELP!!!! In fact, that was the way it all began, 17th March 2020, and the need to get information to people every day in a fast-moving scenario. For those who like Ancient History, this was the first entry:
Tuesday 17th March 2020: Coronavirus Update
Happy St Patrick’s Day to everyone! But an odd one with the threat of church closures hanging over us all. The situation here in St Werburgh’s as of today is that our Parish Council will be meeting tomorrow night, Wednesday, to make some pretty hard decisions – and some planning for the next few months – informed by the latest advice from our own Bishop Mark and from our Government.
The Government’s Press Conference yesterday, Monday, confirmed that we are into a new phase of reacting to this epidemic. It came too late to stop our Readers’ Meeting last night, where we observed “safe spacing”. Tonight, we have a brief Finance Committee Meeting – just four of us, but so critical with Financial Year End looming – and then Parish Council on Wednesday. I think we can all see the way the wind is blowing, but I’m asking individual Parish Groups not to make decisions about their future meetings until we have had a chance to look together at the whole picture tomorrow night.
If indeed we do have to suspend public gatherings of all kinds, and our older Parishioners are advised to stop at home, rest assured we will do everything in our power to support them and make sure they are not isolated at this time.
I’ll be updating this page daily, so do please keep in touch with developments this way, and if you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to email or phone them in.
STOP PRESS: The Church of England has just announced, Tuesday afternoon, that all public worship will be suspended until further notice.
I’ll be in touch tomorrow on this page, but meanwhile, let’s keep each other in our prayers at this time. “Oremus pro Invicem” (as they say in German?)
17th March 2020
What are the figures looking like today, eighteen months later? It appears like a substantial “third wave”, but (a) the rate of hospitalisations and death this time is dramatically lower; (b) those who have been vaccinated are dramatically less likely to catch Covid-19 than those who haven’t; (c) those who do catch it are not so seriously ill for the most part as in the first and second waves. For those like me who enjoy graphs, here’s the Infection Rate, showing how clearly the third wave has flattened out in the last couple of months:
Here’s the Hospitalisations Graph, showing how desperate things were in the second wave after Christmas, and how comparatively manageable the situation is today:
Finally, the Death Rate graph, again showing how the situation today is vastly different from the peaks of the first and second waves:
Conclusion? We are still facing a serious situation that could turn nasty at any time: but current figures don’t justify a national lockdown, and, providing we stay cautious and careful, we can gradually reintroduce most of those features of our life together we had to put on hold.
Public weekday Mass this week has been a real joy, so many of you coming along. It’s been a sheer pleasure to hear the sound of your voices reading the Holy Scriptures. Yes, I do get sick of the sound of my own voice, a question I am often asked. This Sunday, at 9.00 and 10.45, we will be singing hymns again, the first time in eighteen months. The following Sunday, we will have our Saturday Evening Rowton Mass back again, and the next day our Sunday Evening Werbies one. Alleluia!
Sunday, 26th September we also welcome back our students, and have our first CathSoc Meeting. Great to sit down with Madame President Barl this morning before Mass to check all arrangements for Freshers’ Week next week. Monday 27th is our first Nursing Home Service for eighteen months. Exciting times, everyone, so fasten your seatbelts!
May God bless you all,
Thursday 16th September 2021
Some interesting words from Pope Francis yesterday during a Press Conference on board the plane during his Papal Visit to Eastern Europe:
The Pope has said he does not know how to explain why some cardinals in the Catholic Church are hesitant to get the Covid-19 jab.
"It's a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines," Francis told reporters during a flight from Slovakia to Italy. The pontiff, who is vaccinated himself, has previously encouraged people to get jabbed for the "common good". He said one cardinal had ended up in intensive care with Covid-19. Francis did not name the man he was referring to, but conservative US Cardinal Raymond Burke, 73, recently spent days on a ventilator in hospital after contracting the virus. It is unclear whether Cardinal Burke is vaccinated or not, but in the past, he has been critical of vaccination.
"Even in the College of Cardinals there are some vaccine negationists," the Pope told reporters aboard the Papal plane. "But one of them, poor thing, has been hospitalised with the virus. These are the ironies of life." He added that almost everyone at the Vatican was now vaccinated, and that they were "studying how to help" those who were hesitant. "As children [we were vaccinated] for measles, polio - all the children were vaccinated and no one said anything," he exclaimed.
But the pontiff did recognise that some vaccine debates could increase fears and uncertainty about the jabs, to which he said, "we should clarify things and speak calmly". Some religious leaders, especially in the United States, believe Catholics should be allowed to claim conscientious objection to the Covid-19 vaccines on religious grounds. However, Pope Francis has disagreed with this, and said the vaccines were "morally acceptable" and could be used "in good conscience".
Apart from strongly supporting Pope Francis’ comments about the common sense of everyone getting vaccinated, I am intrigued by one spot of translation here. Clearly not speaking in English, calling Cardinal Raymond Burke “poor thing” is wonderfully off-key, with all its connotations in English of condescension and talking down. I’m guessing he was speaking Italian, and saying “povero”, which would be much better put into English as “poor chap” or “poor man”. It’s well known that Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke are not exactly besties, but never in a million years can I imagine the Supreme Pontiff referring to the Patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta as “poor thing”!
You have to be so careful with words, as I’ve been telling Madame Prezzie as she gets ready for Freshers’ Fair next week and CathSoc’s term ahead. Spelling out “CathSoc” in these lovely home-made letters is all well, and good:
But who’s going to keep an eye to make sure no mischievous student starts rearranging them? Anyone fancy…
A Scotch? Or, possibly, if you’re having a clear-out and want to put a few items you’re no longer going to need on eBay to raise a few pennies?
In other words, a Cash Cot? If you think that’s too CathSoc-y, you could always stay at home for a nice Cosy Chat?
You’re clearly loving translating Dickens’s novels from their European translations, so here are a few in Italian for you to have a go at:
“Racconto di Natale”
“Il nostro commune amico”
Lunchtime now, and over to Yorkshire for a Funeral this afternoon, having just finished a Zoom meeting of the Cheshire Church Leaders. What’s Italian for “It’s a good life if you don’t weaken”?
May God bless you all,
Wednesday 15th September
Non-stop day today, over to Stockport first thing on the train and back for an afternoon in the High School. That slow train to Manchester, cutting a swathe through the Cheshire countryside, Delamere, Cuddington, Knutsford, Altrincham, is a beautiful run if you’re not in a hurry, and the weather and the countryside were both stunning today. Back a different route, via Crewe, but again a magnificent panorama of this county of ours, one of the most beautiful in England?
Nice chat with a group of Upper Sixth Formers in the High School before getting down to business. In our chat, we were reflecting on the difference between boys and girls: why do boys wing it when girls never do? And boys will keep on winging it, until disaster strikes, and they suddenly realise they are going to have to do a bit of work if they are going to turn their dreams into reality. Girls, by contrast, are much more grounded, and know that “results out” is only ever going to equal “effort in”. Give me girls every day of the week!
Good to sit in on one of the Form Tutor lessons at the end of the day, the excellent young teacher going through timetables with them, personal statements for their University applications, and a hundred and one other personal enquiries. She had a lovely rapport with these seventeen-year-olds. Then a work session with the Upper Sixth students offering the voluntary Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) essay, which is worth half an A Level. As I mentioned last week, our own Emily Neale is Head Girl, and this afternoon I was working with the Head boy, Liam Samuels, a smashing lad who wants to do Medicine at University. He’s already done a personal research project over the summer hols on Covid-19 rates in Africa and was discussing with me if this was a suitable topic to expand into his EPQ. Could be, could be: but rather than re-heating old work, why not cook up something new? How about Cancer rates in Arica, compared with the UK? Mental health rates in India? Now there are two fascinating questions. I like this lad: he’s got brains, personality and a very sunny disposition. He could make an excellent doctor.
Monday night out at St Peter’s Hargrave was a chance to catch up with some old friends as well as make some new ones. Good to meet the new Bishop of Chester for the first time, another Bishop Mark, and see folk from Laura Rhodes’ last Parish, St Mary’s Handbridge, including their Director of Music and our own great friend, Michael Reynolds. The Rural Dean of the area was the Vicar of Bunbury, so good to meet him, as we share between us the Cure of Souls of Walter and Judith! And finally, great to see our dear friend Rev Karen Andrews again, now moved from Kelsall to Marbury, Tushingham and Whitewell, in the south of the county, just north of Whitchurch. Here’s just one of her three new churches, St Mary’s Whitewell:
5.30 pm now, so time to get ready for one of the last sessions with Brett from Broughton – Shaun from Saltney! – in preparation for his being received into the Church on Sunday 3rd October.
May God bless you all,
Tuesday 14th September 2021
Requiem Mass for Evelyn Roberts at noon today, followed by burial in Blacon. Born in Knighton in Powys in the same year as the Queen, 1926, her father was on the railways, as a result of which she moved around as great deal as a girl. Her favourite home was Wallasey, so near the sea. She married in 1946, having met Ron, her husband at a dance in Quaintways:
She was first into Linden Grove when it was built, in 1951, and lived in the same house for seventy years. Very sadly, her son Philip died last November, and there were many memories of his service in our Requiem this morning. May they both Rest in Peace.
Earlier, a zoom lesson with Bro Edmund up at Ampleforth. We finished at 11.00 am, myself to get ready for the Funeral, Edmund to assist Fr Bede with showing a large group of schoolchildren from Bradford around the public parts of the Monastery. Fr Bede is a good friend of a number of Werbies, and himself hails from Leeds.
Straight from Blacon to our Primary School, for a meeting with Kath Oates, the Headteacher, and other members of staff, plus the catechists and Priests from the two Parishes, St Columba’s & St Theresa's and St Werburgh's, to plan the First Holy Communion Programme for this academic year. We haven’t yet made a decision about the form of the final First Holy Communion Masses, whether to stay with the traditional format – any Sunday Mass during May – or to keep with this year’s Covid-19 format of special FHC Masses on Saturday Mornings. We all felt the latter had worked very well, but we don’t need to make a final decision until we can see a little more clearly how the land lies, perhaps after Christmas.
Sadly, the Funerals are flooding in, so back to the Ranch for a telephone call with Simon, the only child of next Wednesday afternoon’s Funeral, Anne McLinden, as Simon lives in London. We got on fine, but it was a reminder of when we could only have these conversations via the telephone at the height of the pandemic last year. They do work but give me the face to face meeting every time.
A free evening tonight – no, I don’t believe it either – so a pot of tea coming up, the 6.00 pm o’clock radio news and what I suspect could be quite a long walk over the Meadows.
May God bless you all,
Monday 13th September 2021
David from St James Avenue has a suggestion for my Winter Break this year: the Charles Dickens Festival in Deventer, Netherlands. [What Winter Break? Ed] Actually, the story of Dickens’ translation into European languages is a fascinating one, the speed with which his novels were translated and the range of languages into which they were rendered. I’ll put together a silly quiz, ten of his novels in their European translations, to see if you can guess the originals. To whet your appetite, here’s a very nice five-volume edition of Pickwick Papers in German:
And here’s just a couple of French translations to get you started, one dead easy, the other rather trickier:
“Le Conte de Deux Cités”
“La Maison d’Apre-Vent”
Manic Monday morning here, everything going off at the same time. Delighted Cath Brennan was able to take two carloads of the Debenhams Christmas Decorations for a charity she works with, before the removal men arrived to take the rest to the tip. Not sorry to see the garage cleared afterwards, as I should never have said ‘yes’ to this offer in the first place. Meanwhile, Finance Team are counting the collection and getting ready to bank it, and Covid-19 Taskforce meeting at 10.00 am. We spent a long time reviewing yesterday’s two Masses and seeing what lessons we needed to learn before moving onto to the next stage of easing restrictions.
The feedback we got from you – for which many, many thanks – was pretty universally positive. This, from Molly of Moorcroft, was typical:
“I wanted to let you know that I thought that the Mass today was so good and in particular the final departure from the Altar as you all walked down the aisle to the back of Church made me feel as though we were back to normal. It must have been a defining moment for you to stand at the door and greet people again.
Long may it last.”
But we did receive one long email saying we’d made a mistake in going from four Masses to two yesterday. Because it was so well-written, arguing its points in detail and written at such length, we wanted to read it together, line by line, and discuss all the arguments it advanced. We hugely appreciated the time this excellent Werbie had taken to write it, and I can promise them we did their views full justice this morning. It helped our discussion no end. As a group, we cannot thank you enough for the volume and depth of your feedback. Not one line of it is ever wasted.
Good discussion afterwards, one-to-one, with another excellent Werbie about their grandchild of 13 who was never Baptised and now would like to be. Super. But many angles here that need careful handling, as you can imagine. Fortunately, my grandparent was totally on the ball as to the sensitivities involved. Full marks to them for grasping the nettle. Grandparents have so many responsibilities, don’t they – and virtually no legal rights where grandchildren are concerned? The two main angles to tease out were the wishes of the child themselves and then the wishes of the child’s parents. You can be treading on eggshells here, but that’s no reason for avoiding the subject altogether. Provided we go slowly and seek the consent of all the main players at every stage, we can find a successful outcome here, I’m sure.
Then, the highlight of the day, no, of the week – blow it, of the YEAR! The return of weekday Mass. I was sure it was going to be just myself and a passing stray dog. Knock me down with a feather, SIXTEEN of you turned up to keep me company and celebrate the Holy Mass together for the Feast of St John Chrysostom. Lots of familiar faces there – Olive from Orford, Garden Gnome, Fifi from Forest Court, to name just three of the worst cases. Wonderful when Teresa Rogers stepped forward to do the reading, her lovely lilting Welsh tones echoing around our church. It’s been a lonely old business saying Mass here every day on my own for the last eighteen months. Of course, a wonderful experience: but the Mass was given to us to be shared and having so many of you along at 12.15 pm today was amazing.
This afternoon, into the Hospital to touch base with my boss there, Rev John Kingsley, and now home to bash the keys and get ready for going out to Hargrave this evening for their new Vicar’s induction. Hope they’ve got lots of hot water and towels ready.
May God bless you all,
Sunday 12th September 2021
First Sunday Morning back to the old times – 9.00 and 10,45 – and total numbers slightly down at 234. Reasons why? Some people turned up at 12.00, expecting Mass then so we probably lost a few because they’d forgotten about the changes. Were some put off by the prospect of two fuller Masses rather than four more spacious ones? Quite possibly. Some may have preferred the older times, as they suited them better. My hunch is that with the reintroduction of Evenings Masses a fortnight today, we shall gradually see the numbers creeping up. Whether they will ever match the pre-covid levels of 600-650 over the four Masses (Saturday Evening, two Sunday Morning and the Sunday Evening) only time will tell. Details for today:
- 9.00 am: 127
- 10.45 am: 107
- Total: 234
Otherwise, everything seemed to go well. Great to having a full cohort of Altar Servers, being able to process in and out at the start and finish of Mass, having the Bidding Prayers and (only slightly) longer Homily. Above all, the NOTICES! My Notice Slot, which you’ve missed more than anything else, I am well aware, was dedicated to the lady from my first Parish, who took me seriously to task in the Sacristy, five minutes before Mass, for reading out all the notices when they were printed in full on the Newsletter. “Please don’t do it, Father,” she said, in acid tones, shoving a piece of paper at me as she spoke. “But do please give my whist drive a special plug.”
No whist drive to push today, but please remember that Weekday Masses re-start tomorrow, usually at 12.15 pm but often needing to be re-scheduled because of other commitments. Don’t forget the SVP Autumn Celebration Mass next Sunday afternoon, if you know of any elderly or housebound parishioners who’d like to join us. Please remember the Food Bank’s appeal for goods, and the ten items they are particularly short of:
- UHT Juice
- Tinned Fruit
- Tinned Rice Pudding
- Instant Mash
- Instant Noodles
- Tinned Tomatoes
- Chocolate Bars and Sweets
- Instant Custard
Box at the back of church. And our Photo of the Week this week on the Newsletter is Trena Cox’s sumptuous Stained-Glass Window of St Christopher, now encased in our Disabled Loo. As good a reason for a visit there as any I can think of:
Finally, two dates for the Diary:
- Tuesday 28th September at 7.00 pm: Information and Training Meeting for new Sunday Morning Stewards to assist with Holy Communion, and to be ready in the event of an emergency evacuation. Not an arduous duty, but an important one. If enough of you wolunteer, you would only need to be on duty one week in five or six.
- Thursday 7th October at 7.00 pm: Open Meeting for all Choir Members, old and new, and anyone interested in joining. Tom, our new Choir Leader, will be unveiling his ideas, and all of us will have a chance to contribute, as together we shape the next exciting chapter in our Choir’s history.
Next Sunday we are back singing hymns, so I want you all to practise this week, every morning in the shower, so that you are all in excellent voice for the big day.
May God bless you all,
Saturday 11th September 2021
What a day! All went well until mid-afternoon, when suddenly my immaculately crafted Hospital Rota fell apart. I felt like booking myself into A&E. Fr Jude has finished as main Hospital Chaplain, we don’t know when his successor is arriving, Fr William (who’s finished Training) doesn’t have his induction till early October and can’t go on the Rota till then… It basically means that there are just three of us – Fr Emeka, Fr James and me – to cover the whole of September. Fr James wants to attend the Funeral of one of his Spiritans up in Scotland on Thursday, I need to be away myself for part of that day, so Fr Emeka is the saviour of the hour. He’ll cover Thursday, and then Monday morning I can get into the Hospital, when Rev John Kingsley, the Lead Chaplain is back from hols, and start sorting something out for the longer term. Come back Canon Niall, all is forgiven!!
And the day began so well, finishing the Newsletter on time, welcoming Fr Neill to hear Confessions, and out on the road to Wrexham well before 9.00 am. A joy to be back in the Prison, meeting many of the lads who’d been there a fortnight ago. Two were in some distress: Joe from Derry had just heard that his father Peter had been rushed into hospital. Knowing no more than that he obviously was in a very emotional state. Then another lad had just heard his sister had been found dead. Times like this bring home the horrible reality of being in Prison: you and I would be on the phone immediately to anyone and everyone, we’d be making plans to get over to where we needed to be, we’d be gathering our friends and family around us for emotional support. None of which is possible when you are in prison. The paucity of information is one of the cruellest aspects. You just don’t know what’s going on, and into that vacuum all sorts of horrible imaginings flood.
I had the chance of a good chat with my lad from Chester Catholic High. He asked if he could keep in touch, due to leave Prison in a fortnight’s time and move to the Bail Hostel, prior to complete release. Can he come here to Church, he asked? The answer is slowly, slowly. The first thing is to establish contact once he’s left Berwyn. They we need to find out what’s possible and what’s not. Fortunately, our own John O’Sullivan has started doing some excellent work on follow-up after release, and I shall want to pick his brains. When he’s back from planning his Memorial Service in Menorca, that is. How the other half live.
Back at 11.30 to knock out a letter for one of our Werbies, going down to London this afternoon to be a Godmother for her brother’s child tomorrow. The Priest there wants a letter of recommendation that she’s a card-carrying left-footer. OK, Father, will do: but it does all make work for the working man to do, doesn’t it?
Two joyous Baptisms after that, the third for Karl and Laura, married here in 2013, and the second for Richard and Rebecca, married here in 2014. A total joy for me to Baptise the babies of couples I’ve married. Good to see Richard Milner again, and his parents: some of you remember them as a young family at Mass in the old Tattenhall days, don’t you?
Then the ceiling fell in on the Hospital Rota. Any of you fancy doing a shift? NO? Honestly, self, self, self: it’s all you ever hear from some parishioners. Now I’m going for a long walk over the Meadows, to get some of this grumpiness out of the system before I settle down for the evening with my two favourites:
An unbeatable combination. Trust me, I’m a doctor.
May God bless you all,
Friday 10th September 2021
The skies obligingly opened at 3.30 pm to wash away all the confetti, the last wedding guests having departed half an hour previously. God is good. You don’t believe me, but He is. Half-way through the wedding I asked the Stewards to open the front doors, so muggy and oppressive had it become in church. Tommy Fennell was marrying Lauren Roberts, three years after they’d first come to start the process. They’ve had multiple postponements and cancellations, so really good today to welcome a church-full for a happy and relaxed wedding. These are two super families, and we’ve been blessed to marry so many members of both families in recent years, as well as Baptise their Babies and celebrate their Funerals.
Celebration was very much the keynote for Sheila Winder’s Requiem at 10.30 am. The family – Liz, David, Helen and Clare – had put together a beautiful service to honour their Mum and her ninety years of living life to the full. For twenty years Sheila was Domestic Science Mistress at Blacon High School, and generations of children remember her with affection, not just for her lessons but for her catering for school functions and looking after the food side of residential trips away. I met her first two days after arriving here, the first Saturday in September, Mondays always being SVP Meetings days up at Sheila Baxter’s house in Hoole. Good to welcome Margaret Hart here today as one of the few survivors of that remarkable group, so many no longer in good health or having Gone Home to the Lord. Good to welcome Steve Perry too this morning, our current SVP President, to represent today’s generations of Vincentians.
Quite a military exercise going from one busy Funeral to another crowded Wedding. Thank heavens we are no longer tracking and tracing, nor supervising hand sanitising, that now being the responsibility of each individual. For those of us who like the stats, here are yesterdays’ Covid-19 figures:
1. 65.2% of the UK have now had both jabs and so are fully vaccinated
2. 38,013 Daily Cases of Covid-19, down 141 on this day last week
3. 8,805 hospitalisations, up 424 on this day last week
4. 167 deaths, down 11 on this day last week
In a single word, I would describe the situation at the end of this week as “stalled”: the figures aren’t going up and they aren’t coming down. 167 Covid-19 deaths, given that roughly 1,500 die in the UK every day, needs taking seriously, but is not sufficient grounds for closing down the whole country. Do you all agree?
And so we go into our first weekend of normal Sunday Morning Masses, with Weekday Masses re-starting on Monday and Saturday and Sunday Evening Masses a fortnight later. We need to remain vigilant, but we also need to get on with our lives. All those in favour raise a hand. Many thanks to Michael Reynolds for playing the organ for the wedding, going straight from here to Silver Singers, where so many members of our own Choir take part. The man needs a medal!
The rain spared our wedding guests, but not, of course, our punters, Chester Races in full swing this afternoon:
The horses didn’t seem to mind. It’s what the Irish would describe as “soft going”.
May God bless you all,
Thursday 9th September 2021
Early morning trip over to Liverpool to shed my blood for the fatherland. The Blood Donor Centre has moved further up into Moorfields, for me one of the most interesting areas of Liverpool, and one that’s rarely explored. Anyone for a Heritage Day out there with a very long lunch in the middle? Come out the station now and turn up Tithebarn Street, to the old Exchange Station:
It opened in May 1850, at the end of the great decade of railway building in this country, the 1840’s. It was the Terminus for three companies, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, the East Lancs Railway, and the Liverpool, Crosby and Southport Railway, when they were all private companies issuing shares, fortunes won and fortunes lost. Badly damaged in the last war, the station was a victim of the Beeching cuts in the 1960’s. The station was demolished in the 1980’s, but thank heavens they preserved the façade, a wonderful memorial to the heyday of railways in the northwest.
Past Exchange Station and up Bixteth Street to St Paul’s Square, where the new Donor Centre is, and some exciting modern office blocks trying to recreate the dense high-rise feel of the Victorian Moorfields, the office and commercial centre of the city:
Into the new Centre and get plugged in. The young lad next to me is a first timer. “Date of Birth?” “Something of the something 2000” he replies. Blimey! 21! Any of us remember being 21? (No, obviously not you, Choir, for heaven’s sake). He’s getting a fair bit of reassurance from the nurses, where all I ever get is banter and insults, as you can imagine. In no time, we’re both finished, and you can see a faint smile of pride and pleasure on his face as he tucks into his complimentary bag of crisps.
Straight back to the Ranch, where the Team have been doing some excellent work on the Registers. I’m not the world’s best on Church Registers, but, trust me, I’m certainly not the worst. You wouldn’t want to know. They found one Baptism I hadn’t registered. So glad they did but can’t for the life of me understand why I missed writing it up. That would be a problem in twenty years’ time when the then youngster wanted to get married. By which time, I would long have gone to my eternal reward. A small Parish in Shropshire.
11.00 and Liz Aiello, our splendid Parish Safeguarding Officer came in to bring us up to date. The previous four-year cycle between DBS renewals has now been reduced to three, so it’s time to start again with DBS checks on our army of wolunteers if they work with Children or Vulnerable Adults:
- Children’s Liturgy
- FHC Catechists
- Adult Altar Servers
- Eucharistic Ministers who do Home Visits
- Confirmation Catechists
- Parish Secretary
- Parish Safeguarding Officer
Those last two categories are vitally important: Liz and I are not asking anyone to do anything that we don’t have to do ourselves. Both Liz and I are in the highest category of DBS Checks and rightly so.
Two sets of Organists coming in today for practice, one at 1.00 pm and one at 5.30 pm, as we pump up the bellows for Organ at Mass again Sunday 19th September. This final photo will bring back some fond memories for the Choir:
That’s the old St John’s Church, it’s 1916, and a youthful Geoff Hewson is doing the pumping. What a player!
May God bless you all,
Wednesday 8th September 2021
Whichever way you slice it, lockdown as we’ve known it so far seems to be over. At least, it certainly was in the High School this afternoon, the nearest to normal I’ve seen for eighteen months. Everyone loving it. No masks, no bubbles, just the buzz of starting a new school year. As Mrs McKeagney, the Head, put it to me, it’s not just Year 7 we have to introduce to a new school and go through induction procedures with – it’s also Year 8, because they missed out on all this, this time last year. Then I headed over to the Sixth Form, to meet Ana, our excellent School Chaplain, who wanted to book in the Year Welcome Mass for next month, and Mrs Letissier, the first-rate Head of Sixth Form. Delighted to have confirmed that the High School Head Girl next year is our very own Emily Neale. Well done, Emily! They have to go through quite a gruelling selection process, votes of both pupils and staff, then interviews, before the final choice is made. She’ll make a first-class role model for those students.
It looks like there’ll be two Candidates from the High School for Medicine/Oxbridge this year, a bright mathematician trying Oxbridge, and Liam, the Head Boy, having a shot at Medicine. Met both of them today and looking forward to working with them. Then Mrs Letissier said she was leaving me for an hour with a common room full of Year 12, “So, just go and say hello, and make yourself known!” Yeah, right. In fact, it proved remarkably easy, lovely young boys and girls, no problem at all wandering round chatting to them in little groups, how are they finding the Sixth Form, what A Levels are they doing, did they get away anywhere this summer… One young lady was making me laugh with tales of her summer holiday job, working for Domino’s Pizzas, wrong toppings, no nachos, irate customers. Very much enjoying it, she told me, except for the Friday evening rush, when the whole world wants their Texas BBQ or Mighty Meaty. And for pity’s sake don’t confuse the two.
Finally, into one of the Upper Sixth classes to start talking about Personal Statements, how to sell yourself to your colleges or unis. These students are only sixteen and seventeen, so young in many ways, so mature in others. An exciting time of life, so go for it, everyone.
Our own John O’Sullivan sadly cannot remember being that age, too many decades ago. Sunning his aged body in Menorca as we write, he found this beautiful church:
“I was privileged to attend Mass at The Cathedral of Menorca last Sunday. Dedicated to St Mary, it was built on the orders of King Alphonse III of Aragon in the 14th century, on the site of the island’s former main Mosque. It is such an ancient and beautiful building (see images attached) that I decided right there and then to have it for my own Memorial Service (in due course!) and have written to Bishop Francisco Simon Conesa Ferrer to obtain his permission.”
Despite all the abuse of the PP, John, that’s a few decades away, I hope!
Now, this evening, Tommy and Lauren’s Wedding Rehearsal and a couple of people who wanted a Confession outside of the normal Saturday Morning slot, which is always a pleasure.
Roll on, Gin O’Clock!
May God bless you all,
Tuesday 7th September 2021
A quieter afternoon after a manic morning, the whole world coming back to life after its long sleep. At least that’s what it felt like. Zoom lesson with Bro Edmund at Ampleforth interrupted every ten minutes by a phone call. Which he then started to mark. “Seven out of ten for that one. Started quite nice but I thought you got a bit bossy in the middle”… “Five out of ten – talk about passive-aggressive!”… “That was a nine – liked that person, did you?” Cheeky little novice.
First thing, I needed to sort out Marriage Prep, one part of the great sleep that is definitely coming to an end. Identified out a couple of Saturdays between now and Christmas when I can offer this whole day session and contacted all couples between now and then to see who’s interested. Normally, this is a compulsory part of marrying in the Catholic Church, but it’s been impossible to deliver for the past eighteen months. Now I’ve run up the flag, let’s see who salutes.
Ever have that feeling you should have said “No”? Big style last week when a nice gentleman rang me from Debenhams to say he had the contract to clear the whole store, and would I like the Christmas Decorations? Otherwise, they’d all be taken to the tip. I know, I know, I should have asked a lot more questions. Naively, I thought they were boxes of Christmas baubles that the store would sell; rather, they are the decorations the store itself puts up every festive scene to make the place look more Christmassy. One hundred boxes of them, now bunging up our garage. Having had a good look at them, I know we can't use them ourselves and haven’t got anyone else who can. So, contacted a local rubbish removal firm, who came this morning to have a look (and probably a laugh) and will come next Monday to take the lot away. Anyone for…
Lots and lots of them.
Congratulations to Steve Perry on completing his bike ride to Paris to raise funds for the British Legion:
I know – that could have been taken anywhere. So, just to prove that he and Caroline did actually make it, cue sound of accordion as you see…
Talking of fund raising, I sent a big envelope off to the Poor Clares at Nottingham this morning, all your wonderful contributions to their Building Fund.
I know how grateful they’ll be, so thanks to one and all for helping them.
Here’s a lovely web site which shows you some stunning churches in National Parks. Being situated there, they enjoy much greater protection, of course, than they might otherwise, hopefully free from demolition or, what is sometimes worse, “modernisation”. Ugh!
And finally, I love these computer-generated emails that reckons to establish your name from your email address. They had a good go with this one, didn’t they?
Hello Mr (Mrs) BURG, I'm A Student And I'm Honored To Be Selling T-Shirts For You.
I have all Size - Color - Product Type - Gender
Guaranteed Delivery in 4-7 days for you
May God bless you all, and much love from Mr (Mrs) Burg,
Monday 6th September 2021
Lively Taskforce first thing this morning, looking at yesterday’s Masses, and the 9.00 am in particularly, 110 present yesterday. This could be 150/160 next Sunday, when we are back to our two traditional Mass times, 9.00 am and 10.45 am. In essence, the major change is that each of us is now responsible for his or her own social distancing rather than “them” enforcing it on us. Do you notice this out in town or in any public place? Other people will cheerfully crash into us. If I don’t want this to happen – and I don’t – I have to take the evading action, usually with a fairly sarcastic “Thank you so much!” as I dodge out of their way. Apply this to church, and each of has to be responsible for keeping a sensible distance from other people. There’s no police force out there any more to enforce it. Let’s see how it works out on Sunday! Solvitur ambulando, as they say in German.
Other bullet points this morning:
• Parking down the side passageway – yes, but it’s your responsibility to make sure you don’t get blocked in, not ours. I’m not going to interrupt the 10.45 Mass to ask the owner of the red Fiesta to move so that the green Toyota can get out…
• Collections: we’re not reintroducing the basket passing along the rows just yet because…
• …because that needs our wonderful team of Welcomers being reinstated, and we are very conscious that, for one reason or another, both 9.00 and 10.45 teams have been slimmed down in the last eighteen months. Watch this pace for an appeal for Welcomers, old and new, to come together again. (In case you can’t follow the logic there, it’s Welcomers who tap people on the shoulder to take round the baskets.)
• Newsletters: in the porch for a little while because…
• …because we need to sort out the two back corners, to allow the Repository, Newsstand, CTS rack and Library to come back into use. Any wolunteers to help us sort out the back corners?
• QR Codes and Sign-in Sheets will be on the tables in the porch for us to use if you wish but tracking and tracing is no longer mandatory.
• Candles will be available from this Sunday onwards. Light one for me, please.
• Opening time? 8.15 initially, as the Team comes in at 8.00 am and just needs to give everything a wipe down (including the Parish Priest) before we can fling wide the doors to the lumpenproletariat. As they really do say in German.
The message for this Sunday, then, is this: I am now responsible for myself, and my own Covid-19 safety. Get too close, and you’ll find out what Hat Pins are really for…
Long chat this afternoon with one of our younger Werbies, grieving heavily for the death of a grandparent. This was an unscheduled visit, and for the first ten minutes I’m fretting about my afternoon schedule. Then, thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit gets a word in edgeways, and tells me that nothing is more important than giving this youngster space and time. Stuff the Diary. And you know what? The Holy Spirit was right. Funny, isn’t it?
It meant a spot of rearranging, which was dead simple, and it meant being a bit later up to Ellesmere Port on my latest Decanal Pastoral visit. Great to see Frs Edmund and Humphrey settling in, starting to get the Presbytery the way they want it, starting to meet the folk. Both lovely youngsters, and we are so blessed having them. Looking at dates for me to induce Fr Edmund, so I shall have the hot water and towels ready, don’t you worry. And he wants a Deanery trip to Rome next June, when two of our Shrewsbury seminarians are due to be ordained. Wow! Any of you Werbies up for it? Please, please, form an orderly queue!
He is an absolute love, isn’t he? Little monkey too, but a lovely little monkey. One duty he performed this afternoon was handing over to me the Deanery Oil Stocks. I enjoy researching pictures to go on this Blog, but when I googled “Oil Stocks” I was a little disconcerted to get this:
A little more juggling, and I found this, from the Archdiocese of Southwark. Wherever that is.
My mate Johnny Wilson in charge down there now. Remember him when he was just a kid. Taught him all he knows.
Another lovely boy. A real smasher.
May God bless you all,
Sunday 5th September 2021
I have to admit, the Old Nuisance’s recliner armchair came into its own at 3.30 this afternoon, head back, feet up, bye-bye world. Pretty non-stop eight or nine hours before that, a typical Werbies Sunday. Alarm goes at 6.00 am, and for the first time, I have to put the light on. Cleaning my teeth in the dark could be hazardous especially if I dropped them down the… Then priesty-prayers and some semblance of being ready to face the world at 8.00 am, when Syd and Denise arrive to start preparing for “Doors Open” in church at 8.30 am. The last time we are welcoming Stewards, tracking and tracing, the final time for four half-hour Masses, on the hour, every hour, 9.00 till 12.00 noon. It’s been arduous, but necessary to accommodate everyone who’s wanted to come here, socially distanced, entire church cleaned between whiles. Arduous, necessary, but none of us will miss it. Now we return to the traditional 9.00 and 10.45 times next Sunday, with Saturday and Sunday evening Masses re-starting a fortnight later, organ, hymns, library, repository, all the normal features of our traditional Werbies Sundays. Then just when we are fully back to normal, there’ll be another national lockdown…
And you ask why I get so bitter and twisted.
After the final noon Mass, a joint Baptism for Gracie and Oliver. I don’t normally do more than one at a time, but this was a special request, the dads, Danny O’Reilly and Matthew Titley, being old mates from the Catholic High. It meant a church full, but good to welcome so many friendly faces, including Frank Titley from St Clare’s, this his first grandchild from his four sons. They’re just not doing their duty, Frank!
Next Baptism was Veronica Roger’s great-grandchild Ada, so she had to take plenty of cheek, as you can imagine. Well, you lot would have expected little else. Straight from there to Blacon, to bless the new headstone for Elizabeth, Ethel and George Hewson. Ethel and George were Geoff’s parents, and he was there with his two sisters, Lucy and Dot, plus Geoff’s daughter Pam and Dot’s daughter Louise. Elizabeth was George’s mother, so the grave in other words, contained Geoff’s parents and grandmother. Strangely, there had never been a gravestone, but they’d always wanted to erect one. Never too late for these things, and this afternoon, we had a beautiful little gathering in the warm September sunshine to share some memories of bygone days, growing up in the family house in Queen Street. Room for just one more in this grave so, of course, I asked Geoff if it was really worth his while going home? [You can go too far at times you know. Ed] Lucy offered to find a shovel, and Geoff moved away fairly sharply.
That’s Geoff with Lucy on the left and Dot on his right. A rose between two thorns??
Back at 3.30 to press those buttons on the old recliner. For those who like the Stats, here are today’s figures:
- Sunday 5th September 321
- Sunday 29th August 308
- Sunday 22nd August 325
- Sunday 15th August 296
- Sunday 8th August 270
- Sunday 1st August 261
- Sunday 25th July 258
- Sunday 18th July 249
- 9.00 am 110
- 10.00 am 55
- 11.00 am 94
- 12.00 noon 62
- Total 321
If 321 come next Sunday, that will mean dividing it over two Masses, with possibly 160 at each. Well, you all know what hat pins are for, don’t you?
May God bless you all,
Saturday 4th September 2021
A moment of intense disappointment this afternoon, as my Covid-19 Lateral Flow Test came back negative. You know, I really could have handled ten days of total isolation. Start the party without me. I was on a call-out to one of our Nursing Homes, to see Peter Thornton, the husband of Mary from Boughton Grange, who’s on his way from this life to the Life Eternal. Good to meet her sister and niece there as well. Mary and her sister were both Shanleys, and Margaret married a Shone. Two of the great dynasties of Catholic Chester.
Straight from the Nursing Home to a second call-out, this time to the Hospital, to Reg Chrimes on the Stroke Unit. He was very unresponsive when I arrived, but soon woke up, and wanted a chat. The problem initially was understanding him: he knew I hadn’t grasped what he’d just said, and I knew it. No hiding place. Tempting to call it a day, quick Our Father and disappear. But always so glad I don’t give in to that temptation. You just have to discover one seam of sense, and you’ve cracked it. This afternoon, it was where he came from. Neston. That took three minutes. Always lived in Neston, Reg? No. Where else? In-dia. That came out beautifully clearly. Age? 96, born in 1924. So, did you go to India in the war? Yes. Now we’re flying, pun intended. Army? No, RAF. Whereabouts? Bombay. Wow! At the end of twenty minutes, we’d had a really good, if painfully slow, chat, and I could see the pleasure on his face. Hospital visiting at its best.
The day began with putting the Newsletter to bed before Confessions at 9.00 am. Then an hour wading into emails – they really do breed in the night – and time to swing into action for today’s Wedding, Owain and Sarah. Sarah’s a Junior Doctor at Christie’s, the huge Cancer Hospital in Manchester, and Owain a Product Manager. Whatever one of them is. Good to welcome Michael Reynolds as our star organist, Queen of Sheba to start the wedding and Widor’s Toccata to finish with. Rather a grey day, but not cold and mercifully dry. All the guests lined up along the path to the house door and asked if the couple could come through the front door for their confetti shot. It made a lovely scene, and no, GG, there’s not too much mess on your front lawn. You have to be so careful these days.
Lovely chance in the week to catch up for an evening with the Millers, that super family from Michigan (Steve, the dad) and Strabane (Diane, the mum), both the kids at the High School. Ronan only wears that hat to hide the six-foot long hair underneath it, a male Rapunzel. Wonder if he’ll get his hair cut before term begins for the pupils on Monday?
Always a pleasure working with the Oxbridge pupils across a wide range of Chester schools. Of the group I saw last autumn, only one gained a place, Grace from the Catholic High. She’s an extraordinary linguist, French and Spanish, beautifully fluent in both, and using constructions and vocabulary you could never expect from a seventeen-year-old. She also has a deep love of the literature of both cultures. I wasn’t surprised Wadham, Oxford snapped her up:
And who’s our own star Werbie Wadhamite? Yes, him in the yellow jacket:
It was good to see Grace’s parents at the Leavers’ Mass on Thursday and have a chat. “Do you know what I want to thank this school for most, now that Grace is leaving?” her Mum asked me. I wondered what she would say. The quality of the teaching? The academic success her daughter had gained? No, none of these. “I want to thank it for being such a kind school.”
I was very moved by that. Perhaps she’s right: if a school has kindness, all the other qualities will follow?
May God bless you all,
Friday 3rd September 2021
So glad to be able to celebrate the Year 13 Leavers’ Mass at the High School with so many pupils, parents and staff last night. None of us was sure how many would turn up for this first School Mass in eighteen months. But the Lyceum was pleasantly full, and Mrs McKeagney started proceedings with a heartfelt expression of thanks to these youngsters who simply haven’t had anything like a normal Sixth Form education. In the Mass, we gave God thanks for the last seven years, and especially for the strength to get through the last two, and to ask His blessings on the next chapter of our lives, whatever they may be and wherever they may take us. After Mass, we had the usual very moving slide show of their time at school, from being shy Year 7 starters onwards. Definitely brought a lump to the throat.
In my little non-Homily, I reflected on our second reading, I Corinthians 13, “Only three things last in this life, faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love”. Looking back on our own school days, mum and dads, teachers and governors, to which of our teachers would be give the “Man or Woman of the Match” award? No-one seemed to find this a difficult question to answer. The common theme was that Mr X or Mrs Y had gone that extra mile, had reached out to us, had encouraged us when we needed it most, had been more than “just a teacher”. I myself was torn between my English teacher and my History one in the sixth form, both wonderful men to whom I’ll always be grateful. The History Master, Head of History, was Colonel Badman, also in charge of the CCF. “I’m Badman by name, and bad man by nature,” is how he ferociously introduced himself at the start of the Lower Sixth; “As you boys will find if you ever cross me”. No sir, absolutely not, sir, not in a million years, sir. Although we were terrified of him, you couldn’t mistake the twinkle in his eye as he said it. A passionate, inspiring wonderfully motivational History teacher, he literally made the nineteenth century come alive. Every week, we had to write an essay, handed in on Monday and handed back on Wednesday, meticulously marked and graded. I will never forget the occasion, sometime towards the end of that first term, late November, when we passed in the corridor. “Shaw!” he barked. “Your essay this week. Not bad at all. You’re not as stupid as you look, are you?”
I was walking on air for the rest of that term. Rare praise indeed.
This morning, out to an early call in Linden Grove, a 95-year-old lady on her Way to the Lord. Then back to call in at the Register Office in Goldsmith’s House to pick up the Wedding Schedule for tomorrow, Owain and Sarah. Back for their Rehearsal at 10.30 and straight out to Rowton for a Site Visit with our Taskforce and their Rowton Methodist Team. Immensely positive, we’ve come up with a plan that we think will respect social distancing and all other remaining Covid-19 regulations, a plan that is acceptable to both our Methodist hosts and to us, their Catholic guests, and which will solve the age-old (long pre-Covid) problem of distributing Holy Communion in that beautiful but very tight little chapel.
- Saturday evening Mass will re-start at Rowton on 25th September.
- We will sit in every other bench.
- We will expect everyone to wear masks, as in our Main Church.
- Maximum capacity of any one bench: three singletons or two pairs, or a single, large bubble.
- Total maximum capacity of the chapel under these arrangements – 40.
- If you come at the last minute, you risk being turned away.
- Space to position additional single chairs at the front and in the hallway.
- Everyone will stay in their seats for Holy Communion, and I will come round to you, possible now if we are using only every other bench.
- We will sanitise the Chapel after Mass, ready for the Methodist Service on Sunday Morning.
- We will do a written Risk Assessment.
- Anne H and FP will initially act as Stewards but may ask for other wolunteers when we see how it is all going.
Home for lunch, then out for my usual very enjoyable and stimulating monthly visit to Pat from Pulford, back to bash on these keys, and get ready for the last session with Patrick, who had the false start at University this time last year, and who has used the intervening twelve months so positively. He is now rearing to go, Freshers’ Week here we come, reading Politics at University of Newcastle. Go for it, Patrick!
May God bless you all,
Thursday 2nd September 2021
Mentions of hosting Deanery Lunches has certainly got you lot going. Among the more repeatable menu suggestions comes this one from Mike from Mickle Trafford:
Suggestions for your menu. Goose, of course, for the main course in honour of St Werburgh. Perhaps followed by Stinking Bishop cheese from the Cheese Shop on Northgate (yes, it does stink!) and then a bowl of a Dickens’ favourite, Smoking Bishop!
Keep the suggestions coming, folks, but do please remember this is a family blog.
A failing of mine – and I’m the first to admit it – is admiring objets d’art (as they say in German) in people’s houses – furniture, antiques, porcelain or pictures. It’s a fine line to tread between showing genuine admiration for beautiful objects and sounding as if you’re asking to be given it. John Hamilton Moore was an extraordinary gentleman, whose Funeral we celebrated here last month. Amongst his many talents and abilities, he was a talented amateur artist. I met him first three years ago, when I came to administer the Last Rites to his wife up in Oaklands Nursing Home. The room was covered with a number of striking oil paintings, all the work of her husband, John. He himself went Home to the Lord in July, and William, his eldest son, has been clearing his house in Westminster Park. He’s disposed of all the paintings around the family: then the question I was half dreading – would I like one? The answer was an emphatic yes, but not if the implication was that I had been angling for one. This is it, a view of the Groves, with light catching the boats on the river, setting off the dark walls on the left. It’s a wonderful contrast of light and shade and unmistakeably Chester. I hope you all like it as much as I do.
Busy old day today, booking in Baptisms and Weddings this morning before the first meeting at 11.00 am of our new Music Team: Syd and Denise as Music Group Leaders, and Michael Reynolds, Tom Rozario, Mike Riley and Bob Owens as our four-man Organists Quartet. Lovely sense of enthusiasm this morning, everyone pledged to help everyone else as we move our music forward into its next exciting chapter. Sunday 19th September we will start singing hymns again, and then the Mass Commons from either 26th September or 3rd October. Thursday 7th October is our Open Evening for all Choir Members, old and new, to meet their new Choir Master, Tom, and pool ideas together for how they would like the Choir to develop.
Great news from Dominique that Nathalie is now home again after her spell in both the Countess and Salford Royal. She sent us this lovely snap of the Hospital Chapel at the latter, the Chapel of the Good Shepherd:
The hospital website is very interesting on how they see Chaplaincy provision fitting in with the ethos of the hospital as a whole. In that connection, I share with you the coverage given by SPUC, the leading anti-abortion charity, to the dispute at Nottingham University between the University and the Catholic Chaplain. I don’t comment on the accuracy of their report at all, and I know nothing about this dispute apart from what I have read in the newspapers. But I do know that, as a national body of Catholic Uni Chaplains, we try very hard to make sure such disputes do not occur. As I said yesterday, it’s a juggling act, and, by the sound of it, something’s gone badly wrong here:
UK University rejects Catholic Chaplain for expressing pro-life views posted on 31 August 2021 15:17
A University in the UK has refused to officially recognise a Catholic priest as its campus Chaplain because of his pro-life views. Michael Robinson, SPUC Director of Communications said: “The rejection of this priest from his role as University Chaplain, is indicative of a broader free speech crisis and growing hostility towards the pro-life community.”
Father David Palmer, who is serving in the Diocese of Nottingham, was named as chaplain to the Catholic community at the University of Nottingham by local Bishop Patrick McKinney.
However, the University of Nottingham is now refusing to recognise Father Palmer as its Chaplain after he refused to amend his social media posts where he spoke out against abortion and assisted suicide.
On Twitter, Father Palmer referred to a recent assisted suicide bill as an attempt to “kill the vulnerable.” He also referred to abortion as “the slaughter of babies.”
The University of Nottingham demanded that he amend the wording of his pro-life views on social media. Father Palmer refused to amend his pro-life statements and asserted that his tweets reflected Catholic belief.
Father Palmer said: “I was told it was fine for me to have this opinion, but they were concerned with how I expressed it. When I asked how they would suggest I express it, quite remarkably, they suggested I should call it ‘end of life care,’ which is a completely unacceptable policing of religious belief.”
Bishop McKinney has not nominated another Priest to take Father Palmer’s place as Chaplain. The University of Nottingham is permitting Father Palmer to celebrate Mass on campus on Sundays as a ‘guest Priest.’
Social media users have since taken to Twitter to defend Father Palmer and express their dismay at the University’s actions.
One user wrote: “Sounds like University of Nottingham are attempting to censor Fr Palmer. Are traditional Catholic ideas not to be voiced in a secular university? Questions need to be asked.”
SPUC’s Michael Robinson said: “The University of Nottingham’s decision to cancel Father Palmer appears to be steeped in prejudice towards the Catholic community and pro-lifers.
“To silence any person particularly on the basis of a deeply held philosophical belief, is to act against the Equalities Act.”
Hostility towards pro-lifers at Nottingham University
Medial student, Julia Rynkiewicz received a formal apology and financial compensation after the University of Nottingham suspended her because she expressed pro-life views.
The student was subject to a four-month fitness to practice investigation by the University in 2019 and was blocked from entering hospital placements.
A survey conducted earlier this year found that one in four students are “threatened, abused, alarmed or distressed” for being pro-life at university in the UK.
SPUC’s Michael Robinson added: “Universities should be bastions of free speech, where differing opinions are explored and challenged.
“Unfortunately, at UK universities, those who identify as pro-life are being subject to censorship and discrimination. Universities must work harder to protect freedom of speech.”
As you see here, the Bishop nominates the Chaplain to the University – and only the Bishop can nominate – but the University has to accept this nomination (they almost invariably do) and then make the Appointment.
After the Music Team meeting, Madame Prezzie of CathSoc came round for me to record my Welcome Message for the Freshers’ Fair video. Delighted to do this, just as I am delighted to serve as Catholic Chaplain to the University of Chester. Only sorry that things have broken down so badly at Nottingham University.
Then lunch with Danny and Miriam, one of my favourite weddings couples from yesteryear, Danny from Northern Ireland and Miriam from Germany, now both teaching at Birmingham University. Plus, Alexander Karl, eight months and absolutely gorgeous. They want to bring him up bilingual, but I said he should be allowed to choose his own politics when he’s older.
Off now to the Upper Sixth (Year 13) Leavers’ Mass at the High School, held over from last July. Just so glad they are having it, a chance to ask God’s blessings on our youngsters as they now head off to college or the world of work. It doesn’t matter which, as long as they earn lots of money to look after their parents in their old age. Agreed?
May God bless you all,
Wednesday 1st September 2021
No question about it, life is picking up pace. Half of me glad, half horrified. New month today, and it sees Apostolic Succession swinging into life, Dean of Ellesmere Port and Chester miraculously passing from Canon Niall to FP at midnight. It almost woke me up. Once awake and priesty-prayers out the way, time to send a first email round to all the troops, saying I was now open for business, updating everyone on the Hospital Rota for September and telling them to watch out for the date of our first Deanery Conference, hopefully the first in-person one for two years. Normally they are in the middle of October and we’re hoping for a firm date soon. As a point of interest, Meet the Team!!
- Ellesmere Port and Hooton: Fr Edmund and Fr Humphrey; Deacon Paul
- Spiritans Chester and Hospital Chaplain: Fr Jude, and all the Spiritans
- St Francis Chester: Bro Jinson, Bro Piotr and all the Friars; Deacon Peter
- St Clare’s Chester: Fr Emeka
- St Columba’s and St Theresa’s Chester: Fr William and Fr James; Deacons Lawrence and Tom
- St Werburgh’s Chester: Fr Neill and Fr Paul
That could be a maximum of fourteen, then, for Deanery Lunch after Conference. Definitely a 2.00 am in the kitchen on that day, possibly 1.30 am.
So, having sent off my first email and Hospital Rota, down to the Spiritans to say hello to them all, my first Decanal Visit. Nine Priests in the house these days, some in better health than others, but all fascinating to talk to about their amazing experiences as Missionaries all over the world, mainly in Africa. 87-year-old Fr Vincent is always a joy to talk to. After his Spiritan training, he was sent by the Order to do an English degree, to equip him to teach in their schools and seminaries. The other Spiritans this morning were joshing him that they’d sent him to do his English Degree at University College Dublin – an English Degree in Ireland! How very dare they! Both UCD and TCD have first-class English faculties today and did then. Apart from anything else, it’s a cliché of the subject that all the best English Literature is Irish…
Yesterday and today have seen the ecumenical scene trying to get back on its feet again. Yesterday, we had our first in-person meeting of the Christleton Churches Together, in Judith’s lovely garden in the lee of St James’ Church in the heart of the village. This afternoon, I was out to Tarvin for the Churches Together in Cheshire team meeting, trying to plan as far as we can for the big county-wide ecumenical service in the Cathedral for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January. Everything has to be “Plan A” and “Plan B” these days, sometimes “Plan C”. That’s all we can do at present, as the shape of the months ahead is so far from settled.
Not that that stops CathSoc’s Madame Prezzie, down in Bristol, and her blossoming love life. I’m not at liberty to talk about it, and I never gossip, as you know. But how about this as evidence of a recent assignation?
And it wasn’t a Curry for One. Nudge, nudge. Say’n’more.
Madame Ex-Prezzie’s love life? Oh, for pity’s sake, just don’t go there! Not unless you have the entire evening free.
May God bless you all,
Tuesday 31st August 2021
Lots of little signs today of a world returning to some sort of “normal”. Liz Aiello, our excellent Parish Safeguarding Officer, is going through her records of who’s been DBS checked and who hasn’t and is looking at the Altar Servers who have now turned 18. What a list! This is a real tribute to Gerry, our indefatigable Altar Servers Organiser, that whereas most Parishes tend to lose their Servers when they reach 14 or 15, we have a fine record of keeping ours on, through college or university, and into the adult world of work afterwards. A real achievement!
I told you James and Laura and their two lovely little boys called in yesterday, up from London to visit the Clotton Wrinklies, Mike and Liz. Here they are at the holiday home on Anglesey:
Honestly, James, I don’t know why people call you a bit of a poser. Actually, if you look carefully, he’s doing a bit of product placement. He’s Head Legal Honcho for Helly Hansen, off to HQ in Norway next week. Take care, James!
Talking of posers and bits of posers, how about this foursome on the green in Anglesey?
Recognise the one in the cap, pupils at St Werburgh’s and St Columba’s Primary School? Just make sure you don’t slice any of them into the rough, Mr McCallum!
Thanks to one of our readers for sending over this clip from yesterday’s Daily Telegraph:
These are issues we discuss regularly at Regional and National meetings of Catholic Uni Chaplains. In many ways, it’s not dissimilar from being a Hospital or Prison Chaplain: you are a minister of a particular denomination but working in (and employed by) an essentially secular organisation. But – and this is the big ‘but’ – they wouldn’t employ you if they didn’t think Chaplaincy worthwhile. It’s a question of juggling faithfulness to my church teaching and loyalty to what the organisation as a whole is trying to achieve. I’ve always enjoyed cordial relations with the hospitals, universities, regiments, hospices and prisons where I’ve been a Chaplain. I don’t agree with the headline that Catholics are being cancelled on campus: but equally, I do know that we are treading on eggshells at times. I always say, “keep on treading, but tread carefully”.
And finally, another day, another email scam. They never give up, do they?
I don’t know what to be more worried about: being speculated, which sounds awfully painful, or discovering the date today is 3rd September. And I thought it was 31st August. Now I’m really confused!
May God bless you all,
Monday 30th August 2021
Bank Holidays? What’s one of them? Team in as usual at 8.30 today to count the Collection. No Taskforce this morning as we are meeting on Friday, a Site Visit out to Rowton to look at the Chapel there and decide what’s what. But we did have ten minutes at the end of the count to look at 12th September and the following Sundays and decide what’s changing when. Sunday 19th we hope to reintroduce hymns and collection. Then we need to clean out the two back corners, where chairs and tables have been stored for the past eighteen months, to allow the Library, Repository and News-stand to start up again.
As we said at Mass yesterday, if you are one of the army of parishioners who had a “Sunday Job”, please wait till you get the signal from us to resume work. We want to go a stage at a time, in case anything doesn’t work, and we have to pause the roll-out and make some changes. At the same time, not everything we did before do we want to keep on doing: all of us have learnt lots of lessons through lockdowns, and some of the old ways of doing things don’t have to be the way we’re going to do them in the future.
Then a phone call with Fr Gabriel at Ampleforth. He’s my “line manager”, to use ghastly corp-speak, the Master of Studies, in charge of the academic side of the Novices’ and Junior Monks’ formation. Before Abbot Robert was elected in January this year, Fr Gabriel was Prior Administrator, and in that capacity, he administered Simple Vows to Bro Edmund (my pupil). Here they all are on that happy occasion, with, from the left, Fr Kevin, Fr Chad (then Novice Master), Bro Edmund, Fr Gabriel (vested), someone I don’t recognise but possibly a Novice from Downside, and Fr Christopher, Junior Master. Bro Edmund, you notice, is the only one not smiling. Perhaps he’d heard about me.
Fr Gabriel is the most wonderful, scholarly and very funny boss. A medieval historian, he was master of St Benet’s Hall in Oxford for some time, and a Headmaster of the school at Ampleforth. He is the sort of boss who makes teaching a pleasure.
Then an hour with Sheila Winder’s three daughters, Liz, Helen and Claire, starting to plan the celebration of their mother’s life on Friday of next week, 10th September. I always value hearing the full account of anyone’s life, slotting the bits I knew already into the total picture. A proud Lancastrian, her home on Belgrave Road had a number of fine black and white lithographs of Victorian Lancaster, often featuring the River Lune. I knew that two of the girls had been keen rowers, Sheila supporting them vociferously from the towpath; but I hadn’t realised both her father and grandfather had been keen amateur oarsmen. I can’t find a good example to show you but here’s a Victorian picture from the Illustrated London News of the building of the railway line viaduct across the river into the city:
And then just before lunch, a lovely surprise visit from James and Laura, married by myself over in Holy Angels Hale Barns in 2017, and now blessed with two super little boys. We’ve always kept in touch despite their living in London, and they usually pop in when they come up to see the Wrinklies, James’ parents: Liz and Mike Brook, two of our ever-faithful Stewards!
Finally, that terrible man, Laurie from Larshay, has been at it again:
May God bless you all,
Sunday 29th August 2021
The rising trend of recent weeks slightly stalled today, but still over the 300 mark which challenges Barrie and Bettie, as they have to re-draw the red line on their graph:
- Sunday 29th August 308
- Sunday 22nd August 325
- Sunday 15th August 296
- Sunday 8th August 270
- Sunday 1st August 261
- Sunday 25th July 258
- Sunday 18th July 249
All four Masses today very well attended, including the 12.00 noon, usually the least popular of the four:
- 9.00 am 93
- 10.00 am 64
- 11.00 am 89
- 12.00 noon 62
- Total 308
Eyes now on a fortnight today, 12th September, when we move from four half-hour Masses to the usual two full-length ones. Will that put anyone off? Equally, will the end of the Summer Hols and all schools back, have any effect the other way? You will get all the facts here, folks: never let it be said that this blog is just pretty pictures of flowers and pretty pictures of Olive.
Very interesting study by a group of medics in today’s Mail On-line trying to put deaths from Covid-19 into some sort of perspective. Over the period of their study, in July this year, this is what they found:
In other words, more people dying of flu and pneumonia than of Covid, and nowhere near the big killers, Heart Disease, Cancer and Dementia. But some may argue, Covid is preventable. Well, so are the others: a Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine was on the radio the other day saying he wished all people over 50 would regularly take medication to reduce Blood Pressure, as that would have a dramatic effect on the numbers dying from Strokes. This pandemic has cost us squillions. Just think of Dishy Rishi’s Furlough Scheme. What would that money have achieved if it had been spent on Cancer Research instead?
Before we leave the stats, here’s the Infections Graph, showing that the decline in the third wave has halted but isn’t dramatically increasing:
133 deaths were recorded from Covid-19 in the latest twenty-four-hour period in the UK. To put that in context, about 1,700 people die in the UK every day.
|Year||Number of deaths||Population (Thousands)||Crude mortality rate (per 100,000 population)||Age-standardised mortality rate (per 100,000 population)|
Right! Enough of these statistics! (Cries of “You can never have enough of statistics!” from Barrie and Bettie of Berkley), let’s have a pretty flower or a holiday snap. How about this little church, St Thomas of Canterbury Wroxton, snapped by Anne Rushton on her gaddings and gallivantings in Oxfordshire and Warwickshire?
It’s near Banbury and boasts of being the only thatched church in the county. It has a fascinating history, as you’ll see by googling it. Talking of g&g-ing, John and Anne Marie Curtis have been travelling in the French Alps and have sent us back some wonderful photos. Here’s one to finish with tonight, just to whet your appetite:
Altar and nave of the Parish Church of St Bernard, Les Houches, French Alps, about half-way on a straight line between Geneva and Turin.
Turin? That’s in Italy, isn’t it?
May God bless you all, and keep me from being bitter and twisted at all times,