Monday, 21 May 2018

Whit Weekend

Just finishing a great weekend enjoyed by a lot of people. Glorious sunshine and all the emotion of First Communions for 35 girls and boys on Saturday. Grandparents and relatives came from far and wide. The cutting of the cake in the church garden afterwards brought a lovely morning to a close. Visits to some of the families in the afternoon, gave me the privilege of sharing the joy of families on a special day. A factor is that each family freely chooses to have their child prepared for Communion. There is no compulsion. The faith and love shown by families year after year, leaves me in admiration of these people.

Then, yesterday we had over 30 young adults receive Confirmation. Another occasion of joy and happiness. 

On Saturday night, I was at Notre Dame Cathedral for the Confirmation of 400 adults whose average age is 30 years. Again, freely chosen. My only slight negative comment, is that the Mass started at 9 p.m. and it was 11.30 p.m. before I was on the train back to St Joseph's Church. A tiny price to pay for being part of such an amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit.              AT

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Pentecost Weekend

This weekend will be a busy, but great, weekend at St Joseph's. On Saturday morning over 30 young people will make their First Communion. They have prepared over the past year for this great day. Each child has attended class on a Sunday morning beginning either at 9.30 a.m. or 11 a.m. and lasting one hour. Parents bring the children who are instructed by a team of over 40 volunteers from the parish of St Joseph. On Pentecost Sunday afternoon there will be Confirmations for St Joseph's parish and Marymount School Paris. Again, these students have prepared either on a Sunday morning at St Joseph's or at Marymount School, where I serve as chaplain. 

When I read about the controversy in Ireland about the 'Baptism' requirement to get a school place, my heart goes out to all parents and families who are doing the best they can for their children to get a good education. The issue it seems is a lack of sufficient school places provided by the Government and the large number of schools under the patronage of the Catholic Church and a lesser number by other Churches. Historically, I quite appreciate how these arose. I wonder if the local church, believers who could spare an hour sharing their faith with God's little ones and families could come together to ensure that those who wish to have the Sacraments taken by their children could do so outside of the school context? This does not mean that a school would have a 'neutral' ethos, but it would leave it to the local community, religious and not religious, to work this out. If Catholic or other Church schools are chosen by a local community, I would be delighted to hear this. But, bringing the Sacrament of Baptism into the area of school admissions, does neither the Church nor the School any favours.   AT 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

English-speaking Parishes in Europe Symposium

From Monday to Wednesday this week, seven parishes across Europe offering a full religious ministry in English, gathered at St Joseph's, Paris for an exchange of news and provide a network between us. We meet every two years in one of our parishes and have come to know each other. Each two years, there are some new faces at the gathering. It is wonderful to listen to the issues arising and to seek ways of improving our service of people of great diversity who wish to worship in English. 

The parish here on Avenue Hoche was started in 1869 and is still on the same site offering, as best we can, a service to all who come to St Joseph's Church or to our door. One busy aspect, is witnessing Irish passport forms and photogrpahs for people renewing or applying for a passport. The Embassy of Ireland is just a few minutes away from Avenue Hoche. Another recently group of callers are newly-arrived refugees. We are blessed to have over 40 nationalities in the congregation and at five weekend Masses we welcome close to 2,000 people. There are over 200 children each Sunday morning at various stages of preparation for 1st Reconciliation, 1st Communion and Confirmation. The weekend of 19th and 20th May, we will have First Communions and Confirmations. It is such a wonderfully blessed time each year. Today is Ascension Thursday and besides being a Holy Day it is also a public holiday.  AT                                 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

English-speaking Parishes of Europe

For three days this week, I have been delighted to host a Symposium of eight Catholic Pastors of parishes who offer pastoral care to people in the English language. From Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Poland and France, we have exchanged news and searched for the best way forward in this interesting time for the Church. Our group meets ever two years and this year I have had the privilege to host the gathering. It is a wonderful opportunity to hear of the working of the Spirit.
In France today, 8th May, is a holiday marking end of World War II. Then, our Thursday, we will have a holiday and a 'Holyday' for the Feast of the Ascension. Never a dull moment!               AT

Friday, 4 May 2018

May in France

The month of May is interesting in France. It has a series of holidays and feasts. 1st May, earlier this week, is Labour Day. 8th May is Victory Day in Europe. Thursday, 10th May, is Ascension Thursday. This is a public holiday in France as well as being a Church holyday. Then, Monday, 21st May, is Pentecost Monday and is also a public holiday in France. It is a bit more complicated if you add in the 'pont' dealing with a day before or after a public holiday. I'll spare you that!

A visit to a High School to discuss the film "In the Name of the Father" was fascinating. The class had watched this some weeks ago. Their teacher was keen to give the students some background to the conflict in Ireland over the years. The students were great and eventually we got onto 'Brexit'. During this 55 minute session, my mind went back to the many school retreats that I have been privileged to engage in over many years. This School is part of the Ursuline Sisters network and is a great example of Catholic Education at its best. My thanks to the teacher and the students for the warmth of their welcome. I was presented with a school mug at the end of the class and I will treasure this in the time ahead. Now into a busy weekend! But, it will be helped by the beautiful weather that is now with us.                                  AT

Thursday, 3 May 2018

School Class

Tomorrow, Friday, I am invited into a Paris School to take a class for one hour. Some months ago, the class watched the film, "In the Name of the Father" with their teacher. This tells the story of the Guildford Four who were wrongly imprisoned for 15 years for offences they never committed. Gerry Conlon's Father, Giuseppe Conlon, died in prison. Prime Minister, Tony Blair, apologised for the miscarriage of justice in 2005. One of the class told her teacher that the priest in their parish had lived in Belfast before coming to Paris. Her parents had told her this, as I have never spoken publicly in this parish of my time in Holy Cross parish in Ardoyne. The teacher contacted me some time later and asked if I would come into the class who had watched the film. She asked if I could offer some background to the Northern Ireland situation and take any questions the students may have. For better or worse, I am going into this school tomorrow morning for a class lasting one hour. This is a first for me in France and I don't mind admitting that I am apprehensive. If the students benefit and grow in understanding and appreciation of life and its challenges, I will be so happy. It is totally about them and not about me.                                         AT

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Back Again

This is to show that yesterday's post was no 'flash in the pan'! 

Yesterday in Paris there were some clashes following May Day gatherings. Having seen some street violence in Belfast, there is nothing pleasant about violence from any source. It happens, but at the end of the day, dialogue is the only path to conflict resolution. This may sound defeatist or being afraid of facing issues, but the force of a water canon, the stinging sensation of tear gas or the throwing of missiles will never lead to a lasting peace. 

Early next week, I look forward to welcoming to St Joseph's, Paris, a group of priests and deacons from English-speaking Catholic parishes in other European countries. This network of clergy gets together every second year to learn from each other and to have a support network. 

In the past at St Joseph's, the Passionists had a community of at least three priests to serve a parish of 45 nationalities who worship here in the English language. Now we are two and when one is away, as at present, it leaves a lot to be done. This includes 200 children every Sunday morning for preparation for 1st Communion and Confirmation. With a separation of church and state in France, families make a choice about the religious future of their children. There is great freedom in this choice with no compulsion to follow any particular course of action. When it comes to the celebration at St Joseph's Church of 1st Communion on 19th May and Confirmations on Pentecost Sunday, 20th May, the joy and happiness are tangible. This model could work in other countries?

Hope to be back with you soon!                                                  AT