2nd May, 2012
Dear Confreres and friends,
There is always a danger that looking back will bring one into the area of reminiscence or nostalgia. I caught myself doing this yesterday as we began the month of May, a month which in the past was regarded in the Christian calendar as the month of Mary. The practise of May Devotions, of May Processions and of other Marian practises has largely gone. However, I am reminded again by Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, "the Place of Mary in the Economy of Salvation", of the essential role of the Mother of God not only in our history but in the life of the Church.
While the Council does warn us against exaggerated forms of devotion to Our Lady, it also reminds us of the danger of minimalism. And our own Redemptorist Constitutions are unambiguous in recalling our Marian heritage which was passed on by St. Alphonsus, and is still a vital part of our life and ministry. We only have to think of the huge Marian shrines entrusted to the Redemptorists throughout the world, to see this in reality. So Constitution 32 in particular, invites us to 'be generous in fostering devotion, especially of a liturgical nature, to the Blessed Virgin Mary". It also states that, "All confreres will honour the Blessed Virgin every day" and gives examples of how this may be done.
It seems to me that the challenge is to transition from an over pious devotion to a more contemporary and perhaps liturgical devotion, without losing some of the intimacy on the one hand, and theological reality on the other. I continue to recommend the Province to the care of Our Lady each day.
During the month I have been fortunate in not having too much travel. I was in Cape Town for 5 days for the 100th anniversary of the foundation of our ministry in South Africa, and it was a very blessed time. I have sent a copy of the Centenary Booklet to each community and to the Archives. Personally I felt very much at home, because of our close connection with all the confreres in the Province of South Africa, and also because I have given two clergy retreats in Cape Town as well as preaching missions in both of our parishes.
The gathering was very blessed, with input from Archbishop Tobin (C.Ss.R.)and others in the days leading up to the public celebration. The Mass itself saw Bishop Dowling (C.Ss.R.) celebrating, and the Archbishop and bishops of Cape Town present, together with all the Redemptorists of the South African Province. Fr. Guri was there from Zimbabwe and Fr. Moyo attended with the Novices. Again and again I heard words of gratitude for the hospitality that the confreres from the South African Province experience when they come back to this country - and especially to Clapham.
News from the Houses:
Kinnoull continues to be busy. However the ongoing saga of the Planning Permission remains a great challenge. Some disinformation about our finances was recently circulated, which I had to refute, and the campaigns to stop us obtaining the permission continue. However, I am quietly optimistic about it. We keep on having the Planning hearing deferred, and I will let you know when we have a definite date. Meanwhile Fr. Kieran Brady and Fr. Tom MacCarte continue to give Missions from Kinnoull, and we all help out locally with Supplies.
In Edinburgh, Fr. Joe Doherty has been unwell with an infection but is on the mend. Fr. Kieran Brady managed to cover the parish for that week. We were also fortunate to welcome Fr. George Wadding (from Dublin) to the community in order that Desmond could settle up family matters after the death of his mother, and also have a short break.
The situation in Sunderland remains difficult. As you may know, the Church and Hall are also in the name of the Province, but we shall be handing these over to the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. Fr. Maurice has visited twice recently, and the EPC continues to try and see what the best long term possibilities are for the parish and for the Province.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are also withdrawing from Sunderland and we have been in conversation with Fr. Brian Russell, who has been acting as their chaplain, about relocation. I have managed to see Fr. Brian, and Fr. Gerry Mulligan has also been own and has had a conversation with him in these past weeks.
The Middlesbrough community is planning their June Novena, and I spoke with Fr. Andy Burns about developments at the Centre when we were in South Africa. Br. Michael Duxbury continues his prison ministry (please remember Michael's mother in your prayers as she is unwell), and Fr. Michael Henesy has introduced new meditation experiences for a group of local people.
Fr. Richard Reid continues the vocations ministry from Bishop Eton. It seems that a large proportion of those showing interest in our Redemptorist life are well above the age limit we have in our Ratio, and the OPC is looking at this and endeavouring to discern what the Lord is saying to us in each situation. Brother Glynn and Fr. James Corrigan continue to be fragile but able to engage with life. The cluster parishes are proving to be a source both of new life and of many apostolic demands for Fr. Tim Buckley and the brethren.
The marketing of Hawkstone continues, with the property liable to be advertised by late June. The courses have seen reasonably good numbers and this trend will continue through the summer until autumn. It continues to be a challenging time for the community and staff members.
Fr. Gabriel Maguire and Fr. Dickinson maintain their service of the busy Abbey Parish. As you know Fr. Dickie (quietly) celebrated his 80th birthday recently and remains active in the parish, although Fr. Gabriel does try to cover more than previously. It is hoped that Fr. David Raju from the Bangalore Province will be able to visit there this summer - but visas are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. One Redemptorist from the Mumbai Region who was going to come to Kinnoull and Edinburgh was refused a visa twice recently. And this is a trend that is increasing.
We are in negotiations with the Home Office to get official registration as a sponsoring body, and Fr. Richard Reid is dealing with the many layers of officialdom that one encounters in such a process.
I was in Clapham overnight last week and I found the community as usual welcoming and in good spirits. (It was the night that Chelsea beat Barcelona and so there were a few divisions of opinion!). Fr. Michael McGreevy is returning to full health. Fr. Jack Clancy continues to be optimistic, despite his heath difficulties. Our students are preparing to preach the Novena with the Prefect Fr. Charles Corrigan in June. Please remember the father of Br. Gerry Carroll who is seriously ill.
The community at Chawton have just seen the return of Fr. Terry Creech from Lourdes. Redemptorist Publications continues to produce good quality material. However, with some staff changes, there will be several new faces in Chawton. The RPTC had been working on job descriptions for the soon-to-be advertised posts, while being mindful of the needs of good IT and media personnel.
Fr. Guri has sent an email from Zimbabwe and I know that many of you will have received it. The Region continues to face many challenges in its ministry and social outreach in the country. Some of the Zimbabweans will of course be here for the second session of the Provincial Chapter which is due to assemble in Hawkstone on 10th June.
The Redemptoristines are about to have their Assembly in Materdomini. This takes place every ten years. None of our Sisters from Liverpool will attend, but I have been asked by Fr. General to work with moderating and facilitation.
Birthday this month: Fr. Denis McBride 7th May.
I wish everyone a spirit-filled life in these days leading up to the Feast of Pentecost. The Novena begins on 18th May.
With best wishes,
In Christ the Redeemer,
Fr. Ronald J. McAinsh, C.Ss.R.