Fr Provincial writes every month...
Divine Mercy Sunday 3rd April 2016
Dear confreres and friends,
"The Church is not in this world to condemn, but to make possible an encounter with the visceral love that is God's mercy. For this to occur we must go out. Go out from the churches and the parishes, out to the people where they suffer, where they hope".
These words of Pope Francis sum up for me the vision and the ministry of Saint Alphonsus. Our founder used to say that there are several Congregations doing the same work we do, especially the work of preaching popular missions. However he said that what characterises us, is that we seek out above all, the most abandoned and sinners, and offer them in a personal way the mercy of God. In this Year of Mercy, we are attempting this in a special way. It is what our life is all about.
As I was reflecting on these words of Pope Francis, I recalled that just before Easter I was attending the Novitiate Board in Toronto and had the opportunity to meet with our two novices. One of them said to me, "Father what is your vision of the work of the Province?" My response was, "Perhaps you could tell me how you see the Province and its future". His reply was almost a complete summary - albeit unknown to him - of the Province Pastoral Plan.
He said, "Well we've got Kinnoull which is a retreat house and pastoral centre and welcomes all sorts of people; and we also have two missioners in the community there, who go out to preach. Then in Liverpool we have parish ministry in two centres, ministry to the elderly, and Brothers who go out to the prison, as well as a place where our postulants have resided.
And of course we have Clapham which seems to be an international community since we welcome so many Redemptorists from around the world. We have a parish and a place from which some missions and retreats are given. It is also our House of Studies. And attached to it is our outreach to the homeless in the Ace of Clubs Centre.
On top of this, we have Redemptorist Publications in Chawton which brings the Word of God into so many homes and parishes; and we have a small community presence in our Birmingham parish with the Mission Coordinator working from there. And in addition to all of that, we of course have our outreach to Zimbabwe and our Region there.
He said all this without hesitation, and I asked him if he was content with it. His response was that he would be happy to work in any of the ministries, but his preference would be to preach parish missions. I congratulated him on so succinctly articulating the Province Pastoral Plan. I believe that if we can live this, as outlined by the Province Chapter, we will be doing our best to be faithful to the charism of Alphonsus, even with our limited personnel and age profile.
Tomorrow morning I head off to Poland for the first phase of the General Chapter. Father Andrew Burns will be present as our vocal, and Nicole Barber, who was nominated by the General Government after the elections in Madrid, will represent the lay co-operators in Europe. Andrew and Nicole will also be present at the third phase, after the canonical phase of the Chapter, which I shall attend in Thailand for the month of November.
As well as being with the two novices, our Students and the Prefect, Father Charles Corrigan came up to Dundee for a few days after Easter and it was a joy to be with them. Father Reid tells me that there is another young man enquiring, so please keep vocations in your prayers.
On the subject of Mercy, you may recall that the three Units of London, Dublin and Saint Clements had proposed a symposium on this topic for September. Since September 2015, nine different prominent speakers have been approached but we have failed to secure the services of anyone to lead us. After discussions with the Provincial governments of Dublin and St. Clements it has been decided not to offer the symposium, since without a keynote speaker, it would be considerably less effective. The OPC is looking at the possibility of offering a couple of days of reflection in the refurbished Kinnoull so that members of the Province can at least experience the effects of the renovation of the interior of the monastery. Further details will follow.
Fr. David Raju is now established in Clapham and working hard in the parish and also available for the occasional retreat from time to time. You will have heard from' Fr. Richard Reid about the Province celebration to be held in Clapham in honour of our Lady of Perpetual Help on July 2nd. It promises to be a very special day. This coming month a group of confreres will go on pilgrimage to Rome to the shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help, accompanied by parishioners and friends from Bishop Eton, Clapham, Erdington and other parts of the country. In this special year we ask Our Lady to protect our Province, our mission and our loved ones.
Last month I wrote about the Thanksgiving Mass in Middlesbrough. I am happy to report that the celebrations were well attended and went well. Bishop Ralph was unable to be present due to a clash of commitments. However he was able to spend a few days with the confreres after Easter in Bishop Eton and he remains very grateful that his home is always with us. Meanwhile, Fr. Henesy and Brother Michael have taken a week of holiday and are now in residence at Hawkstone.
The final public Mass was celebrated by Frs. Maurice and Kevin on Easter Sunday and I am told that Father Maurice preached a very moving and sensitive homily. Both will leave Hawkstone this coming Sunday and our thoughts, prayers and gratitude are with them.
Birthdays this month: Frs Dominic O'Toole and Elias Gweme 6th, Francis Dickinson 10th, Br Brian Manyenga 19th , Frs Raymond Mupandasekwa 28th, Thomas Macarte and Kenneth Macharaga 29th.
In Christ the Redeemer,
Ronald J. McAinsh, C.Ss.R.