Parish Renewal Programme 2018-9
Newsletter No 4: Spring 2019
Almost a year ago, a meeting in the parish hall facilitated by Rebecca Bretherton (representing the New Evangelization Team of the Diocese of East Anglia) was attended by about 25 parishioners from Beccles and Gillingham who voted for a programme of activity to revitalise our faith and its practice. This should help us develop better communication with one another, both within the parish and beyond, and so promote an active sharing of the “Good News” of the Gospel, through the different ways in which we live and work, both in the Church and outside it.
This Easter leaflet is designed to help us evaluate the progress we have made to date and to stimulate us to work together in furthering our objectives with a few plans for the future.
The Renewal Programme began in July 2018, supported by some events and initiatives already planned for the second half of last year (see below). The notes in this leaflet will try to show how our Sunday celebration always relates to weekly activities developed through groups that meet for prayer and for discussion as well as for charitable activities in and around Beccles.
Administrative aspects of parish life (a parish census as well as maintenance of the church buildings and grounds) are in tandem with a spiritual vision which informs our parish community – part of God’s family – and therefore influences all our families, homes, schools, workplaces and other secular communities to which we belong.
Our Christian faith has a worldwide (Catholic) dimension that should help us to understand what is really going on in the world of today: – current events are invariably shaped by the deepest beliefs of those who are taking part in them. Our beliefs sometimes need clearer definition (enabling us to live more coherent lives); they can also be lost, regained and newly developed in ways of our own choosing.
In the pages which follow, different aspects of the Renewal Programme are mentioned in conjunction with some forthcoming events – particularly Easter and our understanding of this centrally-important Christian festival. The first part of the leaflet is devoted mainly to the Sacraments, which should surely be at the forefront of any Catholic Renewal Programme.
The final pages illustrate some of the fruits of the programme in different parish activities and groups which meet from time to time. During the Easter season, there are a number of diocesan events, and our different voluntary activities reflect the many and various ways in which we can nourish our Faith day by day so as to produce and harvest its spiritual fruits.
Beccles & Gillingham
Situated in two different counties, our two churches nevertheless have a common history and vision. The two buildings have the same architect and we owe our origins as a Parish to the initiatives of a few Catholic families in Gillingham, Beccles and Bungay (and further afield: Downside Abbey) – original and generous sponsors of the school and church buildings which still serve us today.
St Benet’s is dedicated to the founder of the Benedictine Order and so it was appropriate for us to receive a visit from the Prior Administrator of Down-side Abbey for the Patronal Festival of the Parish last July. (July 11th is still celebrated in the universal Church as the feast of St Benedict)
In the first month of the Renewal Programme, Mass was celebrated in St Benet’s by Fr John Barnes, Parish Priest of Felixstowe (whose church has the same architect as St Benet’s and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour) on July 14th together with Dom Leo Maidlow-Davis (Prior Administrator, Downside Abbey). This was the occasion of a ‘history day’ beginning in Beccles and ending at Gillingham, attended by members of Beccles and Felixstowe Parishes. We recalled the origins and development of our buildings and communities and the establishment of the Parishes over the past 100 years or so. We were especially grateful to Robin Bramley and Clare Valori, Gillingham Trustees, who opened the church of Our Lady for the occasion, and to Richard Jones, whose family has been involved with the history of St Benet’s for a good century!
Until recently, it was probably quite usual for us to walk regularly between Beccles and Gillingham and, whatever the use of cars, the walk can still be attempted by those who’d like to try it – along the banks of the Waveney and through land that is still partly owned by the descendants of those who built our churches. If there is sufficient interest, might we give the walk a try – about an hour there and an hour back – during this coming summer?
Before the Renewal Programme began, it was realised that we would need a new approach to the keeping of the Parish Register – in accordance with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which came into force in May 2018. Although many of us hope, perhaps, that GDPR might not survive Brexit, data protection remains a necessity and is here to stay.
When your details are recorded for Baptism (and the other sacraments), the church will now ensure that names, addresses and other details that are required will never be used or shared in any way without your permission. Bona fide researchers of later generations will have access to our written records.
It is usual for all the Baptised to be kept on the parish mailing list. You can choose whether to be contacted by email, post or phone, or you can opt out if you wish.
Please make use of the census forms (available at the back of both churches), if you haven’t already done so, to help us keep up-to-date and remain in touch with one another. Some further information about the Census is given at the end of this leaflet as well as in the Parish Newsletter.
Sacraments of Initiation:-
It seems right that a Renewal Programme should be led by younger members of a parish… and, if we turn our eyes to the future, the logical fact becomes a spiritual reality: those who are baptised and confirmed today are the practising Catholics of tomorrow. This is clearly demonstrated in the relationships between the three Sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation (both are ‘once-only’ Sacraments) and Communion or Eucharist (which we celebrate week by week and day by day).
Although, at the moment, the number of Baptisms in our parish is represented in single figures annually, we still have a sufficient number of Confirmation candidates to hold a class every three years – consisting of a twelve-month programme during which the candidates meet regularly for a grounding in the truths of Faith in preparation for adult life.
For the beginning of the Renewal Programme, Fr Luke Goymour (Youth Chaplain, Diocese of East Anglia) came to St Benet’s on the evening of July 1st to celebrate Mass with members of the diocesan Ignite Team and our twelve Confirmation candidates for the year 2017-8 – so we were able to appreciate an uplifting Sunday evening Mass.
The candidates were confirmed by Bishop Alan on October 5th and we were grateful to their families for organising the Confirmation Mass with our catechists led by Toni Harrison. It is sometimes remarked that the recently confirmed seem less visible in the parish; but we need to pray for their success in school, in their exams and in preparing for adult life.
First Holy Communion
Please pray for the young parishioners who will celebrate their First Holy Communion in St Benet’s at the 10.30 am Mass on Sunday May 5th.
They are: Alexis Bailey, Amelia Bunting, Harry Chalmers, Lillyrose Chalmers, Anna Clayton, Aidan Cornwall, Phillip Harrison, Adam Litwiniuk, Elizabeth Pampackal, Jeremiah Do Rozario, Peyton Seely and Nathanael Sparrow.
The First Holy Communion children illustrate that they are aware that all adult Catholics will require further grounding in the Faith – of which Confirmation can only be a beginning. Hence the term ‘Sacraments of Initiation’.
The true meaning of Communion – the heart of the Mass – depends upon our readiness to receive it (being as ‘fully initiated’ as we can). This was seen on October 7th, following the Confirmation of our teenagers, when there was a further Confirmation of a young adult and families of all those baptised in the past seven years were invited to St Benet’s to renew their Baptismal Promises.
Sacraments of Healing and Renewal
This year’s First Holy Communion children have already made their First Confessions. This is a part of the course leading to their initial reception of a Sacrament to be received Sunday-by-Sunday.
All Catholics are required to celebrate the Sacraments at the very least once a year – at Easter and of course at other times.
The importance of Confession is that it is the most essential part of the Reconciliation effected by Christ through the Easter Gospel: we cannot confess the truth of Easter without acknowledging our own sins and shortcomings.
In this process, Reconciliation (with Confession, sorrow for sin, penance and absolution) comes to be a Sacrament of Healing, informing lives of integrity and purity.
We also have the Sacrament of the Sick (anointing, which used to be called Extreme Unction – the ‘last rites’).
Like all the Sacraments, it has its basis in the New Testament (see the letter of St James, 5: 13-16). It is available on request to Catholics who are ill or at any extremity of their lives. For invalids and those whose disabilities prevent them from attending Sunday Mass, many parishes have a special sacramental celebration at a central location – annually or even more frequently. The most practical time for this to happen in St Benet’s would probably be on a weekday afternoon during the school holidays.
Sacraments of Matrimony And Holy Orders
Two more sacraments should certainly be mentioned, because they renew our lives day by day.
Those who’ve received Ordination (Bishops, Priests and Deacons) are obliged to celebrate the Divine Office daily – and any member of the parish can take part in Morning Prayer, which is said in St Benet’s most days between 8.45 and 9.15 am, as well as in the Mass which follows.
Similarly, within our families, we renew our love for one another day by day – with married couples as prime examples! The challenges of Renewal are for all of us, perhaps especially for priests and others who must make reparation for the effects of recent scandals in the church.
Children’s Liturgy of the Word
The Children’s Liturgy Group is for those aged 8 years and under. We meet on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sundays of the month in St Benet’s Hall at 10.25 am (term-time only).
The children listen to Bible Stories, join together for prayers and create their own artwork before re-joining their parents in the church for Holy Communion.
Children do not need to be regular members – just come along and join in!
The Parish Discussion Group meets at 6 Kingston Drive on the last Thursday of the month at 7.00 pm. At the meeting on April 25th, there will be a presentation on the life and work of Pope John XXIII (1958-63) – a man of God from a humble background in northern Italy who came to be known as the ‘architect of the Second Vatican Council’. All are most welcome to attend (please contact Ann on 01502 471845)
Prayer & Spirituality Group
This group meets on the second Tuesday of the month in the Presbytery at 7.30 pm.
Members of the group maintain a list of intentions for daily prayer – coordinated by Cindy Barnes (email@example.com).
Prayer as a shared activity can empower us to cope more effectively with the issues that matter in our daily lives – if you have a prayer intention that you would like to introduce to the group, please contact Fr Martin
The most important events of the year are represented in our forthcoming Passiontide and Easter celebrations. This Renewal leaflet continues with details of other forthcoming events and ongoing activities within the parish and outside it.
Easter Season 2019
The fifty days of Easter extend as far as Pentecost Sunday – June 9th this year. Daily readings for the entire season are available in the booklet entitled ‘My Day by Day’ at the back of the church; if you already have the readings in your Daily Missal, the alternative booklet ‘Walk with Me’ offers commentaries for each day. Easter is an eventful time in the diocese and neighbouring parishes – a few details are given in this separate note.
Divine Mercy Sunday
The Second Sunday of Easter (April 28th) is Divine Mercy Sunday and the Divine Mercy Devotions will be held during the afternoon, beginning at 2.30 pm, in St Peter’s Gorleston, with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction at the end of the afternoon. The feast of the Divine Mercy was instituted by Pope John-Paul II to show that Our Risen Lord’s triumph over sin and death is manifested above all in love and in mercy.
Led by the First Holy Communion children, members of St Benet’s Primary School will be assembling backpacks, for schoolchildren in developing countries, to contain picnic equipment, school items, clothing and other useful articles.
The project is coordinated by Mary’s Meals, enabling our children to envisage practical giving in addition to our regular financial donations. Support from families in the parish would be welcome so we can make this a joint parish-and-school venture: information about the project can be found at www.marysmeals.org.uk (click on ‘sitemap’ and then ‘backpack project’ is towards the end of the list)
Children’s Pilgrimage to Walsingham
This is held on the Tuesday of half-term week – Tuesday May 28th – with a walk from the village starting at 10.45 am and midday Mass with Bishop Alan at the Chapel of Reconciliation, followed by a picnic and (if fine) a fun afternoon on the beach. For further details, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 01493 717121
Christian volunteers from local churches, out in town centres on Friday and/or Saturday nights, represent a positive influence on the streets and provide help and support for vulnerable people, supported also by Prayer Teams at home and at different bases in town. Christians Together in Beccles are promoting these teams with full training both for pastoring and for prayer support. Please sign on the lists at the back of both churches and / or ask Fr Martin for further details.
Market stalls for local charities are organised by Pam Storey with other members of St Benet’s in the centre of Beccles on Friday mornings, once a month, throughout the summer. The next one is on the morning of Friday May 10th and will be in aid of Clinks Care Farm, Norfolk: a facility where those who are disabled may (by arrangement) go and work in the open air for a day at a time.
Please contact Pam (01502 711966) if you are able to help.
Parish Annual General Meeting
This will be held in St Benet’s Parish Hall at 7 pm on Thursday 16th May. Church accounts for the past year will be presented and plans for 2019 discussed.
If you would like to present a report, or raise a particular matter for discussion, please contact Fr Martin in writing before the weekend May 11/12.
The meeting on May 16th will be chaired by Fr Martin together with Linda Last, newly-elected Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council
This year’s Newman Lectures are being held in the Narthex of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Norwich, on three successive Thursdays (May 23rd & 30th; June 6th) at 6.30 pm. Their theme will be ‘Mary in the Bible and in the Arts’. Facilities for refreshments will be available before and after each lecture, and all are most welcome to attend.
Ignite Festival and Diocesan Pilgrimage to Walsingham
The Bank Holiday weekend, – May 4th-5th, two weeks after Easter – is the occasion of the Ignite Festival at Swaffham, for young people in Year 8 upwards. The weekend will include inspiring talks, passionate prayer, live music and companionship organised through the Diocesan Youth Service: www.igniftefestival.co.uk.
On Bank Holiday Monday, May 6th, those attending the Festival join with the rest of the Diocese for the Walsingham pilgrimage (midday Mass in the Chapel of Reconciliation – near the Slipper Chapel – with Rosary procession from 3 pm followed by Benediction in the Priory grounds)
This is a new group intending to show short films for families on Christian themes.
Full-length films could also be shared / shown in instalments for those who’d like to meet regularly (Jenny Rimington has kindly offered a room in her house, with a good screen, where we could meet from time to time).
Suggestions please to Fr Martin.
St Benet’s Flower Guild
As well as providing flowers for the Sunday Liturgy week-by-week, the Guild also prepares special decorations for weddings and other events which take place in St Benet’s from time to time.
Additional attractions to which we contribute over the summer include the Fete given by the Friends of the War Memorial Hospital at the end of June.
There are also summer Flower Festivals, one of which may be planned for St Benet’s next year
Parish Census – An Update
More than 80 families and individuals have filled in and returned the Census forms (still available at the back of both churches) since they were issued at Christmas 2018.
This enables us to update our records – to include those of you who are new to the parish; and to record new addresses for a good number who have lived here for many years and may have ‘moved house’ during that time. Your phone numbers and email addresses are helpful too: mailing lists can take many forms and you are invited to indicate how you would like to be contacted (post, email or telephone) and / or to opt out of the mailing lists if you prefer.
There is also a space on the form for you to record ‘interests and offers of help’. There may be particular charities you would like to support. Do you have abilities as a Carpenter, or as a Reader or Musician, to help us in our liturgical celebration?
The information you entrust us with will never be divulged to third parties: access is restricted to the Parish Priest and a trusted Secretary – at the moment, Terry O’Brien is working on a new database and Fr Martin is most grateful to him!
Those of you who didn’t pick up a Census form at Christmas are warmly invited to participate so that we can contact you (if wished) and tell you what is happening in the Parish.
The forms are available at the back of the church at Gillingham and Beccles