Newsletter- 3rd Week of Lent

Dear Parishioners

Retreat: this week from Monday 13th March until Thursday 16th March I shall be away making a short private retreat, a time for me to pray and reflect, re charge and take stock of my own life. Andrew is kindly going to conduct a Service of The Word and Holy Communion, on Thursday 16th March at 11 am. There will be no liturgies in church on Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th MarchMass will be celebrated though as normal by me on Friday 17th March (Feast of St Patrick) at 9.30 am. Please do keep me in your prayers during my few days away from the parish.

Lent is a time of conversion of heart, a time to reorientate ourselves more fully towards God and permanently towards the good to be found within ourselves. In our world we see divisions between and within communities and families; between the political factions of one country preventing leaders working together for the common good; divisions between nations caused by political, racial, or religious differences that have hardened into prejudice and the hatred that causes wars, terrorism, and oppression. As Jesus meets the Samaritan woman in today’s gospel, we see him reaching out across the divisions of his world which are not so very different from the divisions of our own world. 

Jesus shows us a way of love which draws people together, uniting them and restoring to fellowship the rejected and outcast. There are several reasons why Jesus might have chosen to ignore the Samaritan woman when she came to draw water from the well where he was resting. She was not only a Samaritan woman, but she also had a dubious reputation in her own community. Perhaps her numerous husbands and present lifestyle had pushed her to the fringes of her society. Jesus tells the woman of God’s gift of living water, a gift that Jesus himself had received, the Holy Spirit, flowing through him, enabling him to reach out to others. With humility Jesus asked the woman for a drink and establishes a relationship with her in which he accepts her as she is; talks with her of the things they have in common and reveals to her that he himself is the Messiah. This conversation and revelation filled the woman with a desire to reach out and share her news with others. 

At our own baptism we too received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the source of the living water that Jesus offers. This weekend we may like to ask ourselves what has happened to that gift within us? Perhaps we prevent the living water from flowing through us because we are afraid of other people, of rejection and of loss. Perhaps through prejudice and hate we have built up barriers to hold back the flow of the living water of truth and love in our lives. If this is so we need to ask for healing and forgiveness so that the gift within us can be released and allowed to flow again. Reaching out to others as Jesus did requires courage, humility, and the grace of God. We risk rejection, hurt, hatred and ridicule just as Jesus did. But it might also be that our reaching out is met by a shared willingness to receive, to reach out in response and to dismantle the barriers separating us from each other. 

Living Stations of the Cross – St Marys Catholic Primary School – Tuesday 21st March at 9.30 am. Last year St Mary’s School organised some very imaginative Stations of the Cross. We called them “Living Stations of the Cross” because they involved the creative skills and imagination and active participation of all the children. Each class has been given again this year one Station to interpret and bring to life in their own particular way, through the medium of art, drama, music and such like. Parishioners and parents are invited to come to join us and to pray the Stations of the Cross with our young people. Weather permitting, we shall meet in the playground at St Mary’s School at 9.30 am that day. If the weather is inclement, we shall meet in the school Hall. I personally found last year that this devotion led by our young people was very powerful, moving, prayerful and creative. 

Heating- On Sunday 26th March British Summer Time begins and the clocks will go forward by an hour, sadly this means an hour less in bed that Sunday morning! But it will also be the day on which we turn off the heating in the Church, Halls and Presbytery this year. If we have a cold snap after this date, you will need please to ensure you come wrapped up warmly for Mass or if you are using the hall. 

During this past year we have all experienced the enormous hike in the cost of gas and electricity prices. I have tried to ensure that during the winter months that the church and halls have remained warm and welcoming for you, but this has come at some considerable cost to our parish reserves, as we have had to dig into our savings to meet the increased costs. Like all households our parish energy bills for the church, presbytery and halls have escalated astronomically since October 2022 (in October 2022 we were paying per month around £590 for gas alone to heat the whole church plant (Presbytery, Church and Halls),  in December 2022 costs increased to £2,694 per month, yet with some thought and a creative reduction in the number of hours and the times when the heating has been on, we have managed to reduce the gas bill to £2,163 for the month of January 2023, and I hope the cost will have gone down further for February this year when the bill comes in, as we have made a further 20 hours reduction in the time the heating has been put on throughout the church plant. As a parish we are a charity and we do not pay VAT on our fuel bills, but we also do not receive the government rebate which a commercial business or private household has been eligible to receive over these past few months. I am sure you will appreciate the need now that Spring is almost upon us to turn off the heating to help reduce the considerable fuel costs being charged to the parish.

New Boilers – On a positive note, the diocese has recently agreed at the diocesan Building and Sites Committee meeting in February the commissioning and installation later this summer of new boilers to heat the church and halls. These two new commercial boilers will be a lot more efficient and will allow us to monitor properly the heating of all areas of the church and halls when they are in use. The quite considerable costs which will be incurred for this important but very necessary work have been met through the generosity of monies given by you the people of the parish and through a quite considerable legacy given to us to use for new boilers by the widow and her family of a parishioner who died a year or so ago. More information will follow about the practicalities and timings, but we shall move forward with the instillation of our new boilers this coming July inn readiness for next winter.

Giving – As your parish priest it is difficult for me to ask you to consider giving more financially at a time when so many of you are facing real financial hardship yourselves and you have so many extra calls upon your hard earned income, but as your parish priest I have a responsibility to ensure we continue to pay our bills and maintain our parish and church plant and work for the building up of Christs kingdom in this place and at this time and ensure too that we can continue to do so for the future. 

What financial help we receive to maintain our parish comes in the main from your stewardship and giving each week or month.  We are not a wealthy parish with large reserves to draw upon in hard times like these and so the responsibility for maintaining the parish rests firmly in your hands and upon your generosity and financial giving. Many of you already give a great deal I know both financially and of your time to support our parish community and for this I sincerely thank you. I am not entirely comfortable myself in asking you to think of increasing your giving, as it rather goes against the grain for me, I have always believed this should be left up to the openhanded generosity of an individual person, and I am aware that every persons financial circumstances are very different from another, but it remains an important fact that I need now to ask you to consider increasing the amount you may be able to give to the parish if we are to maintain a sound financial footing for the future.  

There are a few simple but significant things that you may like to consider:

  1. If you are a taxpayer, please do consider gift aiding what you already give, this gives us quite a lot of extra income on top of the money we receive from you, as we can reclaim on every donation the tax from the government. However, if you have stopped paying tax it’s very important that the parish is informed otherwise, we must pay back what was wrongly claimed!
  2. In addition, please do consider setting up regular giving through a standing order with your Bank directly into the parish account, this helps us to budget more effectively each month, as we have a guaranteed regular income coming in.
  3. Thirdly if you have not reviewed your stewardship and regular giving to the parish community in recent years, please do consider reviewing this and seeing if it might be possible to make a small increase in what you already give. Every little bit helps! 

I would like to end with a note of thanks to each of you as I have been immensely impressed by the generosity of this community since I came here as your parish priest, in the many different ways you care for me, for each other, and the real pride you have in our parish and in your faith, this says a great deal to me as your parish priest about each of you as individuals and about this parish community and the priority of your faith in your lives. Thank you for all you continue to do to support me personally and our parish, it is a great joy for me to continue to minister here amongst you all. We sadly live at a time when everyone is feeling the pinch financially and so perhaps it is even more important than ever before that we now cast our bread upon the waters and trust in the Lord for the future!  

With my prayers for you during the week ahead,

Your parish priest and friend,

Father Jonathan


2023 12th March– Newsletter – Download