St nicholas of Tolentino
Welcome to the St Nicholas of Tolentino Web site.
WELCOME TO ST NICK’S - A 'COMMUNION OF COMMUNITIES IN MISSION'!
Whether this is your first time to our Church family, or you have been coming here for many years - all are very welcome to be part of this wonderfully multi-cultural and diverse community of faith and friendship. This parish has been witnessing to Christ and serving the people of this part of Bristol since 1848. We are a 'Communion of Communities in Mission' with more than 60 nationalities who gather each Sunday to celebrate God’s great Love for the world in our Mass. Our commitment is to be a people at the service of the poor, both locally and globally; to be a community of warmth and welcome; to be a community of healing and hope. We are committed to work for the unity of the Church with our brothers and sisters of other Christian traditions, sharing mission and worship together; and to seek to build a fellowship of all believers among the many world faiths in our area. In other words, we have long been seeking to grow as the kind of community that Pope Francis envisages in his Letter 'Joy in the Gospel'
You are welcome to become part of our community through our website or in person - whatever is best for you!
The recent Synod of Bishops on ‘the New Evangelisation’ said in their closing message to the People of God: ‘If people are going to see in us the face of Jesus Christ, then they have to see a Church that is reaching out to the poor, that is caring for the sick and the marginalised, that is providing for children the next step in their encounter with Jesus’. This is precisely the vision that animates St Nicks and its life and mission in Bristol’s inner city.
As a parish, and as their priest, we and I take very seriously ‘God’s preferential option for the poor’, as taught by the Church’s social teaching. This teaching is enshrined in the Scriptures from the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt in Exodus (a story of abused refugees), through the Law of Sinai that was on the side of the poor and ‘the stranger among you’, and the Prophets who challenged the People of God to live justice rather than hide in ritual and sacrifice, to the birth of the Saviour in the poverty of homeless Bethlehem, escaping as a refugee from Herod’s terror and growing up in the poverty and squalor of Nazareth. His great parable of the Last Judgement asks nothing about religious belief but about our compassionate and caring humanity (Matt 25).
But this must never remain teaching - there is no ‘orthodoxy’ without ‘orthopraxis’ - living it in practice! The Church has always valued (even canonised!) those who practice such an option for the poor. Here are two stories from our faith Tradition.
St Lawrence was a deacon of the Church in Rome in the third century. The pope and the other deacons had been martyred in the catacombs, but the Governor of Rome heard of the riches of the Church - chalices, vestments etc. So he instructed Lawrence to bring these riches to his residence within two days. In fact Lawrence had already sold them to give the money to the poor of Rome - with the now martyred Pope’s approval. So two days later he arrived at the doors of the Governor’s residence with a crowd of the impoverished and the beggars of Rome and presented them to the Governor with the words: ‘Here are the riches of the Church’! He was grilled alive that day!
Our parish patron saint (who lived in Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries), St Nicholas of Tolentino as a young child was brought up by his parents to share their love and concern for the poor, going with them to the homes of poorest with food and clothes. When he was a young novice with the Augustinians, he would give the monastery’s food away to the poor. The community became angry and the Prior forbade him to do so. However, he knew a higher obedience and a more authentic voice, and continued to do so. One day the Prior intercepted him on his way from the kitchen to the monastery door, with a cloak full of bread for the poor. When challenged to reveal what he was carrying, he opened his cloak and it was filled with roses! The Prior recognised the sign from God, instructed St Nicholas to continue giving the food to the poor and instructed the community to support this work and not grumble. From that day, the community was never again hungry.
OUR PARISH MISSION
Almost all the ministries and charisms of our patron saint are being served by St Nicks 650 years after his death. We have long given food to the poor and homeless (now mainly but not exclusively through working in partnership with the Wild Goose Café), and now increasingly provide food and sustenance for those so-called ‘failed asylum seekers’ whom government policy makes homeless and destitute. Especially during the winter months we are often approached by those who have no money for heating and light in their flats etc and assist them by putting money on their ‘energy keys’. We support addiction self-help groups (AA, NA, Over-eaters Anonymous) by providing low-cost venue for their meetings. We have parishioners involved with One25 (a Christian organisation caring for street sex workers), and with One25 and Alabaré CCC established the then only hostel in the country for women seeking to leave the sex industry (the Well). Many of those we support are also ex-prisoners (I was RC chaplain to Bristol Prison for over 13 years). Our premises are used by a wide variety of migrant groups for meetings and gatherings that build their communities (eg the Ethiopian Orthodox Church meets weekly for worship at St Nicks). Our now famous work with asylum seekers and refugees lies at the core of our parish’s identity and mission. It is also by far the most costly in terms of finance, time, energy and emotional stress.
In addition to the above we support mission globally through CAFOD, Mission (The Red Mission boxes) and our homegrown ‘One World Schools’ (an initiative of some parishioners supporting a school in Gambia and another in Sierra Leone). These of course are not a drain on parish income. In these and other ways we seek to be ‘Good News to the Poor’ (Luke 4). All this is in addition to the normal round of parish work and the costly maintenance of Victorian church buildings etc
The community that carries forward this mission is rich in faith, joy, celebration, diversity, commitment and enthusiasm: but poor in finance. Most of our parishioners who have work are in low pay occupations. Many of our parishioners are still seeking safe asylum and are either on very minimal (sub-poverty) NASS (National Asylum Support Service) support, or are totally destitute by government decree. This means they have no roof over their head, no warm winter clothes, no food, very minimal health care, no money for personal or transport needs etc etc. Unless we, their brothers and sisters in Christ, support them. Where on part of the Body suffers, we all suffer in the Body of Christ, teaches St Paul.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK AND TIMETABLE FOR HOLY WEEK
Below are a few interesting news items from the weekly Bulletin. To download the full version of our latest Bulletin, and to see the full time-table of Liturgy during Holy Week, please go to our Bulletin page. Thank you.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY! HOSANNA TO CRUCIFY HIM!
‘Behold your King comes! Riding on a donkey!’ The King on a beast of burden, for He carries the burden of the sin of the world, of the inhumanity that children of God are capable of. The donkey, the impure animal carrying the holiest of all our brothers and sisters - but a holiness that refuses to protect itself in sacred aura, but rather dives into the world of the impure to bring a love that purifies and cleanses.
They acclaim Him with Royal title - ‘Son of David’ and greet him with the ancient Battle cry - ‘Hosanna!’ as He rides towards the greatest of battles and the strangest of victories: the battle against hate and brutality, sin and unforgiveness; the Victory of Life over Death, Peace over Violence. He rides towards the Drama that will see Unconquerable Love born forever among us from the wounded lance-opened side of the Servant King enthroned upon the wood of the Cross and crowned with the thorns of the world’s pain. These Palms of Victory that carry the scent of pain and death - for Life!
UNITED WITNESS ON GOOD FRIDAY The Churches in Easton united together at the beginning of Lent with our joint Ash Wednesday celebration - let us unite again in witness of our shared faith to our Easton Community as we pray together the Way of the Cross along Stapleton Road. We start at St Nicks at 11.00am (prompt) and will have five stops (or ‘Stations’) until we reach Eastville Park. There is also the United Procession of Witness in St Paul’s starting at City Road Baptist Church at 12 noon. Please try to be part of one or other of these united witness events this Good Friday.
SAD NEWS - OUR BROTHER IN IMMIGRATION DETENTION CENTRE I am very sorry to have to announce that our brother Joel Etounde was detained when signing on at Trinity Road Police Station last Wednesday and is being held at Campsfield Immigration Detention Centre pending arrangements for removal to Cameroon. We are working with solicitors to oppose this. Please pray for him. Joel was preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Easter Vigil.
CATHOLIC PEOPLES WEEKS These are holidays with a difference - organised by lay Catholics for Catholic families to come together in a relaxed atmosphere to share fun and faith, reflect together on what it means to be a Catholic Christian in our modern world, and of course enjoy a time away. Please see me if you are interested - I recommend these weeks. I have information and brochures. They each have their own special theme and are held in different parts of the country, and there are two near us - at Downside Abbey (17-24 August - all ages week) and Ammerdown (9-13th June - 18+ week). Bursuries are available to help with costs.
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM - A course led by Dr Chris Hewer Chris came to St Nicks to speak last autumn and impressed us all. That was just a taster - why not join this conference and learn in more depth and be better able to share the work of dialogue and bridge-building as part of the mission of St Nicks. 29th to 30th May and 11th to 13th November 2014. Venue: The Ammerdown Centre, Radstock, Somerset. Please see me if interested.