Highlights of the Week

Below are a few interesting news items from this week’s Bulletin.  To download the full version of our latest Bulletin,  please go to our Bulletin pageThank you.

THOUGHT FOR FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B

                  In the Wild Place  Jesus challenges evil

The Spirit ‘drives’ Jesus into the wild places – compelled with urgency to win the victory of truth over lies, generosity over selfishness, service over domination, humility over manipulation, holiness and love over evil and death.
No escapism here! No restful solitude, just the pain and struggle of a lone battle with the inner demons of power and self-delusion. Somethings we have to battle alone no matter how many friends try to support us.
Where is our ‘wild place’? The place where we encounter God in our aloneness and challenge the illusions of God that tempt us to live for self rather than in otherness. The spiritual temptations are the the most subtle and most devastating, making into God the things of God. That is the perversion of faith for it becomes unhinged from humanity, the dwelling place of God. Real faith is never an escape, but a struggle!

LENTEN MEETINGS ‘YEAR OF PRAYER’ AND THE FUTURE OF THE PARISH  As prt of our ‘Year of Prayer’ each Saturday in Lent 10.30am to 11.45am you are invited to come together in the Assisi Centre to share where you feel you are in prayer and faith and also how we build the future of our parish, based on the ‘Servant leaders’ document. Saturday 17th Feb we will share ‘Prayer, Spirituality and Sacraments’. Please come and help one an other grow in prayer and prepare for the future of our parish community and mission.

LENTEN AREA HOUSE MASSES This Wednesday 21st Feb at 7.00pm there is an Area House Mass for all parishioners in the St Werburgh’s, Muller Road Area. Thank you to Paula and Ralph Murphy for hosting this Mass, after which we will have a discussion over a cup of tea/coffee and biscuits, about our part in building a new and dynamic future for our parish.Please support the Area Mass in your part of Bristol.  Are you prepared to host such a Mass in your home? Please contact Richard as soon as possible.

IMPORTANT PARISH FORUM – Sunday 17th March 12.30-2.00pm There are important changes taking place in our parish community as expressed in the ‘Community Elders’ and the ‘Servant-Leadership’ documents. It is important that we share our feelings and our thoughts as we move forward together to the ‘New Way of Being Church’ (words of Pope Francis). The Parish Forum is for everyone, so that all can speak their voice and share their questions and insights. Refreshments will be available after Mass and a creche will be organised for the children in the Parish hall. PLEASE MAKE IT A PRIORITY TO ATTEND. 

WHY LENT? We enter this privileged time of personal and community renewal which we call Lent. We join with Christ Jesus’ 40 Days in the desert to journey with Him through the desert of silence and prayer, of deprivation and hunger, of thirst and yearning. Why? To grow to become more like Jesus in generosity of spirit, openness of heart, deeper communion with God, a readiness to give of ourselves to the Mission of the Gospel. These 40 Days express our communion with all catechumens of the Church journeying to the great moment of Baptism (or reception into Full Communion with the Church; these 40 Days are our journey to the renewal of our Baptism at Easter when we say again our ‘YES’ to being plunged into the Mystery of Christ and become truly Christ People, filled with His Spirit and knowing ourselves to be ‘Beloved of the Father’. Let us embrace these most precious days of renewal.

WHAT AND WHY IS THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION?     The Church encourages us to celebrate with particular depth and openness this sacrament of God’s Mercy and Healing (formerly called ‘Confession’)  during these weeks of Lent. Why? Because Lent is a time to let God’s Word of Love call to recognise the ways we have wandered apart from closeness to God. And to ‘come back home’ to the Father’s love, where we will find ourselves again and experience the joy of being true disciples of Jesus His Son, our Brother. Lent is a time to dare to be honest with ourselves – and we can because that honesty is met with the purest love and tenderness. The Church has changed the name of this Sacrament because ‘confession’ focusses on our sin and what we do, but ‘Reconciliation’ speaks of God’s loving action in Christ, reconciling us to God, to each other, to our deepest and real self. Then we are ready to renew our Baptismal commitment at Easter, and make 2024 a deeper Year of Prayer, Discipleship and Mission. If you have been away from this life-giving and healing sacrament for a long time – perhaps many years – then God says to you ‘Do not be afraid – come back to me with all your heart! For Love alone awaits you.’

THE TRUE FAST – ACCORDING TO POPE FRANCIS
“Fast from hurting words and say kind words. Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude. Fast from anger and be filled with patience. Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope. Fast from worries and trust in God. Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity. Fast from pressures and be prayerful. Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy. Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others. Fast from grudges and be reconciled. Fast from words and be silent – so you can listen.”

JOINT MEETING OF PARISH COUNCIL, FINANCE COMMITTE & LEGACY GROUP   This meeting of the three key committees serving the parish a week ago for further discussion on the future development of the parish with a servant-leadership team (‘Community Elders’) working with a non-resident priest (Fr Richard after September). A full ‘Foundation Document’ was agreed and has been posted on our parish website. A shortened form is distributed to everyone today. During Lent Groups are being set up to explain and discuss in the context of prayerful synodal conversations and will be major part of our Lenten journey to which all of us are asked to participate. There will also be a strong call to prayer during Lent – all part of our whole community sharing in the discernment and decision-making in these 8 months of transition to a ‘New Way of Being Church’. It is expected that the Community Elders will be in place by the Feast of Pentecost at the end of May. We ask you to discuss and pray about this Parish Strategy, sharing the discernment.  

POPE CALLS A YEAR OF PRAYER PREPARING FOR THE JUBILEE YEAR OF HOPE 2025
Pope Francis invites us to hold a ‘Year of Prayer’  2024, to deepen our prayer life as individuals and as the Church as we prepare for the Jubilee Year 2025 – a Jubilee of Hope, building towards a more Synodal Church. Pope Francis emphasises especially the Prayer of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the ‘Lectio Divina’, prayer reflection upon the Word of God. Let us reflect how as a parish community we might embrace this call to deeper prayer, seeking personal and communal renewal.
HERE ARE PERSONAL RESOURCES/COURSES TO HELP US GROW IN PRAYER
[1] A resource for Faith-Sharing groups – 5 sessions on the ‘Our Father’ booklet available
[2] Pilgrims of Hope – the Jubilee in Clifton Diocese and introduction to the Year of Prayer 2024 and the Jubilee of Hope 2025 – on-line session on 1st February (7.30-8.45pm) Register on Diocesan website: jubilee I Clifton Diocese
[3] ‘Lord Teach us to Pray’ – learn about the different traditions of prayer that enrich the Church – one Tuesday evening session each month in the Year of Prayer at St John then Evangelist Church, South Parade, Bath starting at 7.00pm.
[4] ‘Kingship of Christ’ – a Cosmic Vision made practical as we ‘Respond to the Cry of the Earth’ – an on-line session – register on the Diocesan website

SACRAMENTAL PREPARATION PROGRAMMES
The First Eucharist Programme has begun each Thursday at 4.00-5.00pm in the Assisi Centre. The First Reconciliation Programme has also begun Friday at 4.00-5.00pm (Assisi Centre). There will be a parents’ meetings every other week at the same time, also in the Assisi Centre.

SEEKING GOD – A MONASTIC EXPERIENCE FOR MEN AND WOMEN 18-35 years Why not join the Bernadine Cistercian Sisters at Brownshill, Stroud, GL6 8AL from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd March. You can experience something of Monastic life and its gift to the Church (all of us) and so be enriched in your own prayer life. Contact Sr Hilda 01453 883084 or email: brownshillbookings@bernadine.org

SYNOD ASSEMBLY 2023 REPORT Our parish made a very considered contribution to the Global Synod Process (and are embedding ‘synodality’ into our parish’s discernment and decision-making). Today the official Synthesis of the Assembly deliberations is being brought up in the Offertory of the Mass, and you can read/download the Synthesis Report with this link:  https://www.synod.va/content/dam/synod/assembly/synthesis/english/2023.10.28-ENG-Synthesis-Report_IMP.pdf

ISRAEL-PALESTINE WAR – A CALL TO PRAYER AND HUMANITY The horror of this war between Israel and Palestine is increasing with the population of Gaza (2 million people) on the verge of starvation and only one hospital functioning at even a minimal level. THIS MUST STOP NOW! Thankfully there is a brief respite in the fighting – let us pray that this might develop into a full scale cease fire providing the opportunity for a peace settlement that might last! World leaders must act to bring this horror to an end. The overwhelming number of victims on both sides are women and children. Each side are conducting war crimes. PLEASE PRAY AND ACT FOR PEACE IN THE LAND WE CALL ‘HOLY’!

MARRIAGE SUPPORT Retrouvaille – Do you need in your marriage? Retrouvaille has helped many couples find new hope, nourishment and growth in their marriages. If you want to uncover or reawaken the love, trust and commitment that brought you together and work through difficult times in your marriage contact Retrouvaille confidential for more information about our 2024 programmes. There is not group therapy or group work. Our next programme commences with a Virtual weekend on 8 – 11 February 2024 or there is a Face to Face weekend in Welwyn Garden City on 14-16 June 2024. Call or text 07887 296983 or 07973 380443, email retrouvailleukinfo@gmail.com – or visit www.retrouvaille.org.uk

PROPOSED AREA HOUSE MASSES With work schedules, distance from St Nick’s church and traffic congestion in Bristol, attendance at weekday Mass has fallen considerably. Yet the Eucharist is the heart of our community and the source of energy for our Mission. It is the praying foundation supporting all we do and are as a Parish Community. We recognise  that we are a very dispersed parish community many if not most living some distance from our church. This can undermine our sense of community. So the PPC proposes that we have regular House Masses (eventually one each week in a different part of Bristol), to gather parishioners in that part of Bristol and build community and sharing around the Eucharist. The development of the database and also completing the location ‘dots’ on the Map in the church will help in developing this pastoral initiative. If you are willing to host a House Mass in your area, inviting other parishioners living locally, please let Margaret or Richard know.

THE PARISH DATABASE  The Parish Pastoral Council seeks to create a comprehensive database to include all our parish members. Today forms will be distributed asking for some essential information – names of all family members, address with postcode, telephone and email contact details etc.The purpose of this is to enable effective pastoral care, community building and effective communication. The information given will be used solely for internal parish and pastoral reasons and will not be divulged to any other party. Please sign the forms giving your permission for us to hold your details on our database – this is essential for compliance with GDPR (Data Protection legislation). THANK YOU!

IMPORTANT CHANGES TO PARISH CAR PARKING AND FUND-RAISING
On Tuesday 17th October, the company ‘YourParkingSpace’ is installing a car registration recognition camera at the entrance to the parish and Dunstan centre car park, together with signs giving full instructions of how to pay digitally for daily or weekly parking.  Those who are already contracted with the parish for parking are not affected, but all others who wish to park there will need to comply with the instruction panels. There will be fines issued to those who park without paying or a contract with the parish. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT PARISHIONERS NOTE THE FOLLOWING:  This system operates from Monday to Friday 24 hours, but does not operate on Saturdays and Sundays. Also all parishioners parking because of attending weekday Mass, parish meetings, volunteering or coming to the parish office or presbytery will be exempt from parking charges or fines – provided they register their car number plate in the church or parish office. We have no intention of charge parishioners for parking here on parish business or for worship.  

JOURNEY OF FAITH We will not be meeting until the New Year and we hope to negotiate away and time that is better suited to participants. We continue to invite all who wish to consider becoming Catholics to come to this meeting (and contact Richard before hand); together with those who wish to explore their faith more, Catholic adults who have not been confirmed in the Holy Spirit and all who desire a ‘renewal’ of faith and commitment. 

STARTING SCHOOL? If you have a child born between 1 Sept 2019 & 31 August 2020, now is the time to apply for a place at a primary school for admission from September 2024 onwards. You must complete an application form available from the school admissions team of the Local Council (Bristol/North Glos, Banes etc). If your child has been baptised and you are applying for a Catholic school, you must also provide a copy of the baptism certificate to the school. Please ensure you apply by the closing date of 15 January 2024.

GOD’S CALL TO SERVE THE LIFE AND MISSION OF YOUR PARISH   It is very clear that our parish, together with all churches and voluntary organisations around the country, has not yet recovered fully from the effects of the Covid Pandemic and the restrictions placed upon our meeting together during that time. A significant number of our community are not coming to Mass here for a variety of reasons. It is a joy to welcome new families and individuals who have found their way to St Nicks. However there has been great difficulty in drawing members of the parish into being part of the many ministries and tasks of the parish. Whether it is the SVP, the welcoming Ministry, Church Cleaning, the Foodbank, Catechists, too few are doing too much in support of the parish’s life and mission. We are all called by our baptism to serve and build the Church as a mission community. We are all called to sacrifice time and energy to build our parish community and supports the Mission of Christ entrusted to us. I realise only too well that many have heavy commitments caring for children or elderly family members and juggling work and family. They are indeed serving Christ in these ways. But I do ask everyone to reflect whether some  time can be given to sustain the parish’s life and mission as we move towards a lay-led parish. This will be a great challenge for all of us. Please pray about this urgent need in building the future of our unique parish.

ST NICK’S AND COMMITMENT TO ‘SYNODALITY’ We have played our part in contributing to the Church’s world-wide ‘Synod’, as last year we gathered in different groups to listen to one another and share our thoughts and feelings about being part of the Catholic Church. The result was a 60 page report (which remains on our parish website for all to read) which we sent not only to our Bishop but also to those overseeing the Synod in the Vatican in  Rome. But this is only the beginning! For the first time the ‘International Synod of Bishops’ in October in Rome will include 70 non-bishops (clergy, religious, lay men and lay women) with full voting rights. This is a very significant step forward – but there is a long way to go yet! But what is equally important is that your Parish Pastoral Council is committed to finding ways of embedding ‘Synodality’ in the life and ‘governance’ of our parish community – prayerful listening to one another in order to discern what the Spirit is saying to us in our parish about the way forward into a future different from the past yet fully alive with Prayer, Community and Mission. The Synod’s working document emphasises that those who experience being excluded from church life “are bearers of Good News that the whole community needs to hear” and that “whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God.”

WHAT IS OUR COVENANT WITH THE POOR?    In preparation for the great Millenium of year 2000 the Bishops of England and Wales asked every parish to draw up and make a ‘Covenant with the Poor’. As part of our parish’s Covenant we pledged to pray regularly for Justice & Peace, to serve the homeless and poor who come in increasing numbers to  our extensive Food Bank and the Wild Goose Café and to encourage parishioners to volunteer time and energy to work in the Food Bank and the Wild Goose Café; and also to give non-perishable food (especially rice, pasta, tinned fruit and tomatoes, tinned fish and meat etc) and/or money (in special envelopes) to be used for the poor. This food and money goes to support our ministry among the poor of our area. During Lockdown this as greatly expanded and very many people inn Bristol are supporting us, in addition to our parishioners. We also founded and developed our Borderlands Charity (‘from exclusion to belonging’) to serve our asylum & refugee community that has remained serving throughout the periods of Lockdown. In normal times, the Offertory Procession at Mass regularly sees gifts to be shared with the poor and vulnerable, carried to the Altar (restoring the ancient meaning of the Offertory Procession). So the Covenant with the Poor that we renew solemnly at each Patronal Feast of St Nicholas of Tolentino (early September) has continued to grow and develop and as such has shaped the life, mission and witness of our parish community. The development of the ministry of the Parish Office has enabled us to develop our ‘Option for the Poor’ in obedience to the Gospel Let us praise God for such rich grace and love poured out upon our community, and though our community to many in their need.

LOVE THE CHRIST OF THE POOR – WORDS OF ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM   “Would you honour the Body of Christ? Do not despise His nakedness; do not honour him here in church clothed in silk vestments and then pass him by unclothed and frozen outside. Remember that He who said ‘This is my Body’ also said ‘You saw he hungry and gave me no food’. I am insisting that nothing can take the place of care for the poor. What use is it to adorn the altar with gold cloths and deny Christ a coat for his back? He would be outraged!”

MEN AND WOMEN EQUAL IN MINISTRY   There are many charisms and ministries in the Body of Christ – each one of us, young and old, male and female, lay and clergy, and whatever our gender identity – all of us are ‘beloved children of the Father’, each of us is gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve, to proclaim, to build the missionary Body of the Christ and to transform the world. In our parish we are moving towards a parish community led and served by predominantly lay ministry, served and supported by the ordained ministry including a part-time (non-resident) priest. We are committed as a parish to promote, empower and train many different forms of ministry. The ministry of women and men are equally valued, the ministry of lay people and ordained deacons and priests are equally valued. All of us over 40 years old have almost certainly grown up in a church that has neglected and minimised the ministries of lay people. We are still in a clergy (and therefore male) dominated church and this has caused major problems while being unfaithful to the New Testament. Some ministries are denied to women (and not just ordained ministries) … therefore there is an urgent need to enable voices of women to be heard, their gifts to be recognised and their ministries to be released, for the good of the whole Church and its Mission and witness.  This is to correct the imbalance and injustice that has been the norm for centuries. Please do not misinterpret this as diminishing or demeaning the ministries of our brothers, lay or ordained. We are all called to work together for the Kingdom as equal partners in the Lord’s work.

IS GOD CALLING YOU TO FOSTER OR ADOPT A CHILD? 109 children are taken ‘into Care’ each day in this country! 109 children everyday looking for security, for a home where they can belong and thrive. Also there is an increase in the number of unaccompanied child refugees arriving in this country (which will increase with the Afghan Exodus). I know from my own personal experience how important adoption is to give a child a new start in life. Many children are from the BAME community and there is a great need for more fostering and adoptive families from these diverse ethnicities. Could God be calling you, your family, to this healing vocation for a child in care? Contact CCS Adoption (tel: 0117 935 0005 or email info@ccsadoption.org) or ‘Home for Good’   (clare.walker@homeforgood.org.uk )

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE IN HOSPITAL:    Can I remind everyone that when a Catholic goes into hospital, the patient or their family MUST request a visit from the Catholic Chaplain – data protection and confidentiality rules in hospitals prohibit the passing on of information to chaplaincies otherwise. The Chaplain will not know of your presence in hospital and cannot visit a patient without the patient’s prior request and permission.

SCRIPTURE SHARING GROUP    We meet on Thursdays at 5.30-6.30pm: come & share reflections, questions, insights on the Scripture Readings used at Mass on the following Sunday: ideal for all of us, but especially for Lay Readers Ministers of the Eucharist, and Catechists. Contact John Flannery (email: j.flannery@btinternet.com) for the Zoom link. 

CLIFTON DIOCESAN NEWSLETTER   Sign-up for this useful round-up of news, views, events and other information from around our diocese.  It is easy to do, just go to our website www.cliftondiocese.com, click on the newsletter icon and register your email address.

ARE YOU STRUGGLING AFTER AN ABORTION EXPERIENCE?  Do you know where to turn – who could help you? I hope as a parish community we are open and caring and healing in a way that you could entrust your pain to us. But also (and very importantly) there is an organisation that could help you – British Victims of Abortion. Call them on their helpline 0845-603-8501 between 7pm and 10pm seven evenings a week.