St Simon's Parish Blog

Welcome to the Blog of St Simon Stock Catholic Church, South Ashford, Kent, UK. Our address is: Brookfield Road Ashford Kent TN23 4EU

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For nine years up till July 2010, I was parish priest at St Simon Stock Catholic Church, South Ashford, Kent, England. From July 2010 until June 2011 I was Associate Pastor at St Peter's Cathedral, Marquette, Michigan USA and then Pastor at St Anthony Parish, Gwinn, MI until October 2013. I then transferred to the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon to serve as Director of the Tribunal. And that's what I am currently doing. Since February 2015 I have also been serving as Pastor at St Stephen Parish, South East Portland. I miss "da UP" (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) but love being here in the Pacific North West.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

First Holy Communions

Today we celebrated a very joyful occasion: the reception for the first time of Holy Communion by 13 of our young parishioners.

Here's a video of some of the photos:

Just a few words of explanation: at the offertory, a tradition that I inherited when I came here 7+ years ago was that each child brings up a host in a beautifully prepared (by one of our parishioners) folded tissue 'basket' and the hosts are placed in the paten for the Offertory and Consecration, symbolising the offering of each one being made into one offering, as the grains of wheat are ground to become one loaf.

We had an enjoyable 'question and answer' in the homily which some of the children rose to.

At the end of Mass, Catarina Beresford, the children's catechist, was surprised - and embarrassed - to be presented with a token of appreciation by Tim Shamoon on behalf of the parents. Tim had - quite properly - asked my permission beforehand, but also took the opportunity of surprising me with a presenation as well. Thanks to all the parents for their kindness!

Our parish primary school head teacher Mrs Elizabeth Willis appears in one of the photographs together with Mrs Rufina Ebenebe, the school's RE co-ordinator whose son made his First Communion today, and Year 1 teacher Mrs Anya Chapman who kindly attended too.

Five of the children attend our parish primary school and two attend the other Catholic primary school in the town. The others attend community schools local to the part of Ashford they live in. I do make it a condition for reception of First Holy Communion that the children have already been attending Mass regularly on Sundays for at least a year beforehand. Sadly, few of our school families meet that expectation. It is, after all, the parents' primary right and duty to educate their children in the faith. They cannot sub-contract out this duty to the parish primary school or parish catechist. We can only assist them, not take over their responsibility.

One parishioner commented after the Mass that one of the reasons she found the Mass so beautiful was that all the children and their families were known as regulars in the parish. It was really a truly parish community celebration.

A number of the children are of Polish extraction and many Polish relatives were present at the Mass. It is good to see the Polish people playing a full and active part in the parish, in common with those from other nations and ethnic groups.

The choir, who don't appear in any of the photos, deserve a special mention. They had already sung at the 10am Mass and stayed on for the special extra Mass arranged at 12noon for the First Communions. My thanks to them for preparing so well and supporting the singing. This was particularly appreciated as there were many present who were not parishioners and who may not have been used to our repertoire, and also many from abroad who would not have been able to sing in English. It sounded throughout as if the whole congregation was participating fully.

The atmosphere of joy and gratitude was quite remarkable. Thanks be to God!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

From tomorrow's parish newsletter

This is my 'Desktop' article in tommorow's parish newsletter.

Forty three years ago last Friday 20th June at the tender age of seven I made my First Holy Communion at the Church of the English Martyrs, Streatham. I remember the day well: the teachers who guided us, the large group of boys and girls, the Mass, the moment I received Our Lord for the first time, the breakfast in the Church hall afterwards. Funnily enough, I don’t remember any party, and I don’t recall any of the other children having parties either. It was not the fashion then. Another thing I don’t remember is what Canon Crowley, the parish priest, said to us! (although I remember him very well). And I didn’t realise then that 20th June is the feast of St Alban, the first martyr of England.

We learn from the Ecclesiastical History of St Bede that St Alban was a still a pagan when he gave shelter to a priest who was fleeing from his persecutors. When Alban saw the holy man spending all his time in prayer and vigils, he was suddenly touched by the grace of God. He was moved to follow the priest’s example, and began to emulate his faith and devotion. In the course of time he … renounced the darkness of idolatry and wholeheartedly professed the Christian faith. Soon, however, word got out that Alban was sheltering a Christian, and when the soldiers arrived to search the house, Alban dressed himself in the priest’s clothes and gave himself up in the place of his guest and teacher. For this act of subterfuge and for refusing to offer sacrifice to idols, Alban was sentenced to be scourged and was eventually beheaded around the year 287 near the city of Verulamium, present-day St Alban’s in Hertfordshire. An abbey now stands above the site of Alban’s martyrdom.

Today 13 of our young parishioners make their First Holy Communion. I don’t expect them to remember in 43 years’ time what I will say to them today. Like dear Canon Crowley, I expect I will be pushing up the daisies by then. By happy coincidence, today too – were it not a Sunday – would be a feast of English martyrs, namely the bishop St John Fisher and the lawyer, chancellor of the realm, friend of the King, husband and father St Thomas More. These most famous of our English Martyrs resisted King Henry VIII who wanted the Pope to declare his perfectly valid marriage to Katherine of Aragon null. When the Pope refused, the King proclaimed himself head of the Church in England and required his subjects to swear an oath accepting the King’s supremacy over the Church. Because they refused, John and Thomas were beheaded in the year 1535, Thomas declaring himself the King’s good servant but God’s first.

Our Lord’s offering of Himself to us in His Body and Blood in the Eucharist and his injunction to Do this in memory of me call forth from us a corresponding offering of ourselves completely to Him, just as the martyrs Alban, John Fisher and Thomas More did. As Our Lord gave and gives His Life to us and as the martyrs were prepared to give their lives to Christ, to give a Sunday every week of our lives is not so great a sacrifice, and just think of what we get in return: the God Who made us dwells in our bodies and in our souls. I pray that our young people today will always remember the day of their First Communion and that they will give their lives, day by day, completely to Our Lord Jesus and His Holy Church. May God bless them, their families and all of us this week.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Wedding Congratulations

Congratulations to Hugo Ferreira and Tina Brigden who sealed their love for each other in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony last Saturday (31st May) here at St Simon’s. It was a very simple ceremony, attended by the parents of the bride and groom, Hugo’s brother and a friend, and a young married couple and their little son who acted as page boy, the wife (expecting their second child) being a long time friend of Tina’s. Whilst many like a grand celebration, the simplicity of last Saturday’s wedding (followed by a nice meal at a Portuguese restaurant in Maidstone) provided all the more opportunity for focussing on the essentials of matrimony: the Sacrament that comes into existence through the exchange of consent in the presence of the Church’s minister and those called to be witnesses. Thanks to “Maison des Fleurs” (aka Anne Bulpin – 624489) for the lovely flower arrangements and to Charlotte Coles for providing beautiful music on the organ at the entrance, signing of the register and exit.